Sound of Music

I’ve been on a bit of a sound wave this morning – with my earlier posts – and the slightly more heated than anticipated comments on my anti-U2 post. I’m not surprised. Bono’s public Christianity makes him a bit of a sacred cow.

But I don’t like to criticise things without offering solutions here are 5 bands that are better than U2. In my opinion*…

  1. Radiohead – both Coldplay and U2 wish they were as politically aware and musically diverse as Radiohead – incidentally – Radiohead are apparently recording a new album.
  2. Muse – another British band with less people and more musical talent (and a greater talent per capita ratio) than U2.
  3. Gomez – They are to alt.Country what the muppets are to puppetry. Defining. Actually they’re incredibly difficult to pigeon hole.
  4. Athlete – For those of you who like U2 because they’re easy listening try Athlete, or Death Cab for Cutie – both equally compelling in sound but less self-righteously musically annoying.
  5. Augie March  – not only are they Australian, intelligent, poetic, they’re “easy listening” without being middle of the road inoffensive babble.

There’s six bands in a list of five bands that I find more sonically pleasurable than U2. Here are 10 more that fit that category off the top of my head (or out of my iPod – which does contain a bit of U2 – early U2, back when the Edge didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d keep your children away from at public parks).

If you like saccharine music and just can’t help yourself – why not listen to Dave Matthews, or Simon and Garfunkel…

  1. Smashing Pumpkins
  2. Weezer
  3. Architecture in Helsinki
  4. Blur
  5. Oasis
  6. Cake
  7. Custard
  8. The Dandy Warhols
  9. Placebo
  10. The Panics

Those are just the bands – there are plenty of solo artists or balladeers who write nice, sweet music who are infinitely more compelling than a 50 year old who petulantly refuses to remove his sunglasses. I won’t list them. I think I’ve made my point. Why listen to one band that tries to appeal to every aspect of musicality and becomes middle of the road when you can embrace diversity which lets you appreciate the whole road, bit by bit.

That is all.

*I’m not sure this needs to be said on a blog. That’s kind of the point.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

34 thoughts on “Sound of Music”

  1. I don’t think it is fair to criticise someone else’s taste in music.
    I can’t stand country music. Despite having lived in Gympie. I hate it. But it’s not fair for me to tell someone who loves Troy Cassar-Daly that his music is no good and they should listen to something else.

  2. “I don’t think it is fair to criticise someone else’s taste in music.”

    Why not? Understanding that somethings a subjective taste should not stop me objecting to the subjective taste of others.

    I don’t like modern fashion – should I not be allowed to voice my opinion on that? Besides, I see providing all these alternative bands as a public service to my readers.

    I wonder too, if the label “alternative” could just be applied to “those bands not trying to be U2”.

  3. No, telling someone that they shouldn’t listen to a band because you don’t like them is not fair.

    It’s like me telling you that you shouldn’t watch the rugby league because I think it is rubbish.

    1. “But I’m not going to tell you that you should listen to Mozart because he was an outstanding composer.”

      Why not? It seems a shame to rob me of the chance to discover Mozart and his outstanding compositions simply because you don’t want to broaden my horizons because you’re scared of imposing your tastes on me – it also seems a shame not to be able to label Mozart bland on one’s own blog…

      Like I said – I didn’t want to criticise without opening up my own opinions (suggestions) for criticism – so feel free to pick holes in my musical taste…

  4. I am happy to accept that, or example, while I love Mozart, you might find him tedious. But I’m not going to tell you that you should listen to Mozart because he was an outstanding composer.

  5. I mean, if you have listened to Mozart and didn’t like him.

    Go for it, criticise music that you don’t like. Just don’t criticise a person for liking something that you don’t.

    1. “Go for it, criticise music that you don’t like. Just don’t criticise a person for liking something that you don’t.”

      Where have I done that?

