Growing to Like the U2 Album

When the U2 album appeared, last week or the week before, I burned it on a CD and stuck it in the car stereo. Whenever the radio was annoying me or failing to enthrall me, I put it on.

I’m coming around to it now.

I never really like anything first time out, unless it’s some super-catchy riff with an instant hook. 

At the moment, I like that ‘All About the Bass’ song but I will probably be completely fed up with it in a week or two. That’s the trouble with the catchy stuff, it wears off pretty quick.

Back to U2 though.

I’m not a defender of U2 or anything. There’s lot of their songs that I like and a lot that I don’t like. I also know how that front man fella has the capacity to annoy people, myself included, from time to time. When I heard some songs off this new album for the first time, they didn’t impact with me. They didn’t cause me offence or outrage or anything, they just didn’t click.

But that’s nothing new. As I was saying, songs generally take a few plays to get into my brain and settle there. It’s only then that I get a feel for whether I like them or not.

So, yeah, the CD has been played a few times now and I’m coming around to the songs. They sound similar to ones that have gone before but, still, some of them are pretty good.


What I’m saying here is completely true but I’m also trying to be a little bit provocative. 

I was interested in what happened when the U2 album appeared last week, or the week before. I think it was a good example of something that occurs quite regularly now, something that we perhaps should be a little bit concerned about.

Basically, people hated the U2 album.

But why be concerned about that, Ken? People are allowed to like or dislike things as they see fit. They are also allowed to express their opinions openly and without fear of reprisal. This is a situation  to be celebrated and staunchly defended.

Of course it is.

The thing I’m talking about is not the hating of the album. It is the speed of the hating of the album.

People hated the album in the very moment it appeared. 

There was no time to listen to it a few times. Hell, there was no time to listen to it even once. It appeared and it was hated. The end.

Of course there were mitigating factors in this particular instance. The album was perceived as having been forced onto people’s entertainment devices by a corporate entity. That fuelled the hate a bit. Also it’s ‘U2’, with the stacks of baggage that they and their front man have hauled along through the last few decades.

These are reasons which made this a grander and more visible ‘blind hating’ that most of the ‘blind hatings’ we have previously seen. Still, though, it’s an interesting and, to me at least, a rather scary example of the phenomenon. 

What phenomenon, Ken, what are you on about?

I told you. People, en masse, hating a package of songs without having taken a moment to listen to them. Doesn’t that scare you even a little bit? I mean it’s not about the songs, fuck the songs. People coming together and hating a thing and the only knowledge they have of it is the propaganda and their own prejudices. Doesn’t that ring a bell at all?

People do well if they are part of a group. This is true in life and doubly-true on Facebook and Twitter and such. It’s can be a cold isolating place, that Social Media, and people long for common ground and shared experience on which to rest and warm themselves a while. If you don’t believe me, look at any statement made on Facebook and then look at the comments beneath. The vast majority of those comments will be in concurrence with the original statement. A few argumentative types, sure, but, generally, people with be supporting the original statement, making themselves part of a little cohort. Belonging.

It’s only natural, I suppose. 

It’s a shame, though, that the easiest gangs to belong to are the ones which dislike things. It’s easier and safer and warmer and more comfortable to dislike things. You don’t have to defend a dislike. You just have to run with the pack and feel their hot breath on your neck.

I’m getting carried away now and I know I am. And, before you start, it’s not about bloody U2. Hate them all you want, I couldn’t care less. It’s a free country. Go for it. Knock yourself out.

Just consider one thing for me.

Before you decide you really, really hate something, why not try it?

Of course, if you have a strong instinct that you’re going to hate it (Semolina, Cauliflower) you don’t have to try it but, if you don’t ever give it a go, then don’t run around publicly hating on it. Just disregard it.

There is warmth and companionship to be found in being among the people who like things and even, perhaps most wonderful of all, the people who disagree with you about things.

Damn.

I’ve completely gone off U2 now.

Anybody got any Coldplay? 


Doors to Manual

This week’s blog post is just a thought, really.

The way this blog works, usually, is that I think about something through the week and I decide that this thing will be the subject of that week’s post. Then I let it steam gently in my brain for a day or two and then I write it down. If it’s a story or a memory, I can usually tell if it’s passable or not. When it’s just a thought, though, it’s harder to ascertain whether it has any value. The only thing to do is to write it and see.

So.


Life is like a journey on a commercial flight.

That’s the thought.

The danger is that it’s one of those lines that a priest might throw out at the start of a sermon and then go on to flog it to death in a yawn-inducing litany of awfulness. I’ll try not to do that. ‘Get in and get out quickly’, that’s the plan.

‘Life is like a journey on a commercial flight,’ I though to myself this week. 

Here’s why.

On a commercial flight, most of us sit in the regular seats, Economy Class. We cram in to undersized accommodation, beside people who we don’t want to know, and (if we’re lucky) we get fed little containers of stuff that we wouldn’t look at twice at on the ground. Oh, and a hard bread roll. Let’s not forget the hard bread roll.

But there are other people on the plane. Up the front. People you don’t see much of, unless a curtain gets parted or momentarily left askew before being rigorously tugged back into place. These are the First Class people, the Business Class people. Call them what you will, their lives are better than ours. They get better food and drink, and more of it. Their seats are wider and comfier. They get smiled-at more. Life is just a darned-sight better and easier for them.

This analogy would be better if there was a class behind us too. A sort of ‘Airplane Steerage’ where folks in flat caps are made to sit on wooden benches and are prevented from breaking into impromptu jigs for reasons of safety and health. These steerage people would regard me in my Economy seat with ‘envious eyes’ just as I would be staring up at the Business Class bods with the same green-eyed ire.

There we would all be, flying along, envying each other, in our airplane… in our life. 

Then turbulence hits. 

It hits hard.

It doesn’t matter what seat you are in then. It doesn’t matter how comfy the cushion is, how fizzy the pomade. Everybody in the plane is rocked the same way. Everybody becomes aware of their heart beating in their chest.

Push the thought to the ridiculous extreme. The plane loses control, tumbles to the ground and crashes. What matters it then who is in First or who is in Imaginary Steerage?

This week, I thought that life is very much like that. 

Some of us sleep on feathers, some on cushions, some of us on hard rocks. It matters little, in the bigger picture. We are all on the same ride and the things that make the poor tremble make the rich tremble too. The things that devastate the steerage man will surely do the same up in that rarefied place where the grapes and the linen serviettes are.

It’s all window-dressing and it isn’t worth our envy. Whatever seat you find yourself in, bring along a good book and enjoy the view and the interaction as best you can. Don’t waste time worrying about the dude in front of you with the caviar. When it all comes crashing down, as it inevitably must, it won’t be about the quality of the ride. It will be about how well you enjoyed it.

That’s it.

There are no original thoughts or very few at best. I know this. These thoughts I have won’t ever be new or startling or revolutionary. The only real value they have is that they are mine and I made them myself. 

It’s like the difference of you eating your corn flakes out of a bowl you bought in the shop and eating them out of a bowl you crafted  yourself, with your own fair hand. 

There’s no difference, not really. Not to anyone but you.

That’s enough thoughts and comparisons for this week, Ken. Ta very much.

Any chance of a funny story next week?

For a change.