Sunday, 23 September 2018
U2 - Songs Of Innocence (2014)
Released September 2014
Coming five years after their previous album , "No Line On The Horizon", this album seriously ran the risk of being just "another U2 album". You almost got the impression that they felt they had to put something out to keep up their "best band in the world" reputation, but had sort of lost their mojo in creating it.
This album had a slight sense of trying too hard to come up something about it, but its is not without its good points, however. "The Miracle" (Of Joey Ramone)" is a big, muscular industrial chugger and nothing like The Ramones, of whom it is supposed to be a tribute to. It is quite dense with a few crashing guitar parts, but it is certainly no breakneck punker. "Every Breaking Wave" is an insistent, bassily beautiful slow burner, with a fine, tender, clear vocal from Bono. They are a strange beast in 2014, U2. Their love of rock nostalgia and tradition is tempered by an almost obsessive urge to be modern, credible and relevant. The homo-erotic album cover would seem to be another example of that desire too. They want to play tender, intimate love songs, but nearly every song is created to be performed at a huge stadium gig.
"California (There Is No End To Love)" is probably a classic example. It is a catchy, melodic mid-tempo rocker but the vocals and chorus see to be designed for "wo-oh-oh" arm waving at a football stadium somewhere in Europe or the USA one hot night in summer. When it kicks in with Larry Mullen's thumping drums and Adam Clayton's rumbling bass, though, it still sounds great. "Song For Someone" is pretty typical later-phase (post-"Pop") U2 fare - slow, atmospheric verses and huge wave that mobile phone in the air chorus. "Iris (Hold Me Close)", about Bono's late mother, has an archetypal Edge guitar riff underpinning it and a truly sumptuous bass line. It is nothing new, but I really like it. The "ooh-ooh" backing vocals are very much from Deacon Blue's "Real Gone Kid".
"Volcano" has a deep, post-punk bass intro and an eighties-style feel about it. It is another I am partial too. "Raised By Wolves" is a hard-hitting, no punches pulled protest song about atrocities committed in Northern Ireland. Nobody can have many criticisms for this. "Cedarwood Road" sees Bono looking back to his youth in Dublin and musing once again, ruefully, on sectarianism. "Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" is a plaintive strings and keyboard ballad that powerfully bursts out of its plaintiveness into a huge clunking stadium-friendly chorus once again. Bono's vocal on this is excellent. Many lambast him, probably because of his persona, but it mustn't be forgotten that the guy has a great voice. There is a seriously good piece of guitar at the end of this too.
"This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now" was apparently inspired by The Clash. Not sure where. It just sounds like upbeat, singalong U2, with Bono singing a view high notes that sound vaguely like Elton John at times, and a funky break in the last third. "The Troubles" is a haunting song, not actually about Northern Ireland, but an emotional love song. It would be an easy thing to dismiss this album, but if you imagine it is not U2, is seems a pretty good album. As it is U2, there will still be something worthwhile on it, and there is.
- September 23, 2018