Thursday, January 31, 2013


The next time someone tells me there's too much irony in the world, I'm going to throw them in a river. Grantland's Brian Phillips:
After "Beautiful Day," U2 played "MLK" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" while a giant screen behind them showed the names of all the victims of September 11. Bono screamed "America!" and ran around the heart-shaped track while the crowd went insane and the names of the dead scrolled up into the sky. U2, as a band, was essentially born for this moment. Nobody's lip-syncing here. "Where the Streets Have No Name" is another song about escape, but it has a bigger canvas and a more equivocal story. It doesn't mean anything; it's a vehicle for producing chills. I'm guessing more than a billion people felt chills at the same time during this performance. It's not really even fair to compare it to any other Super Bowl halftime show. It took place on a different plane. When I watched this live I thought I was going to pass out. The moment when the screen comes tumbling down and Bono holds open his jacket to reveal an American-flag lining is probably the high point in the history of rock music's work in the service of public healing. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but it may be the moment that most encapsulates what America was like after September 11 — the intensity of raw emotion, the need for mass spectacle, the sense that something genuine and vulnerable was coexisting uneasily with cell-phone commercials and an air of vague corporatization. (As I said: U2 was born for this.) And yet it made you feel like the top of your head had been taken off. 
I need some Negativland to cleanse myself of this pomposity.


Floormaster Squeeze said...

That's the letter U and the numeral 2. Those guys are from England and who gives a shiit.

freeloader said...

Good to see you on BHTV!

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

I followed the link to Grantland, thinking "Freddie's gotta be doing his usual not-getting-the-joke thing, there's no way someone could actually write that shit and not shove their own fingers into their eyes in shame..." And lo, no. No, he really did write that. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, what a perfect fusion of awful artists and awful audience.

Paul Sherrard said...

It's taken me awhile to find a way to express my disagreement with this post. I feel strongly that there IS too much irony today, particularly in music, but I wouldn't want to come down in favor of Bono's appalling halftime show.

What I would point out is that Bono's complete lack of irony is the very thing that makes him rejectable. His conviction means he has a point of view. You can say "this display is sickening; it's hypocritical and disgustingly self-congratulatory; it's, in effect, imperial propaganda." Bono stands for something, and you can actually oppose him. Or support him, like that poor fool at Grantland. The effect of Bono's sincerity is to actually show the face of aggression and propaganda for us to examine, discuss, respond to.

You can't feel that way about a modern indie rock band. The thoroughly hip performer who does everything with a wink stands for nothing and is impossible to embrace or reject, support or oppose.

The aesthetic of irony simply makes popular music incapable of commenting on anything, or of polarizing anyone.

Irony is not the remedy for bullshit; irony at best is only a painkiller. The Negativeland clip is welcome but it's not going to help anything. What's needed is engaged sincerity that happens NOT to be bullshit.

In other words: Brian Phillips doesn't need Negativland; he needs Noam Chomsky. OK, cue the groans ... now, here's my point: the groaners are the ones who actually suck, who are actually the problem. And Bono is not among them.