sat 18/05/2024

CD: U2 - Songs of Innocence | reviews, news & interviews

CD: U2 - Songs of Innocence

CD: U2 - Songs of Innocence

How the Dublin quartet went from garage band to Apple's corporate partner

After nearly 40 years in the biz, shouldn't it be 'Songs of Experience'?

Though advertised as a heartfelt and autobiographical work, U2's 13th studio album tells you far more about the state of the music industry than it does about the intimate inner stories of the musicians. Tying the album release to the launch of Apple's iPhone 6 merely reinforced the view that U2 is no longer a band, more an offshore corporation, and was bound to strike many people as a desperate ploy from an outfit struggling to stay meaningful.

Humiliatingly, many iTunes users have been so enraged by finding Songs of Innocence landing uninvited in their libraries that Apple have had to create a special removal tool.

All that aside, Songs of Innocence is a moderately successful rock album which bristles with recognisable U2 trademarks (plenty of skirling guitar from Edge and some still-passionate vocals from Bono) while never threatening to compete with the best of their back catalogue. Despite the supposedly personal nature of the songs, the tracks often fall awkwardly between the stadium-sized grandiosity U2 have become synonymous with and attempts to recapture some of their late-Seventies punkish roots. Opener "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" is a case in point, an intended paean to a revelatory Ramones gig in Dublin which gallumphs along more like a parody of the Glitter Band than the spirit of Punk reborn. "Cedarwood Road", inspired by Bono's childhood home, is melodramatic rather than meaningful (and local residents have confessed themselves puzzled by Bono's description of it as a "war zone", which apparently it never has been). And since "Iris (Hold Me Close)" is a reminiscence of the singer's mother, you'd expect something a bit more intimate than the U2-by-numbers result.

The ones with less baggage attached seem to work best. "Song for Someone" and "Every Breaking Wave" are simple, anthemic and tuneful, while the muscular "Volcano" benefits from shoving Adam Clayton's gritty bassline to the front of the mix and counterpointing it against some jagged riffing from Edge. Possibly best of the lot is "The Troubles", a drifting reverie enhanced by Lykke Li's dreamy vocals and some eerie strings. Happily, it's not about sectarian warfare but about inner turmoil, and benefits hugely from being allusive and evocative rather than prescriptive. The question is, though, who's going to be listening to this stuff?

'The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)' gallumphs along like a parody of the Glitter Band


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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The whole album is exquisite.

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