U2’s new album has some controversy surrounding it as of late in that a lot of people (young ones I suspect) are over reacting to the idea that they have music on their iTunes that they didn’t ask for and that this, is in some way, a violation of their rights. Okay, so you got something for free and its a violation of your rights? Get a life people. 1st world problems by a mile! I guess your rights are violated every time you have to listen to the radio too, because, you know, you can’t pick the songs they play, but you chose to listen to it. Idiots.
Anyway, with my thoughts on that out of the way, lets move to the album!
As with every U2 album I can remember listening to it takes a couple of plays to work out its kinks in my brain. Something else to note is that albums have an interesting cycle with me. There are songs I will always love, but if I listen to them too much they’ll get old and boring, or I’ll end up associating them with something that later in time has no value to me, emotionally. So then it fades or gets lost in all the new music that’s available, which, when talking about real bands that play real instruments in 2014 is not exactly a lot. So I could have a totally different take on this album in a month, haha. This album is no exception in that it took a few listens to get a good grasp on it, and the first thing that hit me was that it was directed by someone completely different for U2. It was like I was listening to a U2 album if U2 never existed and they were some new band, with a new album. It threw me off at first, but I came around and quicker than normal. I can remember enjoying some songs, a lot, right off the bat. So with that in mind, here’s my song by song breakdown…
The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
I’m not a big fan of the start of this track, and I find that for something that’s a tribute to The Ramones, its pretty off base. Its catchy and growing on me, but not near my favourite from the album. I read up on the history and its all about how Bono was blown away by The Ramones back in the 70’s. I understand what he’s singing about lyrically, but it sounds like something from their 2001, All That You Can’t Leave Behind Album. It could be a little more dirty, musically. The chanting doesn’t match the gritty guitar, but hey, this is U2 after all.
Every Breaking Wave
I like this one right from the start, it has that U2 sound. And its a new song, so it was a double whammy of nice for my ears. Over time the intro riff has brought me joy knowing what’s coming. Lyrically its alright, and I especially love the references to the sea and a shipwrecked soul, that’s the pinnacle of the song for me. “I listened for the Captain’s voice, but its hard to listen when you preach” Excellent. I think I enjoy the 2nd half of the song the most, right when the tempo changes before the last chorus run.
California (There is no End to Love)
This one is not one of my favourites as its about a place I’ve never been to, California. There’s so much lore around California that I just can’t believe in the hopes and dreams ideal around it. Also I’m too old to just take someone’s word on how great a place is, even if it is U2. The “There’s no end to love” lyric is typical of a U2 album, they need that love quota in there somewhere, and I’m glad its in a song I don’t particularly enjoy.
Song for Someone
Its not hard to see why this is a lot of people’s favourite track on the new album. Lyrically its open to much interpretation. Its vague, but at the same time fills you with hope about, well whatever you want. It is literally a song for someone, and that someone can be anyone. Musically it flows nicely and the intro is another example of a song where you know its good, right from the start. I even catch my wife humming it when it plays, and she’s a European electro fan! The outro of Bono rhyming out thoughts of lights never going out really packs the punch home for this song.
Iris (Hold me Close)
I’m not as big of a fan when Bono is just droning on. Something he’s done a few times in the past, the intro to this song is an example of that. He belts the chorus just fine, another campy love song, but the intro is rather lackluster due to the lyrics. It does pick up and can lift you later on, but I find it to be a rather lackluster song and I’m reminded of it as soon as its back to the droning and not really singing. Although it does carry a good message, “As soon as we’re born we forget why we came” And as I say this the outro, starting with about a minute and a half left in the song is fantastic. There’s deep bass hooks and the lyrics are strong and sung properly. Maybe that was the point, the rest is just the buildup. Too bad it wasn’t all like the outro, but we don’t all get what we want.
Right from the start I was wow’d by Volcano. It has such a gritty bass filled intro. It really took me by surprise the first time I heard it and I’ve loved it every since. This one really shows where the new producing team (or person?) hit the nail on the head. Its also easy to sing along with, especially that chorus. Its not an overly deep, or complicated song, but it is a lot of fun. Especially with the nod to rock and roll towards the end.
Raised by Wolves
Raised by Wolves has been my favourite song of the album, and probably will continue to hold that rank. I love the chorus, again, easy to sing along with, but also a great little lyric in that “raised by wolves, stronger than fear.” But even before that in the buildup, Bono’s singing style is almost spoken word, and its great. New, fresh U2 sounds and he’s nailing it. Then hits you with the punch of “I don’t believe anymore”, like he’s lost his way. Hard not to agree with that in this day and age. And then you hear The Edge rolling in the background with a classic U2 guitar riff.
Cedarwood Road is one that grew on me. I love the gritty guitars again, in the main riff this time. The chorus is very catchy and can get stuck in your head, but in a weird way. Like you didn’t know you missed it until you hear it again. One of those songs where you know you love it, but it won’t just come to you due to being kicked out by other gems on the album. I think its the guitar riff that wins this song though, like a rusty old western. The song, much like I’m told about the old west, is mostly about loss it would seem, especially in the last quarter. Just gives it that sense of an epic song.
Sleep Like a Baby Tonight
Now, I don’t know if the use of a synth was The Edge’s idea, or the producers, but it does fit, sort of. Makes me think of other songs I’ve heard recently that play on that 80’s sound. However, when Bono hits the first round of “You’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight” it nails this song to your brain. Very catchy, then out of nowhere the synth fades and its gritty guitar work by The Edge. Ah, like a release of better music. I can’t decide if I like this song, I’m on the fence. Yes. Maybe. Oh wait, Bono just hit those high notes, that honestly sound painful. I can hear his voice is just about to crack. You’re not an opera singer Bono, even if your Dad was. Hang up that aspect for all future work please. Assuming there will be future work. I could believe there wouldn’t be, we’ll see.
This is Where You Can Reach Me Now
Another catchy song with a super catchy chorus. I do enjoy this song quite a bit and its because of the easy flowing chorus, all the way. Maybe its the subliminal seagulls in the intro too, taking me mentally to a beach or something? I like that some of the songs on this album are actually long, for a song. Well over the 3 minute mark, but at the same time, not into that 6 minute territory that kills you and is only good on a road trip. But the bonus of this is that U2 has been around long enough to know what hook or change is going to work to make it an actual 5 minute song, and not just a 3 minute song with a 2 minute loop. That last minute is great! Good work on this one gents, I definitely am enjoying this.
This song gets stuck in my head A LOT! I’ll be doing some general work and it will just pop in there, the “Somebody stepped inside your soul” part is killer, and the wild part is that its not even U2 singing it. Its, dare I say, a backup singer? Its that new production value kicking in again, like an album from a band that never released one before, unlike any other U2 album. This song is part of that description. “I have the soul for survival” Awesome. A great outro to an album that worked a great deal on making the outro of most of the songs worth it and not just a turn of the fade knob.
Overall I enjoy this album quicker, and on a deeper level then some of the others released since 2001. That makes it a winner in my books, but I’m a U2 fan after all, so it’ll take quite a disaster to make me not like it. Like those B Sides from Joshua Tree released a few years back. Yeesh, there’s a reason you didn’t release them for 20 some years. Should have kept them there. From a fan, that’s a statement. I won’t let my “this is still fresh” judgement override my initial feelings for this album and I’ll give it an 8 out of 10.