Monday, 27 June 2011

Your contempt for Bono is no cooler than wearing sunglasses indoors.

Hello you. Like the hat! Go and take a look at this and tell me what you think.

There's something wrong with it, isn't there? But what? Take a moment... have a think.

OK, time's up. Now I'm going to read your mind. You're thinking... you don't like Bono. You think he's a git, and you hate his stupid sunglasses-clad face. You're thinking, "If he was covered in flies and worms and being bitten by dogs, and crying and shouting "Please God make it stop!",  and I could stop all that happening just by blinking, I would do all that was in my power to make sure I never, ever blinked again, even if it meant going blind."

I'll be honest, there is something about that photo that makes me dislike the man. His posturing, self-conscious air of psuedo-cool is thrown into sharp relief by the laid back, genuine, actual-cool of Leonard Cohen, standing next to him.  And it's not helped by the fact that Bono is clearly thinking "Look at me, I'm in a photo with Leonard Cohen - one of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music. That must mean I'm also one of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music. That's why we're in a photo together. This photo is so full of truth that it will probably become the flag of Ireland before too long. And people will gaze upon the flag, singing my songs and masturbating and calling me The King."

And Leonard Cohen is obviously thinking, "Who is this self obsessed bastard?"

So, it's easy and fun to mock Bono. And wandering around the internet this weekend it's been hard to avoid people doing just that - hurling insults at the singer, and at U2's Glastonbury set last Friday - as if Bono had broken into their house and drawn sunglasses in indelible ink on the faces of all their pets. Gosh, we all hate him. And we like to spend time and effort telling the world how much he irritates us.

And here's the thing: although Bono is quite tiresome in his own way, I'm starting to find the knee jerk criticism of U2 equally predictable and equally dull. Yes,wearing sunglasses indoors is a silly and pretentious way of trying to appear cool. But you know what? So is rising up every time a band's name is mentioned and loudly shouting "I hate them!" It's just another way of saying "I'm cool, I am. I'm with it, and edgy, and hip, and no way do I like old grandad music like U2! Yuk! That's for non-cool people! I really hate non-cool people!"

I've been suspicious of this attitude ever since I was at college, where coolness seemed to be dictated not so much by what you liked, but by what you didn't like. I remember joking, one day, that we should book insanely expensive bands for our Summer Ball. Given that our budget could barely stretch to Jools Holland, I found it amusing to chalk up a short-list of Phil Collins, The Rolling Stones, INXS and - yes - U2 on the black board. The next day some humourless prick had scrawled all over the board: "These are not the bands students like! Get a life!" That's right, you dick. I was seriously entertaining the idea of booking Phil Collins. I thought he might like to play above the bar in the Kennel Block. But don't worry that you've missed the point - you've proved that you're very cool, and you don't like U2, and you probably temporarily like the Inspiral Carpets because you've been told that's acceptable by someone with an equally confused sense of self.

And I remember thinking - what an incredibly negative way to formulate your image. Defining yourself by things you don't like. How desperate, and sad, and needy, to have to slag off everything around you to achieve this mythical status you so long for. Do you not realise that, in your desperate desire to slag of Bono, you have become Bono! Your cut-and-paste dismissal of the bands you think it is cool to hate is your leather trousers, your whining sense of cultural superiority is your indoor sunglasses. When you moan loudly and constantly about the bands you dislike - rather than simply ignoring them like a sensible person - you are posturing at the edge of the stage, waving a flag and hoping to be photographed against the sun.

I don't really care for U2 anymore. I liked them a lot in the early 90s and was probably very uncool about it. I think their last three albums have lacked any real vitality or sense of creative power, especially the last one which was so boring it achieved a kind of quantum state of pointlessness. But no matter how dull their recent output, it isn't anywhere near as dull hearing people complain about them just to assert their own credentials. You might not like them, and fair enough, I can understand why. But please stop telling me about it.