Three quick thoughts on the new U2 album
Now that I’ve had a couple of days to live with and listen to the surprise new U2 album, here are a couple of thoughts.
1. It’s…Ok. Not terrible, definitely better than their last record, but otherwise fairly unremarkable. About what you should expect from a giant mainstream rock band in their 50s. It gives them another couple of songs to freshen their concert set list and then go out and make hundreds of millions of dollars on the inevitable behemoth 15 month world tour that will inevitably follow. More power to them.
It’s the kind of record that you like more in the first listen than the fifth, which doesn’t bode well for me actually purchasing it.
2. When I first heard that their new record was available to download for free, I thought that was pretty cool. But then it turns out that it wasn’t available to download, it was just there in over 500 million iTunes libraries, whether you wanted it or not. I thought that was pretty creepy, but now I’m borderline offended by the idea. (Though I will admit the twitter reactions of kids who have no idea who they are discovering this “gift” have been really funny.) Speaking of things that are offensive…
3. What the hell happened to The Edge?!? It’s one thing to release a fairly mediocre album in a totally creepy fashion that warms the hearts of Coldplay fans everywhere, but quite another to basically muzzle the most interesting part of your band in the process. Where’s the ringing guitar of Where the Streets Have No Name and City of Blinding Lights? Where’s the distinctive Edge sound that really only he can produce and has been the savior of most of your later albums? Had they abandoned that sound to do a full on weird, Danger Mouse helmed attempt to right the horrible wrong of Pop, that would have been understandable. It may have been a disaster, but at least it could have been interesting. If you’re content with making a slightly worse or slightly better version of most of your 2000s output, don’t abandon your musical money maker and double down on Bono’s increasing lyrical Ambien. This sounds more like the product of a Jay-Z/Chris Martin/Bono jam session.
So, JLo’s verdict is smack down the middle of the grading curb. Songs of Innocence is a pleasant, unremarkable listen, one that probably won’t stick with you more than a few seconds beyond the end of the final track. And one that I doubt will ever find its way into my or many other physical record collections. Glad Apple made it worth their while.
Have you heard it? What is your verdict?