First off, I’ll say this - for a band to release their album for free to iTunes subscribers is just short of awesome. Either by the band or by Apple, pushing it on ALL customers is arrogant. Personally I’m thankful! But there are A LOT of U2 haters out there, and I can only imagine how pissed they were when a “U2 album” magically showed up on their iDevice/PC/Mac. Absolutely arrogantly awesome (AAA) I call it. I mean, lets not hope this doesn’t catch on. If an “Akon” or “Beyonce” album magically shows up, I’m going to be pissed. Final thought on that, I smell a stupid lawsuit coming. I can easily see a civil law suit on Apple for ‘pushing unwanted material to your device’. And technically they didn’t do that, you still have to download it, but you can stream it and it shows up in your library automagically.
Arrogantly I claim that title: “Best U2 fan you know personally”. I jest - kinda. These guys are as much of a mainstay in my life as the Beatles are. Maybe more, but only by a little. Little unknown factoid about my life: ALL, every, single, car accident I’ve ever had, I was listening to U2. Curiously enough “Mysterious Ways” (in some incarnation) was playing. Off topic a bit, but my history with U2 trumps a lot of people’s, still, 22 years later. Though my U2 music collection has slowed over the years it is still one of the best out there. I can say that with some sort of authority because I’ve researched such things. <— <shocker> Though my U2 music collection isn’t unheard of, what I have are some (apparently) real rarities all together.
That all said, their latest album almost 30 years of making music together, is… fantastic. Here’s my opinion why…
U2 is a band that does not repeat themselves, despite having their sound regress with “All You Can’t Leave Behind”, we were all relieved to hear a [now] classic U2 sound again. Instant classics aside (i.e. Beautiful Day, Walk On, Elevation, etc.), the album as a whole was ‘good’. I can explain - but I won’t here. Here they didn’t repeat themselves despite the fact that I really wanted to hear another “No Line on the Horizon” (their previous album).
What they did was keep to an unwritten tradition only a handful of us fans have noticed. Their albums go in “3’s”. After the 3rd album they tend to shift tone/style. Whether it’s on purpose or progression, it’s true.
1. Unforgettable Fire
2. Joshua Tree
3. Rattle & Hum
1. Achtung Baby
1. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (ATYCLB)
2. How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb (HTDAAB)
3. No Line on the Horizon (NLOTH)
It makes sense they switch gears up, and that’s ok. In fact “Songs…” is more or less something I wanted U2 to do for a while now, do an album without a real theme, do an album of singles. Something the Beatles did brilliantly. Stop with the marathon of massive emotions and political agendas and just do an album of singles. I really wanted this ever since I heard their song “Window In the Sky”, which is still one of the best written U2 songs EVER. Great song too. If you need audio proof Bono and company believe in Christ/God, there it is.
Here I think they finally did just that, a simple album of great music, if not “U2” music. Rather it’s U2 just playing music. And with only the experience a great band like U2 can do, they do it extremely well. I liken this album to the Beatles attempt to do this, which became eventually, “The White Album” (i.e. their only self titled album: “The Beatles”, we call it the White Album). The album is discombobulated, this creates IMO, an abrasive listening experience unheard of for a “U2 album”. I think that was my first gut reaction, and I was taken back. If you skip through the album without listening to it, it doesn’t flow like a U2 album generally does. BUT you can pick any track and listen to it on its own and enjoy it. One other thing that is missing is that “classic U2 sound”. THIS is probably the biggest gap you hear, no U2 sound, but no annoying techno beats to fill the gap. Still you listen to it and enjoy the music. Think about that? That’s the hallmark of a good album! I think the *only* U2 sounding song is the song “Iris”, of course I like this song. I also think Joseph Arthur is singing backup, which is freaking awesome, (I love Joseph Arthur). I really like the song “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now” for really stupid “U2” reasons. I won’t go into it. But it is a new, raw yet polished, sound for them, personally I welcome that. While I’m being honest, I do think their last album NLOTH was just short of brilliant, and they should have retired on that album, it was fitting for them. I don’t see them putting out another album, maybe I’m wrong. I kinda view this album as them screwing around, and I like it.
So yeah, it’s a great album. U2 has done it again. It’s a deep U2 album, with deep cuts, deep lyrics, and just so much polish it deliberately sounds raw. But if you really listen to it, you can literally SEE how logical, calculating, and amazing the album is. It’s raw, but it’s not, every note was done on purpose, with control, something U2 never had previously. It’s a 50 year old trying to sing “Boy” again. But a 50 year old can’t sing like a teenager, it always comes out with experience. I respect that.
“Songs of Innocence” is like viewing an abstract painting that you really don’t like, maybe, but you can’t take your eyes off of it. You end up buying a print of it on the way out of the museum. In the art world we’d say that’s because the artist though showing abstract, he/she has actually calculated every move.
This album will grow on you, and I think become one of the best U2 albums out there. It’s fresh, and it’s just a band 30+ years in the making, and still putting out great music. I can’t think of a single band that has done that. Musicians yeah, only a few, band, no.
“Volcano”, great song, it’s a rip off (or a tribute?) to “The Black Keys” sound made popular in two of their songs “Lonely Boy” and or “Gold on the Ceiling”, great songs BTW (check em out). I’m sorry but U2 completely ripped off the concept of those songs. It’s not a direct ‘rip off’ but it’s borrowing that sound. This reminds me of a little dirty secret of U2 I’ve not seen, heard, read, anywhere - which I will not expose here. Yeah, I’m not wrong with this. If I’d show you, you’d agree. If I did a video explaining and showing this, with the proper promotion it could go viral.
Thanks for reading the musings of this lifelong U2 fan.