Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Album Review: U2- Songs of Innonce

Songs of Innocence
** out of *****
It is impossible to discuss the new U2 album without talking about how it was distributed to everyone with any iPhone or as Apple says, "gifted" to its users.  It has caused lots of uproar and even a search for the album title and phrase iPhone in Google a month after it was released has lots of "How To Remove" instructions on the first search page.

A few of U2's fellow big time rock stars have also weighed in on the "gift", along with others and a slew of outraged Apple users and others are pretty dismissive of the procedure. This speaks to how in complete and utter disarray the music industry truly is, how artists are struggling to connect at all with the public in an over-saturated market and how insanely entitled we as a culture just may be, but all of that should/will be flushed out in a much longer post/discussion. This is supposed to address the actual music that landed on my new iPhone with zero prodding so here we go:

It is blase.

It is a U2 release and at this stage in their career, no matter the delivery terms, the producer or the phase of the moon, this is basically what should be expected. A clear single/commercial, a bunch of mid-tempo numbers, an experiment or two and a huge tour to follow where two songs off this (max) should get played. Long time fans will eat it up, people who haven't listened to the band in over two decades will ignore it (or have to delete it) and people will wait for Bono's next announcement/philanthropic endeavor.  The pairing of All-Star Producer Danger Mouse has not done much to alter the groups sound or style and while his typical relaxed, chimes whistles keys are there the pairing isn't artistically successful.

This isn't to say the music on Songs of Innocence is bad, but the band has reached such a level that they could do this in their sleep, and at times it unfortunately it sounds like they are. Most of these tracks stay middle of the road with no pressing feeling, desire or narrative. Even when Danger Mouse is at his best on past produced albums his style is in that calm, tripped-out-lounge vibe and that just dulls the songs here. "Every Breaking Wave"  makes it easy to see why Cold Play so admires U2 while "Iris (Hold Me Close)" has the personal lyrics from Bono but is matched inadequately with a dance drum beat and sparse chorus.

The opener and first single "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" is a strange duck, working as a way to sell almost anything on TV, but never really speaks to the title characters energy. "Ceaderwood Road" has an interesting "old style U2" intro that unfortunately gets crushed by the symphonic and then dissolves into dull vocals and schmaltzy musical progression. "Raised By Wolves" feels scattered, as if it was a part of all three of the albums U2 are currently producing (this disk, a dance tinged release, and a meditation-centric album).    

There are noticeable increases in keyboard use on Songs of Innocence but specifically during "Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" and "California (There is no End to Love)" but that brings up another issue. Does a band as big as U2 need to write another California song and one as nondescript as this? If this is where Bono and crew are looking for inspiration it seems the well has run a tad dry.
The end of the disk actually offers the best tracks with the spacey minimalist "The Troubles" that pairs the band with Lykke Li who adds a dreamlike dynamic to close things out.  The keys, effects and oddly futuristic tribal intro for "This is Where You Can Reach Me Now" start off the most interesting song on the album as the band seems to be looking forward but playing to their strengths. It isn't like the other smoothly crafted numbers on Songs of Innocence but that is what makes it standout. Both of these hint at the more U2 has to offer, which makes the dull rock that comes before much more depressing.            

U2 honestly didn't need to make another album after Achtung Baby (some would say they shouldn't have either) but here they are, and they continue to be one of the biggest bands in the world, no matter what phone you are using.
Support the band here, ahhh buy the album wherever itunes is, and peep some video below:

No comments:

Post a Comment