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U2 - Songs of Experience

posted 8 Jan 2018, 03:54 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 04:58 ]
2 stars

Is there a cut off point for artists? A time when they are creating work that doesn’t hold up to the past? Should they even be measured against prior works? U2 have been going in some form or other since 1976 and ‘Songs of Experience’ is their 14 studio album and listening to it without the expectations of a supergroup is nigh on impossible such is the weight of Bono and Co.

Upon first listen there’s a strong feeling of familiarity, the band seemed to stop experimenting after ‘97’s ‘Pop’ itself an album with a confused identity and rather unloved within the ranks of U2 albums. After ‘Pop’ the band seemed to settle down into a very standard rock/pop mode which they’ve never really left. Indeed their last five records have been very safe sounding and as such unremarkable, ‘Songs of Experience’ won’t be bucking that trend.

Is it possible that U2 need an extended break? It certainly worked wonders for other acts this year, bands like Slowdive and Ride have waltzed back from the wastelands of music to produce albums that eclipsed their previous work. Is it possible that U2 have lost their edge? (no pun intended)

It starts off reasonably well, ‘Love is All We Have Left’ is a trembling paean to love itself, it’s a gentle take off leaking promise for the rest of the record. However it then descends into business as usual. ‘Light of Home’ is the usual roof scraping bellow, Bono pining for home over The Edge’s slide slide guitar which then transforms into the usual chugging riffs you’ve heard a thousand times. Lyrically it’s a very soft collection,even their call to arms ‘Get Out of Your Own Way’ and ‘American Soul’ seem facile and condescending. Generally having multi-millionaires like Bono telling you to start the revolution just seems crass, as if it did arrive they’d be a hundred miles away protected by private security.
The general sound of the album is clean and slick, something Jacknife Lee does well but doesn’t come close to the atmospheric soundscapes that Eno and Lanois help the Irish quartet achieve on multi layered albums like ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ or even ‘The Joshua Tree’ and that deft touch and experimental feel is sorely missing here leaving the songs sure sounding but generally forgettable.

U2 were a great band that made great records, memorable and exciting whereas this modern version seems content to produce bland statements like this you can’t help but think they can do so much better. The fire was unforgettable but now at last is seems to have been reduced to mere cinders.