      I’m not sure I have up until now. But let me just say: if you listen to U2 your musical taste is boring and your (clef) palate undefined.

  6. There

    “But I don’t like to criticise things without offering solutions ”

    There

    “If you like saccarine music and just can’t help yourself”

    and here

    “Why listen to one band that tries to appeal to every aspect of musicallity and becomes middle of the road when you can embrace diversity which lets you appreciate the whole road, bit by bit.”

  7. “But I don’t like to criticise things without offering solutions ”

    Where is the criticism of people in that quote? The implicit criticism (given that I go on to list alternative bands) is a criticism of U2.

    “If you like saccarine music and just can’t help yourself”

    That doesn’t seem judgmental to me – saccharine (original misspelling mine) is only insulting if you are opposed to things that are:

    1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of sugar or saccharin; sweet.
    2. Having a cloyingly sweet attitude, tone, or character: a saccharine smile.
    3. Excessively sentimental: “It was enough for him to rely on sentiment . . . and saccharine assertions about The Home” (Kate Millett).

    The implication that “you just can’t help yourself” is a judgment – though not of musical taste – of an addiction to a particular musical taste, perhaps.

    “Why listen to one band that tries to appeal to every aspect of musicality and becomes middle of the road when you can embrace diversity which lets you appreciate the whole road, bit by bit.”

    That’s a question, though it is framed as a statement. How is a question a criticism?

  8. I’m not going to argue with you over semantics.
    Despite your intentions, the message that came across to me, the reader, was “U2 is crap. listen to these bands instead’. I think you went beyond criticising the band to criticising the listener, whether you meant to or not.

    1. “Despite your intentions, the message that came across to me, the reader, was “U2 is crap. listen to these bands instead’.”

      That was my intention. And I believe you all should do that. Does that make me think less of you? No, musical taste is purely subjective. But again, I don’t see why that should prevent me making judgments about other people’s musical taste. I’m not judging you, just your taste. If your musical taste is offensive enough, then yes. I will judge you.

      I’ve changed my mind. Consider me to be criticising your musical taste if you like U2. There’s no need to agree on the matter. In fact. If you like U2 I will think less of you.

      1. ““Despite your intentions, the message that came across to me, the reader, was “U2 is crap. listen to these bands instead’.”

        That was my intention. And I believe you all should do that. Does that make me think less of you? No, musical taste is purely subjective. But again, I don’t see why that should prevent me making judgments about other people’s musical taste. I’m not judging you, just your taste. If your musical taste is offensive enough, then yes. I will judge you.

        I’ve changed my mind. Consider me to be criticising your musical taste if you like U2. There’s no need to agree on the matter. In fact. If you like U2 I will think less of you.”

        As I posted this comment I changed my mind – but I won’t edit it so that you can watch my thinking evolve…

  9. But let me just say: if you listen to U2 your musical taste is boring and your (clef) palate undefined.

    So what do you say to someone who likes U2 and also most of the other bands on your list?

    Anyway, music-guru away oh-great-one, because obviously your taste is far superior to all others, and the world would be a very exciting place if we all listened to music that you approved of.

    1. “So what do you say to someone who likes U2 and also most of the other bands on your list?”

      Good on you, you have in my opinion, mostly excellent taste. It’s a shame you like U2. We could almost be friends… that last sentence was a joke…

      “Anyway, music-guru away oh-great-one, because obviously your taste is far superior to all others, and the world would be a very exciting place if we all listened to music that you approved of.”

      Next time you post a book review that I disagree with – look out.

  10. I’m not a fan of U2 but I don’t think they’re bad. Most of the time when people say “xyz music is bad”, they’re saying “I don’t like xyz” and wouldn’t actually know what makes ‘bad’ music. Technically, “Yellow Submarine” is bad music because it doesn’t end on the tonic, which music generally should. Unless of course the note it ends on still sounds good which, if you listen to the actual music of “Yellow Submarine”, it doesn’t. So it’s bad music but people still enjoy it (including me). (Chances are, the Beatles were stoned when they wrote it anyway).

