I was as concerned as anyone about whether or not U2.com would be able to keep the satisfying subscription packages coming out. After years of fan club releases that ranged from underwhelming to downright poor, they got their act together last year with the release of U22. A sweet tour book with two exclusive live CDs was exactly the jumpstart the fan club needed. I was very, very happy.
U2.com announced their latest full subscription package on Friday after giving hints as to what would be in it for the past couple months. In addition to the previously announced copy of the U2 360 tour commemorative book From The Ground Up, they're including another CD of live tracks called Edge's Picks, lithograph prints of photos of the band, advance song downloads of live versions of "No Line On The Horizon" and "Spanish Eyes," and a set of bookmarks.
They also have a bigger package that appears be designed for new subscribers who want past fan club releases. It combines the new package with the previous U22 and Zoo2Live releases, as well as the exclusive downloads that came with last year's subscription.
This is what I'm looking for with a fan club release. Rather than re-releasing material that's already out there, or re-hashing tracks by adding to the glut of U2 remixes out there, they're giving us new material to listen to and read. I'm sure Duals was a hell of a lot easier to produce, but U22 and Edge's Picks/From The Ground Up are a HELL of a lot more satisfying to me as a fan. This is the sort of effort and consideration from U2.com that I truly appreciate. I'm already looking forward to what they're going to release next.
As a teaser, U2.com has released this video clip of "Electrical Storm."
The Somalian-by-way-of-Canada artist K'naan released his new album, Country, God Or The Girl, a couple weeks ago. Bono contributed vocals to the track "Bulletproof Pride." It's wholly appropriate as the title seems tailor-made for U2, and the song uses grand imagery to address a disruption in a personal relationship. I am primarily a fan of Bono not as a public personality but as a singer and performer. I appreciate his musical phrasings and tonality, and my appreciation has only grown as his voice has matured. When Bono's voice starts to fully show itself in the second chorus of the song, it is a perfect example of what I love about his contributions to music, both with U2 and outside of the band. It's a smoky smooth mixture of calm and assuredness that convinces you to trust everything it says. What's the point of listening to music, if not to listen to art that you can believe in (even when it's lying to you)? I'd highly recommend giving it a listen if you haven't yet.
The new James Bond movie, Skyfall, came out in the U.S. this weekend. To my mind, the Bond and U2 franchises share a number of similar characteristics. They were both products of the 1960s, with the members of U2 being born in 1960 and 1961 and the first Bond movie coming out in 1962. The Sean Connery movies maintained a purity of view similar to 1980s U2. This was replaced by the Roger Moore era of flash that many critics came to view as bloated and misguided by the end, similar to U2's evolution through the 1990s. Now, as with U2's output for the past decade, the Daniel Craig Bond movies have returned to a level of purity and streamlining, while not totally abandoning the flair they picked up along the way. (And yes, I'm aware I'm ignoring the Pierce Brosnan movies, which managed to go from Connery-level purity to Moore-level bloat in the course of four films).
More to the point, though, both U2 and James Bond have been able to re-invent and revitalize themselves through the decades to stay relevant in one way or another. The members of U2 are showing their age a bit more these days, but as the U2 360 tour demonstrated, they still have as much ambition to perform as anyone out there. Daniel Craig's Bond exists in a much sleeker, smoother, nicer world than Connery's ever did, but it's also easy to imagine Craig's Bond getting his hands dirtier than any other Bond we've seen. They both started going in new directions once the Cold War was no longer available as an inspiration. I'd argue that U2 did a much better job of it with Achtung Baby and Zooropa than Bond did with the Timothy Dalton movies. Neither have the originality or freshness they had in their earlier days, but they still maintain a very high quality, derived from experience, that guarantees continued success. They're both institutions that leave the culture feeling lessened when they're gone for too long. I'll be going to see Skyfall tonight and I can't wait. This has been a great year for action movies, and the reviews are saying that this is one of the best Bond movies ever. I'll leave you with the Bond theme penned by Bono and The Edge and performed immaculately by Tina Turner, "Goldeneye."
You'll never know
How I watched you from the shadows as a child
You'll never know
How it feels to get so close and be denied
It's a gold and honey trap
I've got for you tonight
Revenge is a kiss
This time I won't miss
Now I've got you in my sight
With a goldeneye
Pure Bono. Pure Bond.
(c) @U2/Ryan, 2012