As promised in my previous post with quick reviews of U2’s catalogue, here’s my review of U2’s latest, Songs of Innocence. Overall, it’s a good album, but not a great one. As with their previous outing, No Line on the Horizon, I would place it somewhere in the middle of their output. There are few great songs, but many of the songs are a bit… well, meh. The album still get two songs with the core 5 out 5. Not bad, but most of the other songs don’t exactly burst through the roof so as a whole the album get 3 out of 5 stars from me. I might still change my mind -- U2 albums have a tendency to grow on you. Below is a song by song walkthrough with some short comments for each.
U2 - Songs of
Innocence - 3 out of 5 stars
The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) - 3 out of 5 stars
This tribute to Joey Ramone sounds nothing like a Ramone song. Good song, with choppy rhythms and quite deliciously distorted guitars that I suspect are intentionally made to sound bad. It sounds a bit like The Edge borrowed my old 200 Euro crap Zoom 2020 multi from the Grenland museum back in Zoran Cullibrick’s basement. If I were to venture a guess I would say he’s using a fuzz pedal on low gain.
Every Breaking Wave - 5 out 5 stars
Best song of the album, one that truly belongs in the canon of great U2 songs. This is U2 wringing every last bit emotion out of a song, something they’ve done so well in the past with songs like With or Without You, Pride (In the Name of Love) and one (to name a few). One of the best songs U2 has made in a decade.
California (No End to Love) - 3 out of 5 stars
U2 tries their hand at surf pop with a song that starts of with a Beach Boy’s like chant (baba Barbara, Santa Barbara…). A catchy tune, almost in the style of Even Better Than the Real Thing. This is a good song, but alas, not quite the real thing.
Song for Someone - 5 out of 5 stars
A hauntingly beautiful ballad, Song for Someone is another emotional track, with gorgeous soaring Edge backing vocals. “I was told I’d feel nothing the first time”. Great lyric.
Iris (Hold me Close) - 3 out of 5 stars
The opening of this song sounds suspiciously like that of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies (1987). This tribute to Bono’s mother Iris, who died when Bono was 14, also pays tribute to U2’s post-punk origins. Given how important this song must be to Bono, I can’t help but to feel it should’ve been better. The line “something in your eyes, took a thousand years to get here” is one the best pieces of lyrics on the album.
Volcano - 4 out 5 stars
Hard driving bass, delicious pop melody chorus. This one you will be humming on for days after listening to it.
Raised by Wolfs - 3 out of 5 stars
The heaviest and possibly the most intense song of the album. Political lyrics, wailing song, tom-tom galore and a good nod to U2’s roots.
Ceaderwood Road - 2 out 5 stars
This is U2 crossing into more traditional rock music, with Zeppelin and Hendrix like guitar riff and more straight forward drum licks. There’s been one song like in this style on the last few albums they’ve made and I can’t help it. I don’t think U2 does this kind of music well.
Sleep Like a Baby Tonight - 3 out 5 stars
With heavy lyrics and quite creative structure, I can’t help but to feel that this song too should’ve been more than it is. It never really reaches the heights one has come to expect of U2 songs. The verse borrows from Gene Pitney’s Something’s Got a Hold on My Heart. Maybe this has something to do with it?
This is Where You Can Reach Me Now - 3 out 5 stars
The most experimental track of the album, with Edge guitar that sounds like sweeping birdsong one moment, blues the next and Pointer Sister’s the next again. Did it work? Sort of.
The Troubles - 4 out 5 stars
Beautiful closer with Lykke Li performing guest vocals. Not likely to be a radiohit but still one of the strongest tracks on the album.