    I do love Simon and Garfunkel. And I wonder what you think is classified as “saccharine” music… because I wouldn’t call all S&G music saccharine. Do you mean the melody of the music or the content of the lyrics?

  11. “I wonder what you think is classified as “saccharine” music”

    I mean the ultimate in easy listening. So inoffensive that one’s grandmother might enjoy a concert.

    Again, I don’t necessarily think saccharine is bad – I like Simon and Garfunkel – and I like Dave Matthews. They’re better at saccharine than U2 because U2 set out to be edgy and political – their guitarist even calls himself “The Edge” – and they end up being tame, mainstream successes who embrace the machine rather than rage against it.

  12. Leah, Yellow Submarine ends with a fade, and I can’t find anything technically incorrect in the song. (and I can think of FAR better Beatles songs to listen…)

  13. Well, Nathan, I still think that is unfair and arrogant of you to say that your taste in music is better than mine.

  14. Is it possible to disagree with somebody’s musical taste without an implicit criticism?

  15. Here’s my take on things. Nathan loves an arguement, and kinda likes to rile people up. It’s kinda in jest. Everyone bites, and gets personally offended. I think readers need to take stuff with a grain of salt. Nathan thinks your music is bog? Oh well.

    Nathan, on a side note, your choices aren’t that much better. Augie March would put an ADD kid into an instant coma. Radiohead wouldn’t exist without U2. Muse wouldn’t exist without Radiohead.

    Brother, (note my condecsending tone) you need to go further back in time past all that mediocre stuff.

    The answer to all your questions, and the question to all your answers is…

    The Beach Boys, ‘Pet Sounds’, 1966.

  16. Sadly, Ben is the only commenter on this thread not to know me in real life – and the only one who seems to know me.

    Thanks brother Ben.

    Note that Augie March was featured as a possible alternative for the U2 fan.

    And I like Augie March. As an alternative to U2. If I am in what I consider must be the mood other people need to be in to listen to U2 I’d choose Augie March.

    I note, brother Ben, that Wings appears in your list. No self respecting Beatles fan can enjoy Wings.

  17. No worries comrade.

    Your clutching at straws because you know I’m right. Listen to the album ‘Ram’ by Wings, and that has more talent, range, creativity, originality than any band you listed.

  18. I can only put this down to the fact that you and Paul McCartney share the same first syllable in your surnames.

  19. Queen Stuss – I’m not familiar with the technical term ‘fade’, but I’m guessing it means a note that fades away? Does this change whether the music should or shouldn’t end on the tonic? Maybe the music I had wasn’t exactly like the original. Happens annoyingly often. I think my grade ten music teacher made an example of Yellow Submarine once and I didn’t understand until I found the music at home in a book one day and decided to play it… then got to the end and went “wow… she was right!”

    Nathan – pretty sure everyone knew you were purposely riling people up “in jest”, doesn’t change the fact that it’s arrogant to tell someone the music they like is bad just because you don’t enjoy it. Especially when you probably don’t know what actually makes ‘bad’ music.

  20. “Especially when you probably don’t know what actually makes ‘bad’ music.”

    Right, and what special knowledge do I need.

    I wasn’t jesting – I think U2 are pretty middle of the road terrible. And they’re old men trading on the success of their youth. They’ve lost any semblance of respectability and the more they go on the more they’ll cheapen their legacy.

    U2’s new music, and continued existence, is bad.

    I would say a declaration of not enjoying a particular band is more than acceptable social conduct and this whole criticism is political correctness gone mad. It’s not arrogant to say “I don’t like the bands you like” publically any more than it is arrogant to say “I don’t like the political party you vote for”, “I don’t like the coffee you drink” etc.

