U2 Revolution (book)

This is a review of the book U2 Revolution by Mat Snow.

I received this book for Christmas, and skimmed through it after I opened it. It describes itself as a photographic history of the band and it is, but there is also a lot of text, which is not a bad thing. The problem is that, for the dedicated U2 fan, there are few pictures that you won’t have seen. Most of them are repeats of the common U2 pics that we’ve all seen over and over again, or they’re official pics from the band for certain albums, or worse, pictures of the covers of albums or singles. Yep, seen them all. There weren’t many that I hadn’t seen, or hadn’t seen a very similar picture (e.g. from the same photo-shoot). Ironically, it was the later pictures that I had seen fewer of, probably because there weren’t so many pics of the band in the early days so they’ve all been seen, whereas now there’s a hundred photographers everywhere they go.

As for the text, it is a fairly standard regurgitation of the U2 story. I don’t think there was much I hadn’t already read somewhere else. Now, I don’t want people to take this as a criticism. Far from it. This book does what it sets out to do, which is provide a standard history of U2 for the casual fan. Released just after the new album came out, so hoping to catch on to the people who might have heard some U2 for the first time this year, got interested and want to know more about them. Did you notice there were three or four new U2 books on the shelves this past Christmas? That’s why. Try and grab onto the publicity train as it races by. Each of them - including this one - is largely interchangeable.

The problem I do have with this kind of book is that they’re quickly out of date. To be fair, that’s true of any book that is written about anything contemporary that is happening. If you’re publishing a book about topic X, by the time the book has gotten through the publishing process, X may have gone in ten different directions. This wasn’t necessarily a problem, say, 30 years ago, but now we have the internet and anything that has happened since the book was written has been publicized and agonized over a thousand times before the book even comes out. So you do have to be careful with this type of book (an up-to-date history of X), that whichever version of the book you’re buying, you get the latest one with the latest info. Otherwise you’re just buying history.

To emphasize that point, the text of this book ends at the end of the 360 tour, but the publishers include a timeline of the band, which jumps from 2010 to 2013 so it can mention the release of Ordinary Love, and has one last entry for the release of Invisible, “a song believed to be included on the band’s thirteenth studio album.” Nope. But it does show that the book was finished a while back (somewhere around the end of 360, I’d guess), and just got to publication in 2014 (the release date for the book being in October, a month after the band released the new album). So yeah, already out of date.

A final note: there was one book about U2 released last year that I won’t be reading. It was an attack book, and I don’t see the point of those, digging up any kind of dirt from anyone who’s been near the band (a taxi driver is not necessarily a good source of information). If you’re a fan of a band, you don’t want to read trash about them, and if you’re not a fan, you’re not going to read anything. So why do those kinds of books exist?

My rating for this book: 3 / 10