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Archive for August, 2006

U2: over the years

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It’s so strange, you listen to the latest song of a well-known rock band for the first time, you like the sound of the song so much that you start listening to their music to an extent that you fall in love with songs that the same band made 25 years ago, even before you were even born.

In 2000, when I listened to “Beautiful Day” by U2, I went through this experience of listening to almost all of their music of the last two decades in less than two years. You could say it was a crash course in U2. I have heard U2 so much now, Bono sounds like a friend.

No matter how much the fan following may claim to get, I dare say, ‘inspired’, by the lifestyle, attitude and the shine that a bunch of rockstars carry – it is the music that defines the popularity of a rockband. It is not the clothes, it not the quotes and it is certainly not their style of smoking a cigarette. It is the music.

If I were asked to describe what U2’s music is all about, what it has been all about since they started in the late 70s, I would just say it in one word — Reinvention. It has always been about chucking the music that delivered a top hit, trying something entirely different and coming up with another topper. The transition is so contrasting that it doesn’t seem like a transition at all. (Or maybe it’s just not one.)

When U2 won the Grammy for “Beautiful Day”, a photo of the band was published in The Economic Times. I didn’t have access to television those days and it took a business newspaper to inform me about the existence of one of the best rock bands.

All that you can’t leave behind (ATYCLB) had a sad feel to it. It was like the band didn’t approve of what was going on with the world and it was their way of insisting that what was going on was not right. “Peace on earth” and “When I look at the world” are songs like that. It also conveyed a sense of a strange kind of loneliness, something like laughing at one’s own bareness. Like many U2 songs, some in the album had their own biblical references, hidden meanings.

“And it’s already gone too far

Who said that if you go in hard, you won’t get hurt?

Jesus, can you take the time

To throw a drowning man a line? ”

(from the song “Peace on Earth”)

The Joshua Tree, of course, made U2 what they are. The album marked U2’s move from rock-and-roll to core rock. “Bullet the Blue Sky” slammed America. “With or Without You” was, it could be said, their first love song. “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found” became classics. In 1987, we had a new U2. We had four guys from Ireland who didn’t do drugs and called themselves a rock band.

“In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum

Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome

Plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire

See them burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher”

(from the song “Bullet the Blue sky”)

In 1992, Achtung Baby saw U2 dispose the core-rock music cloak. It was a strange album with a lot of experimentation. U2 behaved like a bunch of rockers with the lavish stages that they set for the Zooropa tour that followed the release of the album. The music sent out ideas in an explicit fashion. With songs like “The Fly”, “Zoo Station”, it was, kind of, experiencing a drugged state of mind. “So Cruel” and the classic “One” had sorrow.

“She wears my love

Like a see-through dress

Her lips say one thing

Her movements something else”

(from the song “So Cruel”)

In my personal opinion, Achtung Baby is U2’s best work. It showed the world how they shunned the idea of contemporary rock and were willing to try something entirely new and different. Bono said that Achtung Baby was the sound of four men chopping the Joshua tree. It carried a different personality, so different that one was not enough and Bono had to arrange for two more personas, ‘The Fly’ and ‘MacPhisto’. With The Fly, Bono could be explicit, rebellious. MacPhisto, on the other hand was more of a devil than anyone else. Achtung Baby was a reinvention of sorts and at a time when it was least required. It gave U2 a success typical of a brand new band with a debut album.

“It’s no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest

It’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success

Every artist is a cannibal every poet is a thief

All kill their inspiration and sing about the grief”

(from the song “The Fly”)

Zooropa was U2 with another new avtaar. I can’t think of any other rock band who experimented with electronica to an extent U2 did with Zooropa. It took U2 to another extreme, with “Numb” voiced by The Edge and heavy guitars. “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car” was heavy on drums with lots of distortion. “Babyface” was Bono’s tribute to, of all things, satellite television and the fantasies of show business it brings along with it.

“Babyface, babyface

Cover girl with natural grace

How could beauty be so kind

To an ordinary guy?

