Archives for the month of: September, 2014

Sorry haters, U2 is cool and punk as shit!

I really don’t understand all the Bono bashing and U2 bashing.  (Okay, there’s not a shite-tonne of it, but there’s a-goddamn-‘nough of it that I think it all needs to be addressed.) Sure, U2 is not my favorite band in the world (but close), they’re like The Beatles, Sex Pistols, or Nirvana: if you have any kind of taste at all you really cannot dislike them.  And honestly, there was a time when the guys in U2 were actual punks, or mostly so anyways.  Yes Bono can come off as self-righteous, but he is mostly being that way in the service of others and his fans.  By others I mean the poor and starving and dying.  He and Bill Gates have become modern day Robin Hoods.  No they don’t steal from the rich, instead they politely ask the uber-rich for money and then give all that uber-cash to the uber-poor.  That’s punk!  They give their own money to the poor as well, which is a behavior that’s hard to label.  And not labeling things is EXTREMELY punk.

Bono has cited Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as role models for inspiration and guidance.  Who do you look to?  Sid Vicious??  Sid killed his girlfriend and himself, both accidentally.  Bono’s philanthropic endeavors are cited as having directly saved the lives of millions of people.  How many lives have you directly saved from starvation and/or disease or from anything else?  One?  Two?  Nine?  Probably zero.  Or less than zero.

Yes, U2 have put out a few stinker albums, but most of their albums are world-class.  Including the first five ones and the seventh.  And the stinker or so-so albums would be awesome debut albums from any new band that had nothing to live up to.  Bono has the rare combo of having an excellent singing voice, amazing stage presence, AND the ability to write great, meaningful lyrics.  Yes, he gets political, but so did The Clash and The Dead Kennedys and nearly every seminal Hardcore band.

U2 often gets bashed for incorporating American musical genres like gospel, blues, and folk into their music.  Yet Mumford and Sons and The Black Keys get a pass for the same thing.  Why?  Neither of those acts has nor will ever make an album as good as The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby.  Or even one as good as War.  And this bluegrass-is-the-new-punk-rock thing is going to pass real soon and may be in its denouement.

The critics of U2, once they finished sounding off at the self-righteousness and political nature of U2, then bashed them when they dropped that stuff and released a few absurd, Dada-esque mostly electronica albums.  Nuts huh?  At the time guys like me (yes I’m that old, thank you) where totally stoked that all those electronica sounds and noises, including the drums, actually came from real analogue instruments played by actual humans achieved by old-school studio magic and not by iPad apps or other software.  (Note: apparently iPad guitar processing apps and drum loop apps are the epitome of cool and hip these days, so my dig just now might fall on deaf ears.  But those with trained ears will giggle at my little joke.)

People have bashed The Edge as being a lousy guitar player.  Clearly none of those people play guitar.  Or else they play but think only guys like Yngwie Malmsteen or Trey Anastasio can be considered great guitar players.  Shredders and strict pentatonic scale (or pentatonic AND mixolydian, Trey) players are all well and good, but they are not the sole benchmarks of guitar excellence.  Actually, excellence isn’t really the yardstick to measure any guitarist by: style, sound/tone, and passion are.  Phrasing is often more important that note selection or speed when it comes to guitar.  As Flea put it, “music isn’t the Olympics”.  (Okay, yes, he’s a bass player, but the bass is a type of guitar and you get the point.)  And even Flea was once know for his speed and amount of notes played.  No one ever bashed Johnny Ramone for his shortcomings as a guitar player.  Instead they give him EXTREME credit for turning his shortcomings into a signature style.  Same can be said for The Edge, though he has far fewer shortcomings and is a world-class song writer.  But if you insist on solely judging guitar players by their technical virtuosity, then get out your guitar and effects pedals and play me “Where The Streets Have No Name” and have it sound EXACTLY as is does on the album.  It’s very hard to do and even The Edge sometimes struggles with it live.  Most players don’t even try, they just hear that song and go “nope”.

U2 has found that rare balance between serious and irreverent IMHO.  Sure they act like pompous rock stars.  But when they do it’s just that, an act.  All that “The Fly” and “Pop Mart” stuff is performance art railing against ego and abject consumerism.  Which is about as punk as it gets btw.

