Friday, March 18, 2005

Living Past Their Sell-By Date.

It seems that there was a brief couple-year period in the early 1980s when most of the best British rock acts who emerged in the '60s released their last good work before completely giving up the ghost creatively. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, David Bowie, Elton John -- they all released their "good" albums in a rapid burst between 1981 and 1983 before descending into uninspired drivel. (Only Bowie and Elton John have managed to redeem themselves in recent years with a return to form after a long drought.) It's as if an entire generation of musicians just lost their creative drive all at once. Maybe the murder of John Lennon had something to do with it, or maybe they all just got old at the same time. (However, it's especially odd to me that there doesn't seem to be a similar phenomenon among the same generation of American artists.)

Anyway, the only reason I bring this up is that U2's latest album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," seems to demonstrate that they're at the same point now that their elders were 20 years ago. The new release is a descent into drivel, making their last one, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," seem like a parting shot at greatness. And that perception is only heightened by three recent events -- their election into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Bono's nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, and (most improbably) Bono's further nomination to be the new head of the World Bank. These are all old people's activities. And while I have to admit that Bono would make a better World Bank president than that stooge Paul Wolfowitz, it's still not something that a credible rock star should have his name attached to.

More and more, U2 is looking like this generation's Rolling Stones, and we'll probably still see them touring 20 years from now, even after their music stops being the least bit interesting.

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