The world knew little about the new U2-album before its sudden release via iTunes. Some song-titles were shared on the internet, many rumours circulating and a hint of the overall theme of the album. Last year’s present for the U2.com subscribers was a book about the band’s early beginnings in Dublin. At the end of the 1970s U2 became the band they are now. So it’s about highlighting those times.
The initial fear that this could be a not so good idea for a band that always tries to look ahead – that’s what U2 always wants – seemed imminent. But without a reason. “Songs Of Innocent” sounds as fresh as it could. U2 really wanted to make it special. And they did.
First listen: It’s a great blend of electronica with rocking guitars. U2 sound like they never did before. Even “Achtung Baby” had typical U2-parts. This album has not. No obvious trademark guitars by The Edge, but so many new sounds by him. Great and storming bass and drums. Untypical song-structures. It takes a while to find out which part is a chorus, bridge or coda – lots of unexpected breaks and sounds. A great variety of instruments. Many fresh vocal-harmonies. Additionally, the lyrics are amongst the best since 1997’s “Pop”.
Now that Bono even hints at the release of a second album – it may be called “Songs Of Experience” and may highlight recent times – the long wait is almost forgotten. And if you read all the song’s credits you see how much effort the band put in. Has there ever been an album that features so many keyboards? Has Bono ever played so many keyboard-parts on a U2-album? The artwork is unexpected and new for the band – some handwritten words by Bono on the cover included. A new photographer involved. New producers and collaborators.
“Songs Of Innocence” is a journey. And it’s worth to spend some time discovering all the gemstones. Many of the songs might unfold after listening a few times. The real great songs often arrive after a while, right?
But even after a first listen there a stand-out-tracks: The full of beautiful words and melancholic “Iris (Hold Me Now)”. The great vocal-melody, synths and beat of “California”. The brilliant fourth track. “Cedarwood Road” with the great “Southside/Northside”-pre-chorus. The very obvious Danger Mouse crafted songs – the last three really feature his handwriting. Don’t they?
So there’s a lot more to expect from a band that wants to go on for a couple of years, as Bono says speaking about their collaboration with Apple. And it seems they are starting out again. Same band but very different, too.
(@U2) September 11, 2014