So if you think Bono and U2 are lame and suck, I beg you to rethink that thought.

Have a nice day!


The air attacks on ISIS in Syria should accomplish at least a few things:

1. Start the process of degrading and destroying ISIS.
2. Shut up John McCain.
3. Shut up John Boehner in saying Obama is weak and leads from behind.
4. Shut up the journalists and pundits that think they know how the US conducts military operations; arguably the media was used by the Obama administration to enhance the advantage of surprise of the airstrikes.
5. Reinforce the concept that Israel has a right to defend itself. (Remember, two beheaded US journalists were the last straw which resulted in US military action; similar to the killed Israeli teens that precipitated the recent Palestinian-Israeli fighting.)
6. Maybe, just maybe, get the current Congress to start taking its role in leading and running America seriously.

This is what I’ve got so far, other consequences are sure to come to mind.

Oh yeah …

6. Get Putin to rethink his Ukraine strategy.

When has arming and training a “moderate” group of proxy rebels ever worked to bring about the regime change America desired?  It didn’t work in Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, The Congo, Nicaragua, and Sudan.  It didn’t work in Vietnam and Iraq either and look what happened in both those countries.

I thought Obama was aware that this strategy is always a very long shot (especially in the Middle East) and it’s why he didn’t want to arm moderates in Syria before?  I guess the “success” of Libya has made him forget most of America’s history with regime change?  He certainly knows ISIS is driving around in US tanks that we provided to the Iraqi Army assumed to share our strategic interests.

If we want to get rid of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, it will take US boots on the ground, air, and sea.  And even then, if we do topple those regimes, we don’t know how to do nation-building at all as proven by our efforts at just that in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We can’t afford nor do we have the desire to occupy Syria & Iraq at the commitment levels it will take to bring the kind of change that we desire to those countries.

I don’t know the answer myself, but I’m pretty a sure that using a proxy army to further US interests doesn’t work.

People don’t want good music, they want free music. Good is optional, in both the composition, performance, and the final recoding that’s listened to. Actually, good isn’t even desired at all, there has always been good music, great music too, and it has never sold well.

It’s people and listening habits that have fundamentally changed — not the artists or music distributors — that have eroded the ability to be a professional musician.

These days people invest in good headphones, not good stereo systems. Most listening occurs alone, and when groups of people listen to music it’s usually background to another activity. When was the last time you or anyone you know listened to recorded music together in your house where the sole intent was to listen to the music, and not do anything else simultaneously like converse, eat, or drink? My theory is that headphones have become so popular since they make low bitrate audio files sound better. Yes, you’ll also hear the digital artifacts (if you have a trained ear) but a $79 set of headphones brings more audio fidelity to the listener than a $79 stereo system. I mean there are not enough bus and train riders out there to explain the explosion in popularity in headphone use!

And even when people use headphones and listen to music alone, the music is usually background noise to other activities like working out, studying, housework, and web surfing.

Given that people don’t really treat listening to music as something they do exclusively with no distractions, and that music can be had for free, I don’t see that people will ever buy music again in any great numbers. I think people have to treasure listening to music more as a primary activity before ANY business model can be developed to support music recording sales at past levels.

Also, let’s face it, music can be rather boring when you hold it up against other forms of entertainment like TV and movies. Back in the fat and profitable years for the music industry — about the last half of the 1960’s, the entire 70’s & 80’s and the first half of the 90’s — TV and movies, especially TV, sucked ass. But now TV shows are amazing and they command your attention. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black etc. viewing parties have replaced album listening parties. We’re not going to pay $10 for an album when the same $10 gets us Netflix. Hell, we don’t even really pay $10 for Pandora.

Of course all of the above is a generalization and a lot of people still engage in music as something other than background noise. But I don’t think they’re enough of them left to support the music industry like in decades past.

With only a few exceptions (40 or 200?) being a musician is a now a low-wage job in an archaic industry. I think we have to acknowledge that the music industry was a bubble that burst and it will never be re-inflated. And like with all bubbles, all of us are partly to blame.

So don’t think that all it will take is some new “good” musicians or some new amazing music genre or scene to breath new life into the music industry. Music industry profits are now slim margins because music as a form of entertainment has been marginalized.

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