Songs Of Innocence Album Review
Released September 9, 2014
Listen: (Check your iPhone or Apple device)
The “surprise album” has been a working concept over the past year, from Jay Z’s “Samsung-only” marketing scheme for Magna Carta Holy Grail to Beyonce’s “out of nowhere” approach. But how about the “Surprise! you already have it!” gambit that U2 just did at the Apple Cupertino event on September 9, 2014? Unprecedented. Surprising? Not so much. Whether it be their incessantly annoying AIDS awareness campaign which, at one point, literally had you choose “AIDS or our music” or their gregarious concert tour, U2 will literally do anything to stay relevant in this decade, even if it means shamelessly sneaking their new, mediocre release onto every Apple users’ phone.
Described as “their most personal album”, Songs Of Innocence is a collection of songs rooted in U2′s core inspirations. So it isn’t a huge surprise to find some punk and new wave influences here. U2 helped craft some of the most iconic melodies of the late 20th century, with stellar albums such as the classic 1987 album The Joshua Tree and 1991′s Achtung Baby. With songs like “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “One”, there’s a lot to expect from U2: more of Bono baritone introspection, The Edge’s recognizable, glistening guitar tones, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.’s driving drumming, the band has cemented itself in music history. However, Songs Of Innocence is a collection of songs that even the youngest of today’s bands wouldn’t dare pen.
Songs Of Innocence fails in its attempt to keep U2 relevant in today’s culture. And in their prime, it seems that they were aware of what made a great pop hit. But now, it seems as if they don’t know how to. Additionally, U2 seems to have failed at re-inventing their sound; besides “Every Breaking Wave” and “California (There Is No End To Love)”, most of the songs lack memorability and innovation.
However, I commend U2 on the array of sounds that they’ve created: the gritty “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, the nostalgic atmosphere of the ballad “Iris (Hold Me Close)”, and the reverb heavy “Cedarwood Road”. All these styles surprisingly work well together, never feeling misplaced or adrift. But as I said, U2 have failed at trying to maintain their relevancy with Songs Of Innocence. Sure, they’re one of the biggest and influential acts out there but that justify the mediocrity these eleven songs hold.
While Songs Of Innocence, a generous gift from Bono and the boys, may be owned by pretty much everyone on the planet, it may not be loved. The U2 we’ve come to know has written tunes with much more ambition, skill, and ingenuity. Songs Of Innocence sounds like an audacious proclamation: “Hey we’re still here!” The sad part is that Songs Of Innocence is so disenchanting to care.
FAV TRACKS: Every Breaking Wave, California (There Is No End To Love)
LEAST FAV TRACK: Volcano, Sleep Like A Baby Tonight