|Old man grampa aint what she used to be?|
Many U2 fans had heard the whispers tracking across the internet that U2 was to feature as part of the new Apple iphone 6 announcement but not one person (who wasn't in the know) knew that Apple had purchased U2's new album Songs of Innocence and was was going to release it for free to all their itunes clients. A ballsy move indeed, but exactly the kind of thing U2 haters would love to hate...
Everyone knew U2 had recorded a couple of albums since No Line on the Horizon but had been fretting about their release. Bono and the boys had talked about it often enough, going as far as to say one album was called Songs of Ascent - but now it's Songs of Innocence and it is apparently going to have a sister album, Songs of Experience - thus making a couplet that echoes William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience (I wonder how many times that has been googled this week!)
So what of the album? Well let's head back to the last two U2 releases. Ordinary Love was a complete throwaway track which was almost an insult to the U2 brand but Interference suggested there was something there - Edge was sliding away on his guitar like nobody (but let's agree he's no Ben Harper) and so that element slipped through into Innocence. So that gave some hope but Ordinary Love was at the back of my mind. Maybe U2 knew it was rubbish so chucked it on the Mandela film as a kind of here you go, we care about your cause bro but we're keeping the good stuff for ourselves...
The hope has been rewarded in triplicate.
The album plays out as a 'rocker' album - it's what No Line on the Horizon was trying to be. Maybe the fact Brian Eno wasn't around helped things and it gave producer Danger Mouse a chance to give the b(r)and a breath of fresh air. All you need is love.
How fucking good is the heavy riffing on Cedarwood Road? In a word, VERY.
While I first listened to Iris, I wondered if U2 was actually channeling Coldplay in some kind of Viva La Vida way but then I figured Coldplay is just trying to be the new U2 so it all seemed very natural.
Song for Someone is destined to be a U2 classic. Sappy but lovely. The Miracle (for Joey Ramone) is the first track that could be considered a single, if that's really still a word in the music industry lexicon these days. It's throwaway but GOOD throwaway in the same manner that Get On Your Boots was - fun for a time but you're gonna remember better tracks from this album. Did I mention how good Cedarwood Road is?
I'm pretty pleased Every Breaking Wave made an appearance. It was a left over of sorts from the No Line recording sessions and was played live a few times. It has changed immensely since it first aired and has had about half the lyrics changed - but that's for the better. Aye Aye captain!
It's nice just to hear the bass turned up.
While the haters are naturally gonna hate and there's gonna be some backlash from the way this album has been dumped on itunes users (well not really dumped, despite what the witty folk think, one actually has to download the album to get it on to your iphone or device) this is a really strong U2 album and no one should lose sight of that in the wake of the promotional cadence.
The album has some cracker tunes, and this U2 fan appreciates the definite rock vibe the album gives - it's a modern U2, it's as I said, the mood that No Line was desperately trying to evoke. If we could consider that album as a slight misstep for a band like U2 (I still really like it but it's no Achtung), this is a return to form much in the way All That You Can't Leave Behind was - form which How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb carried on (Original of the Species has become one of my favourite U2 songs).
So, a gushing review based on a handful of listens. Time will tell if this album stands up as a good U2 album, but I'm pretty confident it will be. What ever happens, it's a better album than most other releases this year will be which really is just this fan's way of saying, I'm never checking out of the Million Dollar Hotel.
Also, the deluxe version of the album features to additional songs, Lucifer's Hands and The Crystal Ballroom.