If I can take you into my confidence for a moment or two, I would like to make a guilty admission. I am a closet fan of the rock band U2.
This pathology from which I suffer was once worse; much, much worse. And what’s more, at one point I wore my status with Pride (even in the name of love?).
When I was seventeen or eighteen (merely a Boy), not only did I own every U2 release, but I held in contempt anyone who even so much as suggested that Bono and co were, well, Bad. Additionally I read avidly every book and interview that I could get my hands on which had even a tangential relevance to the group or its music. I had album posters in my room and I greeted as manna from heaven almost every pronouncement which the singer made from behind those ridiculous wraparound shades. Hell, I even paid a dubious character in a pub near Lansdowne Road over one hundred Republic of Ireland pounds to secure a ticket for the band’s Popmart show. Such, at that time, was my Desire (ahem).
U2 were largely responsible when I ploughed through such worthless dross as the works of William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. To be fair I also became aware of Truman Capote, Raymond Carver and Norman Mailer because the band name checked those authors too.
Even back then, however, I was not immune from the odd bout of Bono precipitated embarrassment. Frequently I wished he hadn’t said something at which I inwardly cringed. Yet more frequently I wished he’d said something clearly, not imbedded in ironic gibberish, or murmured elliptically, or delivered (as was once his wont) in a mid Atlantic twang. My fandom was constantly battling with innate cynicism and intense irritability. The very fact that a member of my favourite band styled himself 'the Edge' became hard to reconcile with the grinding motion it induced in my teeth.
As the years passed, irritability grappled fandom to the ground, kicked sand in its face, and capered deliriously into the Beautiful (new) Day, at last liberated from a disabling enemy. I still liked the music (although it became substantially less compelling as Achtung Baby receded into distant memory) but I was free to applaud Paul Theroux when he observed, ‘there are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can’t think of one at the moment”.
Yet, despite myself, when I hear that the first U2 album for five years is about to be released and when I learn that the reviewers’ consensus is that it represents their best work since the early 90s, I cannot help but become a little excited. Perhaps this anticipation has skewed my judgment rather, because when I heard Bono being interviewed on the Today programme this morning, I found to my surprise that he spoke lucidly and without undue affectation.
So my guilty secret is that I will be buying the new album when it is released, most probably I will like it and I might not even find the accompanying interviews insufferable, as long as sensible, self-effacing Bono is not replaced by his ‘artist’ alter-ego.