The rise and fall of U2’s Irishness

Matt Cibula at PopMatters thinks Bono has refound his inner Yeats on All that you can’t leave behind, picking ‘New York’ and ‘Peace of Earth’ as firm proof of Bono ‘sounding Irish again’.

That may be so, but surely ATYCLB opens with U2’s most quintessentially Irish statement ever: ‘It’s a beautiful day’. *) 1

We would also argue that ‘Zooropa’ may not have been ‘Irish’ up front, but Ireland IS part of the European Union. Part of being Irish would be being European, and making the choice to be European when historically the country has been and always will entangled with the English. Also, ‘MacPhisto’ (not ‘Mephisto’, as Matt writes), drew as much from Irish culture – which isn’t all shamrocks and Paddy’s Day all the time – and Irish ‘drama queens’ (Michael MacLiammoir, Oscar Wilde) as he did from Middle European literature, and C.S. Lewis’s ‘Screwtape Letters’.

Similar arguments could be made for the other albums Matt dismisses as ‘non-Irish’. ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ sounds like a classic Irish emigrant’s lament to me, and could well have been penned by Christy Moore. And what of Pop’s ‘Please’? What of the use of language on ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, for example. ‘A sort of homecoming’ seems to discuss the weather in great detail. Can’t get more Irish than that, now, can it?

footnote: 1) In case that makes no sense to you, ‘It’s a beautiful day’ is a standard greeting in both Gaelic and Irish-English.