From Father To Son

Who is the next U2? Well, there ain’t an answer, but it’s a question that prompts lazy but enjoyable (to me) speculation about the modern state of music, so let’s roll.

Coldplay

London, UK
Formed: 1998
Albums to date: 4
Next U2?: No.

Seemingly the obvious choice, Coldplay have the stadium-filling ability and the sales, as well as the vague Christianity and the causes (predominantly the whole Fair Trade movement). If Coldplay have a disqualifier, though, it’s that they’re simply too imitative – U2 were certainly influenced by Joy Division and the Clash, as well as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but in Boy and October they clearly wanted to sound like themselves, even if this occasionally brought more dubious results, whereas the same cannot be said for the shameless U2-aping of X&Y or the hiring of Brian Eno for a fourth album. Viva La Vida was a shift away from this imitative tendency, although I suspect that Coldplay will never utterly commit themselves to a Zooropa/OS1-style risk of commercial suicide.

Keane

Battle, UK
Formed: 1997
Albums to date: 2
Next U2?: Definite No.

Formed before Coldplay but taking seven years to put out an album, Keane are a long shot – whilst their last album, Under The Iron Sea, sounded a fair bit like Achtung Baby (especially lead single “Is It Any Wonder?”), I can’t help but get the impression they’re really the next Coldplay, even if they predate them.

Snow Patrol

Dundee, UK
Formed: 1994
Albums to date: 5
Next U2?: Probably Not.

They worked with Jacknife Lee before U2, and considering U2 hired him before most other big names, it’s fair to say that Snow Patrol are more their own band than the aforementioned. Even so, five albums in their evolution seems much slower than U2, and if the Edge’s signature delay-driven style at worst is sometimes gimmicky, Snow Patrol seem to employ something I can’t help but dub The Eternal Strum, where a chord is seemingly played fairly rapidly over and over until the End of Days, or at least until the chorus, which gives the impression that they’re actually a wimpier version of your standard modern rock band. Have a potential claim, then, but overall “greatness” isn’t something you can easily ascribe to Snow Patrol, and five albums in I can’t see A Hundred Million Suns being seen in the same light as The Joshua Tree.

Bloc Party

London, UK
Formed: 2003
Albums to date: 3
Next U2?: Entirely Possible.

Bloc Party certainly have U2’s sincerity, depth and desire to be a Big And Important Band, hence the personal and political themes that have marked them out from their rivals in the British indie scene over the last few years. Nonetheless, the similarities run further – Bloc Party, for example, are unafraid of experimentation and taking their sound in uncharted territory, as “Flux” and “Mercury” demonstrate, and they’re not afraid to gun for the big theme either – see Intimacy v. War. Probably the best band on this list, but more relevantly, probably the truest heirs to the U2 title, even if, as of yet, they don’t have U2 levels of sales.

Paramore

Franklin, TN, USA
Formed: 2002
Albums to date: 2
Next U2?: Maybe.

U2 started off as a bunch of badly organised, naïve and slightly haphazard teenagers, so when another band arises twenty years later with, well, a bunch of teenagers, some comparisons inevitably occur – indeed the band itself cited U2 as an aspirational model. Considering the band’s youth they’re competent enough, albeit somewhat too informed by the likes of Fall Out Boy. This doesn’t mean that they’re to be written off yet – after all, Blur were originally the teenage girl’s band of choice in the mid-90s UK rock scene before becoming one of the artiest and most interesting bands of the turn of the century with Blur (1997), 13 (1999) and Think Tank (2003). Certainly Hayley Williams’ voice is more powerful than the equivalently-aged Bono’s; right now, then, marginally better than your average whiny emo band, but carrying some promise.


5 Responses to “From Father To Son”

  1. How about Muse?

  2. Well, they don’t entirely spring to mind. To a degree they have the whole stadium-band quality, but they strike me as more theatrical than epic; where Bono’s concerned about a nation oppressed by war, or famine, or dictatorship and so on, Muse seem to be more the sort to write a giant rock opera about some intergalactic conspiracy. I suppose what I’m saying is, see “Bullet The Blue Sky” versus “Knights of Cydonia”. But that’s me.

  3. I vote for Radiohead. Their pop-as-art aesthetic reached a zenith (and commercial suicide) with 2000’s “Kid A,” which may have been even farther-out than “Zooropa.” And they were the biggest rock band around at that time.

  4. True. I can’t believe I didn’t spot that; that said, whilst Johnny Greenwood compares well with The Edge, and Phil Selway compares well with Larry Mullen, it could be questioned as to whether Thom Yorke is a very good Bono.

  5. Well, it could be argued that Yorke was the voice of the second half of the ’90s. In the English-speaking world of music, almost certainly. Who else? Marilyn Manson? Jack White? Jay-Z? In many ways, “OK Computer” was its generation’s “Sgt. Pepper” or “Dark Side of the Moon.” Which would make “Kid A”/”Amnesiac” more of a “White Album”… tonally more minimalist, with the same mind-bending inspiration as that of “OK Computer,” just minus many of the more obvious parts of pop songcraft. I’m not all that certain that U2 ever HAD a “Sgt. Pepper.” Something so pervasively huge and influential that also broke decisively from the formula. I still like “Achtung” and “Zooropa” more than “OK” and “Kid A,” but I’m just sayin’.

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