U2’s new album is rubbish. Or is it?

I’ve been listening to the new U2 album – it’s all over the net – and my initial reaction isn’t good: so far, nothing other than Vertigo has particularly grabbed me. Which got me thinking… is there an effect to file sharing that people haven’t really paid attention to?

Whenever I used to buy CDs, I’d sit and listen to them again and again and again. Typically albums were “growers”, and it’d take a while to get into them. But with file sharing, I’ve found I’m much less willing to give a record time to grow. That’s probably because the ritual of record buying – anticipation before the release date, the trip to the record shop, the trip home reading the sleeve notes and lyrics – is no longer there, and partly because with file sharing there’s no financial incentive to persevere. It didn’t cost you anything, so why spend hours waiting for it to grow on you?

And that’s how I feel about the new U2 album, but I suspect that’s a bad thing. I hated every single track on their last record, but since then about half of the album has really grown on me and a few songs are regular visitors to my iPod playlist. This time out I’m equally unimpressed, so I probably won’t buy the record. But if the last few albums are anything to go by, I’ll probably end up loving at least some of the tracks.

I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of other net users: when you use file sharing to preview tracks – something I’m entirely in favour of – do you give new records the same investment that you do when you’ve shelled out hard-earned cash on a CD? I’m all ears…

6 thoughts on “U2’s new album is rubbish. Or is it?

  1. Squander Two says:

    There was a drop in album quality when we moved from vinyl to CD, caused by the ability to skip tracks easily. One dodgy song on a vinyl album is a real pain in the arse for the listener; on a CD, it’s no problem whatsoever, so CDs made it possible for bands to put more second-rate filler on their albums than previously (though, of course, some bands didn’t).

    If you’re right, file-sharing could result in another change in quality: albums will be made on which every song is instantly catchy and none of them are growers. Perhaps big musicians like U2 could find themselves under pressure from their labels to discard growers from their albums.

    I have noticed for a while that I tend not to listen to free downloads. I download it, listen to it once or twice, and then it just sits on my hard drive doing nothing forever. Downloads that I have to pay for are a different matter: I burned both of Vast’s album-size downloads on to CD and listened to them till I knew the songs by heart.

    Call me a Luddite, but this is yet another reason to prefer CDs.

  2. Gary says:

    > Perhaps big musicians like U2 could find themselves under pressure from their labels to discard growers from their albums.

    Downloads are definitely song-based rather than album-based – which takes the music business full circle, back to the 50s – which is why some bands such as Radiohead don’t let you download their tracks on iTunes. I suspect the pressure will be on the bands who don’t have the giant adoring fanbases.

    > I have noticed for a while that I tend not to listen to free downloads. I download it, listen to it once or twice, and then it just sits on my hard drive doing nothing forever.

    Same here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I happen to be listening to the very U2 album when I crossed your page. I bought the CD and then ripped the songs up to iTunes. Many of the songs didn’t impress me either – but they are quickly growing on me now.

    Sometimes I think you have to invest a little bit of yourself into a song before you start to appreciate it. There are songs of U2’s, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”, that I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw the band talk about the song.

    Buying an entire album and listening to the songs in context often brings out a deeper thread of meaning or mood.

    To answer the question, I am certain that there are many good songs I’m missing out on because I was able to buy songs in single servings.

  4. Gary says:

    I think you’re right. External context is important too, I reckon: for example, I didn’t really get Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own until it came on the CD player as I was dealing with some fairly emotional personal stuff.

    Incidentally I decided to test my download theory: I bought the album, stuck it in the CD player and listened to it again and again. And my opinion of the record has definitely changed. I now reckon about half of the album is genius and that Vertigo isn’t the strongest song; when I originally posted, Vertigo was the only one I actually liked.

    There’s a moral here, somewhere… ;-)

  5. Daniel says:

    Years later… U2 is my favorite band, but honestly I haven’t instantly loved a U2 album since Achtung Baby. I’m always disappointed. Every album since has been a slow love affair and “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” off Zooropa has become my favorite song by the band. HTDAAB remains a great album that deserves a few weeks of regular listening.

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