The first thing to understand about any new U2 song is these guys are still apologizing for Pop, i.e. that album from 1997 dismissed by everyone as “electronica” and marred by terrible singles (“Discothèque,” oy) and an accompanying tour wherein the boys performed whilst perched on a giant mirrorball-lookin’ lemon. Disastrous. And thus, just as they’re still calling it Coca-Cola Classic nearly 25 years after the New Coke fiasco, every new offering from Bono and the boys is at great pains to prove that They Still Got It, that their allegiance to The Rock remains, that they will no longer countenance any disco bullshit, and you won’t have to either. This strategy initially gave us “Beautiful Day,” a top-5-all-time-U2-song contender, but subsequent efforts have been spottier, catchy and enthusiastic but extraordinarily forced, the strain of looking hip and casual and “classic” starting to show. “Uno! Dos! Tres! Catorce!” shouted Bono at the onset of 2004’s “Vertigo,” trying to sound spontaneous and failing miserably.
“Get on Your Boots” is like “Vertigo” with less Spanish and more computers. The surly, rumbling riff is the Coca-Cola Classic part, designed very specifically to make my dear mother reach to turn down the volume, consider for a minute, and then crank it up; but the goofy drum loops, limp-wristed anti-solos, and general air of ProTool’d randomness are as brazen and un-Rock-God-like as they’ve gotten in years, which is still not very, but, still. Aside from the fact that the pre-chorus is “Sexy boots/Get on your boots,” it’s not terribly embarrassing lyrically, Bono’s delivery stolen wholesale from “Pump It Up” for some reason. It will be tolerable when this summer’s lemon-less world-conquering tour starts and you’ll be forced to hear it before “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Bad” or whatever you actually came to hear, but that’s about all you can say for it. Other than the fact that its general air of surly discord — and particularly the eerie moaning Army of Bonos that joins him on the actual chorus — recalls no one so much as Muse, faux-Radiohead Brit pop-metalers a bit freer in flaunting their goofy/spontaneous sides. If you can’t top the song, Bono, then at least try to top the video.