Saturday, January 7, 2012

Negativland - "U2" (LP Review)

Where would Negativland's career be without "U2", the 1991 two song EP that took aim at Casey Kasem and the band U2? On one hand, the resulting legal firestorm from Island Records (U2's label) and SST (Negativland's label) nearly ruined the band financially. On the other hand, the accompanying attention greatly increased the profile of the band, as well as giving them a nearly limitless source of future material. Perhaps the wreckage was the inevitable conclusion for the band that invented the term "culture jamming".

Island Records claimed that the cover art was intended to confuse buyers, who would think it is a release from U2 entitled "Negativland". Negativland countered that the band U2 doesn't have exclusive rights to the letter U and the numeral 2. Island was also unhappy with the extensive sampling of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". Negativland countered that this was covered under fair use. The fight is documented in an LP and magazine from Negativland, but here's the short version: Island has a lot of $, and Negativland and SST don't. Island wins.

The EP was withdrawn from SST's catalog (surviving copies can bring big $) and hastily replaced with the EP "Guns", whose cover art continues the commentary on the situation. The two songs themselves are freely available on the band's web site, and in 2001 the band re-released the songs (along with live versions and other situational commentary) on the LP "These Guys Are From England and Who Gives a Shit" (the quote is from Casey Kasem's abusive and profane rant about the "death dedications", the band U2, and Kasem's confusion about Ireland vs. England; the shock value is much higher for those familiar with Kasem, American Top 40, and their squeaky clean image). As far as I know this LP (released on Seeland Records, Negativland's own label) generated no controversy; I guess Island and SST no longer thought it worth their while. You owe it to yourself to get TGAFEAWGAS, but in the mean time you can find the two original mp3s directly from the band. Lost in the story about these songs is the fact that the songs themselves are quite entertaining.

Standout songs: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (1991 A Capella Mix)" (, YouTube); "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Special Edit Radio Mix)" (, YouTube).

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 9/10. Snuggles.

Bonus Link: A YouTube playlist of Mark Hosler at the 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival, talking about Negativland. I'm going to eventually review some of their full-length LPs...


  1. ... just got mine!

    1. Very cool! I'm glad you were able to scare up a *vinyl* version at that...