Jim DeRogatis: U2 are a-holes

As if there was any doubt remaining at this point, Jim DeRogatis makes it plainly obviously how much he hates U2 in this interview about the worst rock movies ever. Discussing Rattle and Hum, the Chicago Sun-Times music critic says:

I’m not saying it’s dishonest. It absolutely shows what they are. They are big, superstar rock stars full of pretension. But for the same reason I have no desire to sit through Saw VII—because torture porn makes my stomach hurt—so does Rattle & Hum. [Laughs.] U2 are assholes, the movie shows them as assholes, but that doesn’t make it any fun to watch.

I’m blogging about this mainly because DeRogatis (and his Chicago Tribune-based friend, Greg Kot) is a powerful voice in music journalism, and he has a history of trashing U2 (Kot does, too) over the years. Though I should mention that DeRogatis gave No Line On The Horizon a generally positive review.

At some point, probably next time U2 plays Chicago or when they release another album, there’ll be more trashing going on and fans will wonder why. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion — indeed, DeRogatis gets paid for his — but it’s important also to know the inherent biases people have.

18 Responses to Jim DeRogatis: U2 are a-holes

  1. Silvrlvr February 15, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Their NPR show, Sound Opinions, did an episode on the opening night of the NLOTH tour, and they were pretty favorable toward the band. The MP3 is inside this link:

  2. Steve February 15, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    If I wasn’t partial to those songs and the band, I would probably have the same opinion. They DO come off as pretentious throughout most of the film, the only reason we don’t mind is because we’re enamored of them and those songs. Even the band has basically admitted as such…I’m a fan and even I occasionally cringe during the film, but the live sequences are so good that it makes up for it.

  3. m2 February 15, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Oh, there are plenty of moments that are over-the-top in the movie – no doubt about that. But that’s a lot different from saying “U2 are a-holes,” isn’t it? Critiquing the movie is one thing, having personal hatred toward a band is something else.

  4. codeguy February 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    If they could take back R&H they would. I’m sure if they had it all to do over, they would have released a studio album with the new songs, a seperate live album, and a movie that focused on the live concert footage and band interviews and forgot all the pretentious stuff like “stealing Back” helter skelter, Graceland, BB King, New Voices of Freedom, Star Spangled Banner, etc.

  5. codeguy February 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Pretentious also only applies to people who can’t back up their…pretentions. Bono negotiated $45 Bln of debt relief and $15 Bln in new aid for Africa. You can argue whether it’s been effective, but you can’t argue that it’s not significant.
    In addition, U2’s efforts in the Sarajevo conflict, the Food Friday referendum in Ireland and the Sellafield Nuclear Power plant closure in England demonstrate that they put their money where their mouth is.

    “Cocky” yes, “Pretentious”, no.

  6. Chris February 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    So the guy is a pretentious entertainer, not a critic – he’s off by a mile and simply sounds desperate to sound “critical” of a big band. That said, R&H 20+ years later could be easily recut to highlight some great stuff we know was caught on film and lose some of Joanu’s non-moments. Pay him as an adviser and put someone new at the helm for the edit.

  7. TedinSouthStPaul February 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    The only reason DeRogatis has any music journalism credibility is because back in the 90s he was let go by Rolling Stone for giving Hootie & The Blowfish a bad review. U2 were in their mid to late 20s when they made Rattle & Hum. Can you imagine what a pretentious ass-hole DeRogatis was at that age?! I can!!!

  8. Keir February 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Well, then I choose to make my own superficial judgments based on one book by each critic. Kot’s, for Wilco, was pretty decent—if a little apologetic—and I’ve re-read it several times. DeRo’s about Lester Bangs (also a major a-hole in his own way) was a mildly amusing bit of idol-worship. I read it once.

    Sooner or later all white rock critics have to grow up and stop acting like binary-brained geeks. DeRo is still clearly as arrested as many of his targets.

    And yes, so am I. It takes one to know one, after all—but that doesn’t make me any happier to have not yet completely shaken off the stupid High Fidelity mind-set.

  9. nava1987 February 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    I’m glad some one pointed out how unbelievably biased DeRogatis is. I read the Sun-Times on a daily basis, and I do not look forward to his column at all. If you don’t like U2’s music, fine. But he personally attacks them every chance he gets. He has some sort of problem with any band that’s had global success. And R&H is painful? That just shows he wouldn’t even give great live performances like Bad and WOWY a chance

  10. dazz February 16, 2010 at 4:33 am #

    Anyone who has seen the outtakes to this movie will know that a lot of good stuff was left out.
    I don’t think the movie makes them looks like a-holes, just a bit boring.

