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dan-whiteley
25th September 2014

Album: U2 – Songs Of Innocence

Songs of Innocence is the album U2 have been trying to make for over a decade
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Released 9th September (digitally) /13th October (physically)

Island Records

7/10

In a move that is either a kind gesture, a gimmicky marketing ploy or an oppressive invasion of privacy depending on the level of hatred you personally harbour for Bono, U2’s thirteenth studio album Songs of Innocence was released for free download earlier this month, immediately following its announcement at the Apple Watch unveiling. While this practice has become less uncommon over the past couple of years, this particular album launch raised eyebrows due to the fact that, thanks to Apple’s all-powerful reach over its technological kingdom, the album wasn’t just made available for access; it was automatically downloaded onto every iTunes account on the planet—including yours—without your say.

If you were to able to excuse this fairly Orwellian abuse of power and actually give it a listen, though, you’d be pleasantly surprised; Songs of Innocence is the album U2 have been trying to make for over a decade, containing nods to every phase of their long and winding career whilst still managing to sound fresh.

The record opens with lead single ‘The Miracle’, picking up where 2009’s No Line on the Horizon left off, with the fuzzy guitars and familiar ‘woah-oh’ chants recalling earlier single ‘Get On Your Boots’. Early highlight ‘Every Breaking Wave’ is the record’s standout track, with its wistful lyrics—featuring such Bono-isms as “every sailor knows that the sea/is a friend made enemy”—signature Edge chime, and soaring chorus rivalling their best loved 80s ballads.

The rest of the album, for the most part, manages to maintain the standard set earlier on; Bono’s affecting ode to his late mother, ‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’, is lovely, and the sunny Beach Boys homage ‘California (There Is No End To Love)’ is the most fun the band have sounded in years. ‘Volcano’ is the album’s only real weak point, with its infectious bassline essentially wasted on its lazy “Vol-can-o/you don’t wanna know” chorus. ‘Sleep Like A Baby Tonight’, meanwhile, harks back to the gentle yet menacing sound of the band’s Pop era, and closer ‘The Troubles’ is a brooding, string-laden duet with Swedish pop singer Lykke Li that works better than it sounds on paper.

Though it’s unlikely to become anyone’s favourite U2 album—the competition is just too stiff for that—Songs of Innocence is a welcome return from one of the world’s biggest acts, and a worthy addition to the U2 back catalogue. And to reiterate, it’s free. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.


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