Album Review: U2 ‘Songs of Innocence’

u2Have you ever wondered what one of the worlds best bands look like when they lose their creativity?
Or not even lose their creativity, but see a light fade?
When they find it hard to keep up with the new innovators?
It happens to them all right?
When you go to a Rolling Stones concert you want the old tracks don’t you?
You want to hear ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, ‘Satisfaction’ and the list goes on.
Are we seeing this with U2?
I mean, ‘Joshua Tree’ was one of the biggest albums in the 80’s and between ‘Achtung Baby’ and the whole ‘Zoo TV’ experience we were always in touch with what U2 were doing.
Joshua Tree came out of the fabric of life we were all living in… great songs and perfect timing, it almost took us by surprise…’ Achtung Baby’ was confronting and challenging and we couldn’t look away.
So where does this leave ‘Songs of Innocence’?

Lets be honest, shall we?
Now I love U2 and they have formed a large part of my musical library and music based memories, however I’m not going to give a band a great review just because that band just happens to be U2.
That’s fair right???
Credit where credit is due!
In saying this I think U2 still have some amazing things to offer…

We don’t REALLY care about an artists past and, although there are a few songs that mean something to us, it’s the whole dynamic of the song that draws us in.
When I hear that this is the most ‘honest’ album that U2 has put forward I think, “Well, that’s great… but Taylor Swift does the same!!!”
We live in a society that wants us to cry and to go deeper. It wants us to think, to activate, to rally, to shout, to sing like we mean it, to breathe, to smile and to let it get under our skin.
The reality is that all this has done to us is made us shut it all off!
We’re cautious. We’ve been burnt before by people who have promised it was real, and we now feel duped.

We want more than just a nice story. We want blood, and the soul that was poured out for it!

‘Songs of Innocence’ takes us back. It relives the awe that Adam, Larry, Edge and Bono felt at a Ramones concert – the crunch of the guitar, the rock and roll.
And at times you can almost hear the young soul of U2… the same young soul that gave us albums like Boy and War and October. The soul that dreamed of changing the world…  you can hear it still in there.
The first single ‘Miracle’ brings us in with the fuzzed out crunch guitar of The Edge, and the guitar sounds great in it’s natural habitat… crunching… roaring…
The album continues in this rock vein until it’s broken up by the ‘Song for Someone‘ where Bono reflects:

And I’m a long way from your hill on Calvary
And I’m a long way from where I was, where I need to be

It’s great to hear Bono being honest without all the bravado and mystery.
Sometimes the best way to sound sincere is just to be sincere. Sometimes you just want people to say what they REALLY mean!
A perfect example of this was ‘Sometimes you can’t make it on your own’ from the 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’. Bono just tells it like it is. So Bono, why now all the mystery and rhyme?

It feels like half of this album is U2 struggling to be young and full of energy while somehow dealing with the fact that their bones are creaking and they have to pee more often during the night.
They’re almost there… but not quite!

Raised by Wolves’ is the turning point on this album – everything seems to sit down and U2 find their stride.

‘Songs of Innocence as an album fits somewhere between How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon ,but with sounds that hark back to when ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ was crossing the radiowaves. In fact songs like ‘Raised by Wolves’ sound like more polished versions of some of the all guns blazing songs that came from albums like ‘War’ and ‘Joshua Tree’… almost 80’s in their feel.
And it made me wonder.

Is U2 now confined to the freedom it has made it’s name for?
Sunday Bloody Sunday‘… “This is a revolutionary song…” Bono screams on the live Under a Blood Red Sky album, and at the time, it was ACTUALLY a revolutionary song.
Zoo TV tour took the whole live gig thing and tipped it on it’s head. It was ironic. It was like holding a mirror up to society. It touched a nerve. ‘POP  laughed at our consumerism. U2 laughed with us as we continued to make them famous. Ironic.

However, now they’re known as a political band. They’re a yearly Band-aid concert with just one band.

I like that U2 with this album is choosing to be less.

There are songs on this album that are well crafted. In fact the whole second half of the album could stand alone as an EP.
Is this a good album?
Yes, I think so.
Is it a great album? I think only time will tell, although it’s certainly not U2’s best.
I really hope the band takes time to  “go away and… just dream it all up again”

U2 are best when they are taking on the world, and not a band that is reacting to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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