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Irish rockers U2 are celebrated in this collection of writings by a variety of observers, many of whom find the band fascinating in massive and important ways. As usual in this sort of pop-music Festschrift, most of the individual pieces are laudatory, but between U2’s sustained commercial success and Bono’s seemingly unending flair for the very public pursuit of good, there is more to comment on than the usual pop-music group’s ethos might offer. Specifically, Christopher Endrinal expounds on U2’s use of “vocal layering” on albums that “reinvented” the band’s sound in the 1990s; and Stephen Catanzarite, perhaps unexpectedly, discerns “U2’s conservative voice”; but the deepest depths are delved by Greg Clarke, who contrasts the influence of Jesus Christ on Bono and Nick Cave. Bono says, “either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase.” Heavy stuff for rock and roll, to be sure, this collection is comprehensively referenced, challenging, and frequently provocative. And why not? (Booklist)
Stephen Catanzarite's piece on U2's conservatism is surprising, even something of a shock, yet strangely reassuring. It goes some way to explaining why U2 has survived as a band for so long, been able to 'speak' to different generations and, while dabbling in some of the excesses of the rock music world, has never quite succumbed to it, or been submerged within it. ... This collection is not simply a collection of theological pieces... but it is evidence of the kind of wrestling which Christian preachers, teachers, youth workers, lay workers and theologians need to do not simply with the quest for 'relevance' but with respect to the fact that theology... needs to remain sharp and not ecclesiastically captive. (Theology)
Exploring U2 is a fascinating anthology that will provide readers, both aficionados and novices, with an appraisal of the band’s influence upon contemporary music, theology, politics, and culture. It will also encourage the reader to re-examine U2’s music by uploading the I-pod or placing some vinyl on the turntable. (Rock Music Studies)
Exploring U2: Is This Rock 'n' Roll? features new writing in the growing field of U2 studies. In keeping with U2's own efforts to remove barriers that have long prevented dialogue for understanding and improving the human experience, this collection of essays covers such disciplines as literature, music, philosophy, and theology. The essays study U2's evolving use of source material in live performances, the layering of vocal effects in signature songs, the crafting of a spiritual community at live concerts, U2's success as a business brand, Bono's rhetorical presentation of Africa to the Western consumer, and readings of U2's work for irony, personhood, hope, conservatism, and cosmic-time. Official band biographer Neil McCormick considers U2 as a Dublin-shaped band, and Danielle Rhéaume tells how discovering and returning Bono's lost briefcase of lyrics for the album October propelled her along her own artistic journey. This thoughtful and timely collection of essays examines U2 from perspectives ranging from the personal to the academic, and is accessible to curious music fans, students, teachers, and scholars alike.
About the Author
Scott Calhoun is professor of English at Cedarville University in Ohio. He is editor of Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll? and the director of The U2 Conference.
First my bias. I am a college professor, avid U2 fan, and co-presented at the U2 conference in 2009. Our conference paper did not make it into this volume. Having read these essays cover to cover, I fully understand why. Most of these essays are heavyweight: brilliantly insightful discussions of U2 from multiple academic disciplines not easily accessible to the casual fan. The book is an intellectual gem with a depth of riches for those willing to mine.
Beth Maynard's analysis of the U2 concert experience as leitourgia describes what U2 live means to me better than anything I have ever read - and gave me a new word. Christopher Endrinal's explanation of multiregister and multilayering in U2's music in the 1990s totally elevated my appreciation of music intricacies about which I had no clue (three voices in "The Fly"). Each essay presents new concepts, challenges, and rewards: Ricoeur and selfhood, fallen angels, antilanguage, rhetoric of the auspicious, U2 in space-time.
For the engaged fan with no interest in the more intellectual discussions of U2, there are three must-reads: DeCurtis's introductory overview, Neil McCormick's description of U2's formative environment (Dublin late 1970s), and Danielle Rhéaume's detailed account of the return of Bono's briefcase (lost before October).
I have nearly every book written about U2. In my opinion, this book is the seminal work in the U2 canon interpreting U2's gift to humanity.
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Exploring U2: Is This Rock n Roll? Essays on the Music, Work and Influence of U2 destroys the notion that this is typical about one of the most written about bands. This work is written and edited from a scholarly paradigm, but is very accessible to all that love music. I enjoy U2 as a musicians and a voice for activism, but that is not required to enjoy a read through this book. A uniqueness to this book is that it is both a great entry point, with it's lively stories told by those close to the band, and a work of great depth written by those that sit in institutions of learning and ponder such things. (Good gig if you can get it,I'd imagine.) Bottom Line: I own it, and have enjoyed it greatly both as reference and educational read.
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