music

First Impressions

Surprise! Happy New U2 Day!

U2 fandom has been in a frenzy over rumours that the band would somehow be incorporated into Apple’s September event today, and we were not disappointed. Although the rumours were that the tech giant would somehow tie U2’s new album in with their annual keynote address and release of new products, it still came as a pleasant and mostly unexpected surprise when they actually released their long-anticipated new album, Songs of Innocence today. The album was launched via iTunes (for free!) during the Apple Event, and after some technical glitches, I finally downloaded my copy.

Because opinions are the lifeblood of the Internet, here are my thoughts on U2’s 13th studio LP, song by song:

 

The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) – Joey would be like “WTF, man?” Heh. No. It’s better than Get on Your Boots (the most immediate low for songwriting from Bono), but it’s kind of just there. The lyrics are mediocre at best. I like Larry’s drum pattern, and that’s the only thing that stands out to me. 5/10

Every Breaking Wave – Hooked me immediately. I love this. LOVE. I love the lyrics. I love the intro, I love the breakdown. Bono’s voice sounds much better in this than in The Miracle. I love Adam’s bass. Yup. This is good stuff. Thank God. 9/10

California (There is no end to love) – Santa Baaaabara? Where’s that? This is the kind of song that I can hear playing over the opening shot of a show set in (duh!) California, where the camera is panning over the ocean and the coastline. Too bad the OC’s not still on… Still, kind of catchy. I’ll need a second listen. But Baaaabara??? 7/10 (for now. This might be a grower.)

Song for Someone – Really nice guitar at the beginning of this. Nice harmonization. I think I read this song for “someone” is for Ali. I like it. 7.5/10

Iris (Hold Me Close) – I hear the beginning of City of Blinding Lights in the beginning of this. I’m not complaining, because I love that song, and well, Edge has a signature sound for a reason. I think this is the big, anthemic song of the album so far, and I feel like it’ll be huge live. It’ll fit into the set nicely, in my opinion. 8.5/10

Volcano – Kind of a throw away song for me. Weakest of the bunch so far. Eh. 4/10

Raised by Wolves – Interesting intro. The intro seems sort of avant garde punk/art school-ish to me, if that makes any sense. Definitely sounds like it came from their 70s roots, lol. As if they were channeling Television or something. I’ve never listened to the Virgin Prunes (do I have to give back my fandom credentials?), but I imagine they’d come up with something like the intro/weirdness. 6.5/10

Cedarwood Road – The intro to this is vaguely familiar to me (the part before the drums kick in), too. Not sure why. I’m not sure why but I expected this song to be “softer” and I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by the tougher sound. It definitely evokes that rough neighbourhood that they grew up in. I’m also a sucker for when Bono holds a long note. 8/10

Sleep like a Baby Tonight – Hey Bono’s falsetto, nice to hear from you again. Don’t hurt yourself. Kind of middling song. Not terribly exciting, not terribly awful. Filler. 5.5/10

This is Where You Can Reach Me Now – Weird. A little trippy. Disco-ey. Could be fun to dance to. Very likely an earworm (“Soldier, soldier…”). Immediately figured this was one Danger Mouse worked on. Checked the liner notes, and what do you know? I was right. It’s already growing on me so… 7.5/10

The Troubles – Lykke Li! I love her. Anyway… I really like the harmonies on this. So pretty. I can’t really see this being a song they play live (not just because Lykke Li won’t be there), but I really like it. It feels cinematic to me. I could see it playing over end credits. 8/10

 

Overall thoughts:

What hooks me in most of these songs are the intros, interestingly. Sometimes the song falls apart (Raised by Wolves) and sometimes it turns into something that could be really special (Every Breaking Wave). I can definitely tell that they worked with several producers who were NOT Eno and Lanois or Lillywhite on this.

It’s definitely an album that harkens back to their beginning, to their youth, to Dublin. And not just through the lyrics. That’s interesting, but not really surprising given their age.

I don’t think this is a risk taking album by any means… there are glimmers of it … but I think we all have to accept that those days are over for U2. That’s okay. There are younger, hungrier bands out there to take those risks. At this point, U2 is like an old friend; you accept them and love them for who they are. I’m okay with that. This is an album that mostly just makes me feel warm and happy, and sometimes that’s what you want.

Not sure where I’d place it in an overall catalogue ranking, but it’s solid, and even those songs I’m sort of lukewarm on will probably grow on me.

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