Am I the only one who was happy to have received U2’s new album for free via itunes? And since when has free music been a crime?
While I can hardly claim to be Apple’s biggest fan, I can’t discern whether utter disgust has been in response the ‘breach’ of the sanctity of personal music libraries being violated by an album un- asked for, or that album was by U2. The wave of hipster hate is palpable, have ‘The Greatest Band in the World’ TM really become so distasteful? Wind your neck in kids. Would you rather it was Lorde or St. Vincent? (No I didn’t think so, despite getting to sample new music for free they’d still be ‘selling out’ right?) So often self promotion in the music industry is a thankless minefield where nobody wins.
The industry is rattled by free downloads claiming it’s the death of new music. But it’s no different to radio play and it doesn’t, as some have suggested, ‘cheapen the experience’. Remember the ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’ skull and crossbones warning labels on LPS? Well, that was 30 years ago baby and rock’s still not dead. If anything listening for free keeps artists fresh in our minds and accessible especially to those on low incomes, making me for one, more inclined to buy something from them/support them in future. So if this got you on your high-horse, just take a breath and imagine it was a free album from a band you really cared about. Still feel irked and ungrateful? First world problems indeed.
Perhaps I’m only happy about this deal because U2 are a band I’ve grown to admire in spite of themselves, and an act I’d still pay good money to see. I know Bono hasn’t done himself any favours in recent years (righteous indignation and tax dodging are ill bedfellows) regardless he remains a better than average lyricist even on bad days. Despite how phenomenally uncool it might be to declare it U2 will always have a place in my heart. (And should you wonder why I offer my holy trinity of Actung Baby, Zooropa and Pop as glittering jewels of avant guard 90s electronica tinged rock. Which frankly are three of the best albums by any band of all time ever, but I digress).
In defence of the ‘free download’ album in question, U2’s 13th studio album Sounds of Innocence is not bad. It perhaps lacks Eno’s inimitable presence and some of the standout tracks than made No Line on the Horizon worthy of interest, but it’s of a more consistent quality over all. If it feels a little like something you’ve heard before it’s probably because you have. U2 have been around almost 40 years pioneering and cultivating the sounds you now attribute to Coldplay, the Killers and more, but let’s not forget who broke that ground first. You can also hear the stylings of an earlier U2 here, that driving jangling guitar of their 80’s classic album The Joshua Tree is in evidence, which makes sense as this record thematically visits the band’s personal ‘origins’. Notable tracks for me include, Iris, Every Breaking Wave, and Cedarwood Road and the lead single The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) is as stompingly anthemic as anything you would expect of U2. Sure, it’s not their best recording to date, but it certainly isn’t their worst.
I’ll admit would rather this record hadn’t been distributed by weren’t itunes. A better way to share it might have been through sites like of SoundCloud where it could have been made accessible to anyone who wanted to download it instead. Which would have felt a lot less corporate and more of a genuine promotion of the band and not of the Apple platform. Still, it’s a bold move and I for one am never going to complain about being given free music.
Post Script- On another day when I’m feeling less than generous I might be telling you instead how cynical this release was (and how some of the song titles are try hard and misleading) but don’t listen to me. Go listen to Iggy Pop’s prescient ‘john Peel Lecture’ on Free Music in a capitalist society, or read it here.
This rant has been brought to you by Geenie’s unpopular opinion corner. Welcome to my world 🙂