Songs Of Innocence
(Island Records/Universal physical release on Monday, October 13)
In context, the release of U2’s new album, Songs Of Innocence, only drew slightly less hatred on the internet/social media than it would have in normal circumstances. That said, yes I have an iPhone and thank God it wasn’t Coldplay.
When U2 released 2009’s No Line On The Horizon they touted releasing a follow-up LP, Songs Of Ascent, that very same year. Along the way that was delayed, then forgotten as they toured the world then withdrew (as much as is possible) back to their lives to dream it all up again. Aside from the Apple kerfuffle, Songs Of Innocence arrives as a fairly typical U2 missive (albeit through the varying producer filters of Danger Mouse, Ryan Tedder, Flood, Declan Gaffney and Paul Epworth) but minus the sexy single (Vertigo for 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb; Dirty Boots for No Line On The Horizon). The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) opens proceedings, taking Bono’s lifelong love letter to Jeffrey Hyman into song and while it’s not what you’d expect, we must remember that Joey was listening to U2’s Beautiful Day on his deathbed. Bizarre lives here in any case.
Songs such as Every Breaking Wave, California and Song For Someone find the band in typically sweeping form, the refrains and the chordal progressions take the sentiment into the heavens, or somewhere next to them.
The surprising elements on this album come with Volcano and Raised By Wolves. The former seems to channel a younger band unaware that it’s U2, with a chorus sourced from Siouxsie & The Banshees, while the latter marks time with a seemingly detached Bono vocal decimated by a suitably howling chorus.
Closing track, The Troubles, seems to echo Irish history, but reveals itself as a more personal ode about the (in)ability to move onward. While The Ramones got a certain Irish teenager through some harsh times, it seems Songs Of Innocence is a reflection on how he got through the rest of them.