Unauthorized biography of U2, one of the most respected and admired yet divisive acts in the history of rock.
Sometimes, the divisiveness stems from the same roots as the respect; some people find the band’s frank embrace of politics empowering and noble while others find it preachy and sanctimonious. Where some see spectacle, others see bombast. British journalist Jobling explores the lives and careers of the band members: lead singer and most visible member Bono, lead guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. The four met as schoolboys and made a slow, steady climb through Dublin’s music scene, eventually rising first to regional prominence and eventually to global dominance. Along the way, three of the members, all except Clayton, took part in a Charismatic Christian church that engaged in the speaking of tongues. At times, each of them partook in the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and, to varying degrees, embraced a political mission that would come to define them, especially frontman Bono, nearly as much as their music. The band has a reputation for keeping tight control of their image, which might explain the unauthorized nature of the book. While this frees Jobling to be critical of a variety of subjects concerning the band—e.g., its absurdly high ticket prices and corporate ties—it also proves restrictive since the band doesn’t get the opportunity to respond to some of the more prurient charges that the author, via his interview subjects, levels against them. Indeed, at times, those subjects seem to relish the chance to grind axes, especially in the second half of the book.
Not likely to be the “definitive biography” of U2, but Jobling provides a passable comprehensive history of the members’ music, politics, faith and group dynamics.