By Kevin Farrell
This study explores the themes of Irish nationalism and postnationlist rock and roll in Rattle and Hum, Phil Joanou’s documentary of U2’s 1987 American tour. While the film presents itself as a “musical journey” across America and into American musical traditions, Joanou and the band vacillate between three distinct rhetorical stances regarding the nature of nationalism and national identity in popular music: a self-conscious equation of the band and its tour with the British Invasion of the 1960s, a fantasy of postnationalist and postracial utopianism, and a claim to authentic Irish identity in light of IRA violence. Taken together, these stances suggest a nuanced, often contradictory, vision of an Irish band’s efforts to conquer America, master American music, and achieve global superstardom. By exploring these themes, I hope to reveal the musical and rhetorical characteristics that defined U2 at this stage of the band’s career.