I came home yesterday to find that my favorite band had released an album, AND that the album was free through iTunes. At first I thought it was a hoax, like all the other hoaxes that have come and gone since the band’s last album (in 2008). Six years is a long wait between records, and people know how rabid us U2 fans can be. Of course every single time I would get my hopes up only to have them dashed to smithereens again. So I was taking this one with a grain of salt when it arrived in my inbox.
But this was the real deal. For the first time the band had honest-to-goodness released a record when I wasn’t looking. I’m used to knowing for months in advance, then the anticipation mounts and I can’t breathe. I just have to know it, to hear it, to take it all in like a miracle drug. Yeah, you could say I get obsessed with the release of U2 albums.
My first release was Pop, in 1997, when the band went all kitschy and powered up a giant stage K-Mart style. We had been waiting for that album for nearly four years, and I thought that wait was interminable. At the time I was heavily involved in Wire, the U2 internet mailing list, and we would surmise what the album would sound like for months ahead of time. Then we planned and created a pre-release party at the Paradise Club in Boston, where U2 played when they first came to America. It was surreal, that night, listening to the album under the big disco light for the first time.
It was magic. This innocence.
Then there was All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and bulky title aside, that album was also well worth the nearly four year wait. I left behind the glam club scene, though, and bought it in a small record store in Knoxville, Tennessee. That first night with it I plugged in my huge headphones, clicked the volume up, and immersed myself in the album for hours, listening, and re-listening, a purely individual ecstasy. It was like the album downloaded itself into my brain and I’ve had it in there ever since, with various songs playing in an endless loop. That’s what U2 does to me.
Follow that up nearly four years later with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb when the waiting had nearly drained me. Between albums I had read all the books about the band that I could get my hands on, introduced about a million others (sometimes random strangers) to snippets of songs and lyrics, and of course concerts and concert stories as well. I picked up that album while shopping at Best Buy in Albany, New York. Three albums, three completely different experiences, but all tied in to that electricity generated by a band that spoke to me, that always speaks to me.
A little over four years after that was No Line on the Horizon, and I found myself watching David Letterman for a whole week because he had the band on every night the week of the album release. It felt like the least they could do, to let me hear their music live because that’s where it comes alive. I watched those performances so much it would have worn out the tape had I used videotapes to copy them. And the album drew me in as always, with its complex sonic landscape. It doesn’t always have to be simple. That’s what U2 has always taught me.
Then nearly six years passed, and the hoaxes with it, and two blindingly brilliant new songs that just whet my appetite for MORE. Give me, give me MORE! That’s why I fell for so many of the stories that said U2 was coming out with an album in 2012 (following the four year curve), and then twice in 2013, and finally twice more in 2014… then to come home to that message. And it was real. It was magic. This innocence. Now I’m plugged in to my iPod listening to Songs of Innocence, the wait finally over, and it feels just like it did the first time. Electric.
I’m still in love after all this time, after all the waiting, after all the delays, because this connection is special. It’s an innocence that speaks volumes. Now I’m dying for the next one.