  11. syronix February 16, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    Yes, I must confess that R&H is one of my favourite albums (by U2 and in general)… and also that I like very much the film. :-/
    I’ve never thought that they were pretentious… rather that they were Irish people discovering America, young successful musicians who paid visit and tribute to their idols. When I see Larry sitting on Elvis’ motorcycle, I see a moved young man near a relic.
    Morover, if THEY don’t act as stars, who could do? JLo??? Britney??? Green Day??? Oh no, these people would never let us see them entering a cowboy boots shop and being quite ridiculous…
    So now I confess DeRo: I understand nothing about music and I’m an a-hole 😉

  12. ZooTV8 February 16, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    I’ve known Jim for a few years, and he’s a nice, knowledgable guy in person; generous even. I used to call in to his show before it went national whenever he and Greg would trash U2 –sometimes to defend the band, other times to agree with their assessments. On the whole, it’s my assessment that Jim does not care much for U2 or many other “stadium rock” bands. I ran into him just before the “secret” radio show in Chicago last year, and he was dreading going; because he “had to.”

    DeRo does, however, like many of us, grow to appreciate SOME of U2’s cannon of songs.

    He’s a critic; he’s entitled to his opinion. In reality, you’re a critic too; you’re entitled to your opinion, too.

    Nobody says you’re right all the time, too… just maybe occasionally more often than my friend Jim!

    Lance A. Schart
    Chicago, IL USA

  13. caravox February 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    FWIW, DeRogatis had the a-holes’ latest album No Line On The Horizon on his top 10 best albums of 2009 list:


    10. U2, “No Line on the Horizon” (Universal)
    After a disappointing run in the new millennium regurgitating much of what they’ve done before, the long-running Irish heroes were in danger of becoming bloated dinosaur rockers sinking in the tar pit of nostalgia. The 360 Tour did nothing to rescue the group from that fate, but its 12th studio album ranks beside “Achtung Baby” as its bravest and most experimental–a welcome exercise in how far the boundaries of the U2 sound can be stretched while maintaining the majestic grandeur and stadium-rousing qualities that have become its trademarks.”

  14. Runtmg February 19, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    Twenty years on the debate is, was U2 the aholes who made rattle and hum or was rattle and hum the movie that made U2 aholes.

    I think the latter. Rattle and Hum was U2 getting carried away with themselves. It was serious music by a serious band making a serious movie. All in all, the music was great – the movie was not.

    This review misses the evolutionary step that this band took with movie. Namely, it was the end of the pilgrims and miners for humanity phase of their career. The movie perfectly captures a band struggling to be authentic. Edge explaining the draw of gospel. Larry’s love of Elvis. Adam’s defense of politics and music. All throughout, that egomaniac Bonois actually not front and center during the movie.

    This was a period where Bono was considered a sex symbol, to be U2 and he speaks only in songs other than cautioning the viewer about the movies version of Sumday Bloody Sunday.

    This wasn’t Hannah Montana or a Hard Days night. This was U2 insecure, unsure and relevant.

    Contrast this with the Blackberry sponsored, Bono giving shoutouts to the millionaires of any given city 360 tour and I yearn for the day in which a 28 year old poet with an Irish voice just wanted three chords and the truth

    With that said, how come rock critics in this day and age still exist? Seriously, the label is dead , rock n roll hasn’t had anyone really culturaly significant since Cobain. Every artist is forced to “team up” with the major store of your choosing. “Bad” is now the soundtrack for Nascar.

    Twenty two years on U2 – having made Achtung Baby, Zooropa, atyclb, htdaa and underrated albums like Pop and NLOtH aren’t the aholes who made Rattle and hum. Rattle and hum potrayed U2 as aholes. Ask the beatles about Magical Mystery Tour sometime.

  15. sheamart February 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Fire Jim DeRogatis facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108617875615

  16. m_dow February 21, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Well, the album “Rattle and Hum” was the first U2 album I ever owned. My friends were all listening to them right after Atomic Bomb came out, so I went to the music store and asked which album I should buy first. Smart kid told me to choose between Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum.

    I only saw the movie for the first time last summer, and enjoyed it as background to the album I loved. I can’t really see it with any other perspective.

  17. rook34 February 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    I actually think some of Rattle and Hum, particularly Larry’s Elvis interview, is some of the best, most real perspective we’ve ever seen on the band.

    Some of it’s pretty awful, too. But when that comes on cable I usually watch. The fact that an Irish rock and roll band, who at that time, had one big US album to its credit decided to make a movie about themselves is probably what buried the project.

  18. ChattyPatty328 February 27, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    Actually DeRogatis is anything but pretentious and he never was. That’s not a defense of him. I don’t agree with a LOT of his views and reviews. But I knew him as a colleague back in the early to mid 90s and he was not pretentious AT ALL — in fact he was actually a big fat slob whose clothes wouldn’t button all the way and he looked like he never saw a mirror that reflected from the neck up either. Messy hair, stubble and a gut hanging over your pants and popping the bottom button on your shirt usually don’t signal pretention, just slovenliness.