Island Records, 1996


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Debating what U2 era was their best is sort of like debating which Star Trek series is best. Old U2, new U2, "Next Generation" or "The Original Series". Both have die hard followings and are inflexible when it comes to their beliefs.

I guess you could describe me as an "old era" U2 fan. The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree are still some of my favorite albums. And as much as I loved Achtung Baby, I looked forward to U2 getting back to making a rock album, especially after Zooropa. The band said in various interviews that Zooropa was just a detour, and Pop would be a return to their original sound. Well...after listening to Pop, it seems that U2 liked that detour quite a lot - and the road that they're on is taking them smack dab into Vegas.

The throbbing club beats of "Discotheque" will likely piss off hard core fans of their older material. The first time I listened to this track, all I could think about was the hundreds of remixes that were going to be played in dance clubs. Hate to admit it though, the song grew on me. And the lyrics could have easily been lifted off of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Boy or The Joshua Tree. "You can reach/but you can't grab it/you can't hold it control it/you can't grab it"-...sounds like an extension of "Running To Stand Still" to me.

The cold, electronic sounds of Zooropa are abundant in Pop. "Mofo" uses everything from drum machines, distorted background singing and heavy use of keyboards. It's not the easiest song to like by U2, and even after a couple of listens, I still think it's one of the weaker tracks on the album.

It isn't until midway through the album where U2 shows its brilliance. Coincidently, that's the time where The Edge begins to dominate over the drum machines and the keyboards. "Last Night On Earth", "Gone" and "Miami" are some of the best songs to come out of the new U2 era. The Edge shows why he's still one of the best guitarists out there with a great, wailing intro to "Gone" and a superb flirting with feedback on "Miami". As The Edge begins to dominate, you get the feeling that Pop belongs more in your car stereo than in a disco.

Bono hasn't sounded more desperate than he does in Pop. While the albums of old had lyrics dealing more with disillusionment, Bono is flat out begging for redemption in most of the songs in Pop. In "Mofo", he's "looking for baby Jesus under the trash". In "If God Will Send His Angels", he laments "Then they put Jesus in showbusiness/now it's hard to get in the door". Spiritual redemption has always been a muse for Bono but it dominates nearly every song in Pop.

When I first heard The Joshua Tree, I immediately fell in love with it. It was hard not to, the big sounds that Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and The Edge presented pretty much grabbed me by the neck. Their newer material doesn't possess that ability. Even though Achtung Baby was a landmark album, it was still an album that you had to warm up to. Same thing goes with Pop.

On a good note, U2 actually take their audience seriously. It may not appear that way, looking at the cartoonish tour that they're currently on, but the band continues to challenge their listeners to listen to new sounds. While they're not as innovative as they were on Achtung Baby, Pop is still a good addition to U2's collection. For old school fans, I only advise you this...give Pop a couple of spins. It'll eventually grow on you.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B-


I'm not a follower of U2, but I bought this CD from a co-workers suggestion. I loved it. I don't own any other U2 CDs but I've always liked their singles. I'll probably get their greatest hits.

© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.