  21. Leah, I mean when you listen to the recording the music just fades out, it doesn’t actually end on a particular note. The song itself does end on the tonic, but most sheet music versions have it ending in about the spot that it fades out at, which isn’t the last line of the chorus, but does end on the dominant, which I take to be an acceptable ending chord if you are not doing AMEB theory, and are writing pop music.

    And, I absolutely agree that it is time for U2 to retire and not keep churning out music, despite the fact that I do like some of their music. That said, it’s a bit unfair to tell someone that they can’t use their creativity anymore because they are old.

    and, um, I don’t care how much Nathan attempts to stir his readers, I love a good argument that doesn’t relate to putting away toys or wearing matching clothes.

  22. “I don’t care how much Nathan attempts to stir his readers, I love a good argument that doesn’t relate to putting away toys or wearing matching clothes.”

    So long as we’re clear.

    “That said, it’s a bit unfair to tell someone that they can’t use their creativity anymore because they are old.”

    I’m not sure I’m doing that – I bemoan the fact that U2 have made the transition (sell out) from edgy and cool to geriatric sell outs who quaff red wines with dignitaries. That’s not rock’n’roll. It’s not what U2 started out doing – and I can’t see enough social changes to justify claiming it’s because they’ve been successful in changing the culture. I’m not suggesting old people can’t, or shouldn’t “rock” – I’m just suggesting that U2 no longer do, by choice. And now they’re old people trying to be hip and trying to tap into pop culture in a way that makes you cringe.

    Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed have all managed to grow old with dignity and without crossing over into blandness. Why couldn’t U2 manage the same?

    1. Which is odd – because it’s exactly the point the first U2 post I made made – the quote, from the article, said:

      “U2 have long been so ubiquitous that their music has threatened to lose all meaning – for me, it happened around 1988 – but of late, they have truly excelled themselves. Some questions: when Bono is photographed going to church in New York with Blair, what does that do the idea of rock as The Other? Is their slide heartening proof that, after years of handwringing about music becoming so pan-generational and pro-establishment it had lost all meaning, there may actually be a point where the great unwashed realise a group stands for absolutely nothing, and recoil? If so, watch out Coldplay.”

  23. But then you asked if anyone was a U2 fan, which I am, of some of their music. But I still think they are past it. Same as I love Billy Joel, but think he should have stopped somewhere around Uptown Girl, or maybe even before. And I’m glad the Beatles broke up when they did.

  24. Nathan – I was pointing out that most people would say what is “good” or “bad” music is subjective. You seem to be saying it’s not, so I’m taking you up on that – if you’re saying it’s objective, then you should know the technical rules of what makes music “good” or “bad”. Personally I’m quite happy to say that it’s subjective and that both good and bad music can break the technical rules of music.

    And I never said it’s arrogant to say “I don’t like the bands you like”. That’s fine. But it is arrogant to say “the music you like is bad”. There’s a difference.

  25. I think, if you read through all the comments and post carefully, that the whole way along I’ve been agreeing that it’s subjective. And stating that it’s bad “in my opinion”…

    “The music you like is bad” is a perfectly legitimate judgment for anybody to make on any number of grounds. Lyrically, morally, musically, politically, socially – there are standards of “bad” in every case. I don’t think it’s wrong to make those judgments. Some music is good, other music is bad – whether you like it or not.

    You have great freedom to like bad music, just as I have freedom to embrace bad music and judge you for your taste in what may well be “good”… in any of those categories.

    I’m not only addressing you when I respond to all the criticism I’m receiving for daring to express personal taste on my personal blog – and then later insulting the personal taste of others.

    I stand by my original statement – U2 circa the 1980s was a good band. The U2 of today is not. And if you like them, you have, in my opinion, bad taste in music and further you like bad music.

  26. Ah Nathan, perhaps we all just argue with you because we know you like it, and/or we all like arguing as much as you do.

    Maybe we should all go over and vote in Triple J’s best song of all time comp and then come back and argue about our choices.

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