Set to open the Grammys last night, U2 released the video for their new single "Get On Your Boots" this past Friday. I wrote about the song here, and everything I wrote about it still stands-- in fact, the more I hear the song, the more excited I get for the release of the band's new album on March 3. The video, though, is something else.
I'm not sure what the something else is, but the larger problem is that the band doesn't seem to know, either. There's a haphazard, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink quality to the vid's space, a clusterfuck of jammed objects, neon colors and a striking band performance that tries mightly to cut through the clutter. Good lord, there's even a Vegas-like neon blue roller coaster that cuts around Bono's head like a demented metal firefly. Meanwhile, Easter Island-like statuary and gigantic Halloween skulls disappear and reappear in the background, along with images of city streets, and exploding volcanos, as giant-sized women in military uniforms roam around the space, keeping a stern eye on the band jamming below.
It is, to put it succinctly, a mess. Not an uninteresting mess (its bizarre melding of science fiction, religiosity and kitsch is at times eerily gripping), but one whose end result is less a surreal, Constructivist clash of shape and color and idea than a splatter of spaghetti against a stucco wall-- sure it's striking, maybe even beautiful, but someone still has to clean it up. I'm all for the band returning to its 90s period of visual excess and rock sensuality (I think the minimalist path they've pursued for the last decade has run its course), but videos like "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "Last Night On Earth" and "Lemon" (to name just three) had a real organization to their excess, a pattern to their madness that matched the songs' balance of raw energy and pop smarts.
Alex Courtes' video for "Get On Your Boots" feels like nothing so much as a James Bond credits sequence on both acid and steroids: it's big, muscular, in your face and completely tripped out. Especially with that kick of the drum at the top of the song, I can see the piece acting as the interstice between Daniel Craig smashing a car off the road in a pre-credits sequence, and M giving him his assignment in London following the credits. Bono and the Edge did, in fact, write the theme song for Goldeneye (the credits of which used crumbling Leninist statues and female soldiers in a manner very reminiscent of this video, although Daniel Klienman's work for that film was far more arranged and elegant); a year later, Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton technofied the theme for Tom Cruise's first Mission: Impossible. Maybe then, this is a return to that moment? If so, let's hope their aim is a little better next time-- get on your boots, sure, but don't shoot yourself in the foot.