Music Between The Lines (October 2014)

I remember it clearly. His name was Peter Alexander. ‘Peter Alexander?’ You ask. Yep. That’s the name of the first guy who had an iPod at our school. I was very jealous. This guy had access to 10GB music, and I was still walking around with my Panasonic Discman stuffed between my pants and belt with two CD’s – one in each of my school blazer pockets. My jealousy- as is always the case- was painted with an irrational logic. ‘Peter Alexander!! What the hell does he know about music?’

To be fair, I shouldn’t take it all out on Peter Alexander – I just really wanted an iPod. Apple had these great commercials with these silhouette dancers and this fascinating white device. It truly was fascinating. People were grappling with the idea of Apple’s marketing claim of having ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’ – Whhaaat!?! It was a sign that the 21st century had arrived. Every song they used for these commercials turned out to be a hit. Then, one day on these commercials, I heard the famous cry of a man I had never heard of. His name? Bono. “Hellooooo Hellooooo! I’m at a place called vertigo!” That was it. Game over.

That was 10 years ago and I while I spent the next five years discovering and falling in love with the back catalogue of U2, I’m also ready to argue, that that was the last time U2 made great, relevant, music.

Fast forward 10 years and U2 have released their latest album Songs of Innocence for free, to every person with an iTunes account.

How about the balls on these guys? Most bands, while confident and proud of their music, are always a little nervous upon its release – “Will people like it? What if it’s shit?” These are the insecurities that mark the fragility of an artist who creates art that connects with us.

Well not U2. These guys are approaching their mid 50s and following up their sub-standard 2009 album No Line on the Horizon with the single largest release of music in human history. Respect.

U2 have made a very good album, it’s consistent in its very goodness, but it fails to deliver that trademark U2 moment of joyous elevation. In a singles driven music market, there isn’t a single song that will break through the sex and bang of pop music in 2014. And if you don’t think they want to be up there fighting it out with Kanye and Rhianna, you’re wrong. This is the band that reinvented itself in 1991 with Achtung Baby and 2000 with All That You Can’t Leave Behind to ensure their relevance in pop music.

Album opener, first single and the latest song to be used in an Apple commercial The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) isn’t just the weakest song on the album but as a friend said, ‘should be reserved for those who have lost the will to live.’ But after this opening let down, the album rolls out in pretty solid fashion. Iris (Hold me Close) successfully strikes at rock ‘n roll subtlety, Volcano would have been a better choice for the lead single spot and California (There Is No End To Love) opens with a signature Bono vocal that leaves you thinking, ‘This guy still has it’.

But don’t listen to what I say. You’ve all got access to the album – check your iTunes. Listen to it, but don’t do it casually. Put on your headphones and forget Bono’s pretentiousness. U2 are rock ‘n roll greats for a reason.

On a side note, on the day Song of Innocence was released at Apple headquarters during the iPhone 6 launch, the tech giant also happen to discontinue the making of the classic iPod. A few months ago, I unknowingly bought the last version of it – a 160GB iPod that I’m listening to as I write this. Ahhhh, all is restored in the universe.

Kog Ravindran is a writer, occasionally sings for Melbourne band, The Scarecrows and currently has his debut solo EP Barricades out in the world. Find out all about him at or check him out on Triple J Unearthed.