(from the song “Babyface”)

In their last album that was released in 2004, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 seemed to get back to core rock. Something similar to what they did in Joshua Tree. “Vertigo”, time and again reminds me of the song “Elevation” (from ATYCLB). “Original of the Species” and “Crumbs from Your Table” are typical U2 classics. “Love and Peace…” has that “Bullet the Blue Sky” rebel in it.

Take these hands, Teach them what to carry

Take these hands, Don’t make a fist

Take this mouth, So quick to criticise

Take this mouth, Give it a kiss

(from the song “Yahweh”)

U2 are swaggers. They have no style, as Bono mentioned in one of his interviews. You can’t label their music. If you do, it is a mistake.

There has to be something special in the bunch of guys who sustain themselves for three decades while making good music. I don’t think of U2 as a typical rock band. Instead, I like to think of them as four good guys who happen to be making rock music.

Meanwhile, Bono has confirmed that U2 will be releasing a brand new album sometime in 2007.

Article cross-posted at

Written by aditya kumar

August 29th, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Personal,U2

The man who made common man the hero

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The middle-class man movie maker is no more with us. Growing up on his brand of movies, I try to find the everyday middle class man in movies of today but I can’t.

It was the 1970s, the golden age of Indian Cinema that made movies for the society. Amol Palekar, wearing a tailor made full sleeve shirt with similar trousers, taking a walk on marine drive of Bombay and having peanuts was the hero of yesterday. But he looked more like me, for I don’t look like the Khans wearing Tommy Hilfiger shirts and driving imported cars. Thats what the hero of today does.

That is why, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the man who gave us the seedha-saadha Amol Palekar in Golmaal, the funny Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke, the confused, egoist Amitabh in Abhimaan and the funny, yet simply philosophical Rajesh Khanna in Bawarchi, will be missed.

Amol Palekar as Ram Prasad Sharma in Golmaal (image courtesy Wikipedia)


…And who says KANK is a hit? None of the people I know have liked it so far. People are coming out of the cinema hall halfway through the movie. You call that a hit?

Written by aditya kumar

August 27th, 2006 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Cinema

Bad, Bad Cricket

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The last few days have been sad for international cricket. The events that unfolded, Starting with the South African pull out from the tournament in Sri Lanka followed by the uncertainty over the cricket to be played in the island nation ending with the madness that happened in London, at the Oval. It has been a tough week for the Game.

The two hours of madness in The Oval has left the cricketing community and even the media, stunned. What happened there is yet to sink in and for sure there is more to it than what has met the eye so far.

Umpire Hair and The Pakistan team, both, have been involved in a fair amount of controversies in the past. If Darrel Hair has been the most controversial umpire since the 1990s, The Pakistan Cricket team have too had their share of ball tampering stories associated with them. (Remember, Imran Khan and the bottle top?).

As I said, we are yet to know what actually happened in the middle. In the days to come, we shall have experts and their opinions. The players involved will speak up and the media will decipher their quotes. Layer by layer, it will come out.

But there are a few things that are clear and are not jumped upon conclusions.
Umpires like Hair play their own game. We all know, he is not much of a fan of Asian teams (and vice versa). Does it take too much to keep him away from standing in test matches involving the teams he, kind of, loves to hate?

Racist or not, Hair loves controversies. Especially the ones he gets involved in.

Inzamam did what any conscious captain should have. I have often felt, he is just the right man for Pakistan. The PCB has showed tremendous faith in him and one can see why. The captain was well within his rights to protest and what he did was the most obvious thing to do. For a cricketer, that is the only way to protest there and then. But maybe he got a little carried away. Frankly, I don’t blame the Pakistan captain.

There is no denying this fact that things could have been handled better. If not by Inzamam then at least by the ICC. It is surprising, there was no third party involved to settle the dispute that went on for two hours. It was only Hair, Inzamam and the cricket rules book. And who else could this third party be, if not The ICC?

This is bad for cricket. Crowds are booing more often, doesn’t the ICC see that? Twenty20 is coming up and most of the cricket boards have a hard time filling in seats for test match cricket. And then this happens.

It is indeed ironical, that the cricket ground where England played it’s first ever Test more than 120 years ago, had to witness this circus.

Don’t send cricket to Malaysia or exhibit it in the Americas. ICC has work to do in places like England, the home of the game.

For all we know, the ICC could be the weakest sports body on this planet. Only under ICC can the viewers of the game get to wait for a good two hours in a state of bewilderment, confusion and chaos. And when it happens in football crazy England, you know which way the cricket game is heading to.

The Oval, with a urdu sign that says, “Do not enter the field” — Image from

(This article, cross-posted at

Written by aditya kumar

August 22nd, 2006 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Cricket


with one comment

Switched to this new theme, “the journalist”. I love this plain, simple theme.

The previous one (Sajiv, you asked for this) was a two column version of the style, “Dots”. It was customised heavily. Feel free to ask me for it.

But if you ask my opinion, I still think “journalised sand” is one of the best WordPress themes ever, if you like the three column layout that is.

Written by aditya kumar

August 18th, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Blogging,Personal

The value of our Independence

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Happy Independence Day to everyone. To every Indian, and to every non-Indian who is a little bit Indian at heart.

Last week on friendship’s day, I had a terrible time managing the text messages I got on my cellphone. They were so many, I simply could not keep a track of them. What interesting would be, I said to myself, the number of messages I get on Independence day. Be still my wandering mind, now I say, the number of messages throughout the day has not exceeded one. Trust me.

But I insist, Happy Independence day.

Written by aditya kumar

August 15th, 2006 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Personal,Society

Statement of Audience

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This, from here, language cleaned up by Dilip and posted on his blog here. Just like Dilip, I agree with this too. That is why it makes it here.

I realize that nothing I say matters to anyone else on the entire planet. My opinions are useless and unfocused. I am an expert in nothing. I know nothing. I am confused about almost everything. I cannot, as an individual, ever possibly know everything, or even enough to make editorial commentary on the vast vast majority of things that exist in my world. This is a stupid document; it is meaningless drivel that I do not expect any of the several billion people on my planet to actually read. People who do read my rambling, incoherent concertos are probably just as confused as I am, if not more so, as they are looking to me for an opinion when they should be outside playing Frisbee with their dog or serenading their life partner or getting a dog or getting a life partner. Anyone who actually takes the time to read my sonatas probably deserves to ingest my messed up and obviously mistaken opinions on whatever it is that I have written about.

Signed: Aditya Kumar, a.k.a Truman

Written by aditya kumar

August 10th, 2006 at 10:15 am

Posted in Blogging,Personal


with 2 comments

Why did the police arrest my (north-indian) friend living in this city, at mid-night from his house for no proper reason? Why did the house owner tell the police that the people living in the house were not vacating it, when the rent-agreement stated a month long notice before asking to vacate the premises, and when no such notice had been given?

Why did the police officer ask him if in North India he wasn’t able to get a job? Why did he accuse (north indian people like) him of ‘spoiling the culture’ of Bangalore?

Punish him if he has been a nuisance but why be hostile to all north-indians working in the city?

If the Government has not made it illegal to work in another city within India, at will, then what is the problem?

So Bangalore, let me ask you, is your success, yours alone? Am I, a north-indian by birth, not a part of it? To make the case interesting, I must mention, my project team consists of a Punjabi, a Kannadiga, a Telugu, a Bengali, a couple of them from Orissa and one from Tamil Nadu. We are all programmers and we are good at what we do.

Or do you choose to accuse me and my friends (barring the kannadiga of course), of spoiling your culture.

And why does my house owner, though a very nice person, sarcastically puts forward his case of the high costs of day-today commodities in Bangalore and ends it with, ‘all because of you people’ ?

But why does he fail to say ‘all because of you people’ when I pay him a mind-boggling amount of money for a single room?

I have faced these ‘whys’ before, I think. After spending almost a decade in Bombay and Pune, when I once heard that Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians, why did it hurt me?

Written by aditya kumar

August 9th, 2006 at 12:41 am