Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Songs Of Innocence is the worst thing U2 has ever done. Far more self-indulgent than Passengers, the idea of the now 50-something Bono singing about being a teenager and getting into music could either be amazing or terrible. It wasn't amazing.
When it was given, for free, to anyone with an iTunes account, very few people were happy about it. Iggy Pop mentioned that Bono was "giving away music before it can flop, in an effort to stay huge."
While I haven't loved every album U2 has ever put out, this was the first one that I listened to and couldn't remember a single thing about a single song. Like most of the people this album was inflicted on, I forgot about it completely until the release of their next album, when I decided to see if there was anything salvagable. And there is. Between the two albums, there is a single album's worth of story that I'm interested in.
When Bono and / or U2 team up with rappers, it usually doesn't go well. Not as bad as KRS-One & REM's woeful "Radio Song", but Bono & Wyclef's "New Day" definitely didn't make this discography. But, somehow, the Kendrick Lamar / U2 combination delights me. "American Soul" is a great start to the album, mostly because of Lamar's intro. I've said this many times about 21st century U2 lyrics: they're stupid. In this case, they seem to be falling back on the worst part of Rattle & Hum, trying to make a statement about America without actually saying anything.
"Summer Of Love" is a sweet ditty about the Syrian Civil War. Sometimes describing U2 songs makes my brain hurt.
If you liked The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann", you might be puzzled by why U2 has stolen it for "California (There Is No End To Love)". It's a weird choice, but after the absolute blandness of most of the Songs Of Innocence album, I'm ok with weird choices.
"XXX" is actually a Kendrick Lamar song with U2 reprising the hook from "American Soul". I like it as a callback. Also, Kendrick Lamar was producing more interesting music in 2018 than U2 was.
Bono singing about singing is a tired trope in U2 lyrics. Yea, Bono, you're a singer. WE KNOW. He does it again in "The Showman". The song is means to be self-depricating, but at this point in the band's career, when they've been doing self-depricating songs about performing for over twenty years, it's a tough sell. But I do like the chorus. And I cut about a minute out of it.
"Trouble" is one of the few songs saved from the culling of "Songs Of Innocence". Lykke Li's vocals are much of the reason why. Technically, the name of this song is "The Troubles" but I never head the s in troubles so I've been mistitling it since it came out. I'm not fixing it now.
The production on the intro, and the jangly The Joshua Tree era guitars are most of the reason why "Raised By Wolves" also makes it off of Songs Of Innocence. The story about a carbombing in Dublin when Bono was a teen is brought home by him calling out the license plate of the car used to set the bomb.
"The Little Things That Give You Away" is highly edited, and is the beginning of what's essentially one long medley of tracks about lightness and dark. My version of this album, Sometimes, takes its title from the refrain in the second half of this song.
Another ... song ... about ... how Bono ... loves ... his wife. *prolonged sigh* "Song For Someone" continues the light and dark medley and sets up a chorus refrain for later in the medley.
"Blackout" is the first actual rocking song from the album that isn't actually a Kendrick Lamar song. It's the first track I heard from their most recent album, and, apart from the very silly Paul Simon-esque "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" name inclusion, I quite like it. This is part of the album they retooled to reflect Brexit and Trump. It's not as stinging as it hopes it is.
Almost dying is terrifying. "The Lights Of Home" do draw you, mothlike, to Bono's experience in a way most of his recent songs don't, as he sings about wanting to stay alive for his family. There's also a killer sample from Haim's "My Song 5".
"Get Out Of Your Own Way" brings back the heartbeat drums from "Beautiful Day" helping to reinforce the feeling that this whole album is a coda for the band. If No Line On The Horizon was a reprise of their 80s output, Sometimes is a reprise of their 21st century output. I'm sad there isn't an analogue for their 90s catalogue.
Closing out the medley is "There Is A Light", which brings back the chorus from "Song For Someone" and continues the whole light/dark motif.
"Red Flag Day" is a poppy song about ... the Syrian Refugee crisis ? What the fuck, Bono? It's a catchy song that I didn't fully examine until this post. What an odd tone for the song.
"Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way" is a nice closer for this U2 discography. It's an All That You Can't Leave Behind style anthem that could close out a concert, "40" style, with the audience singing the "oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh-oh" part as the band leaves the stage.
That's it. That's as far as U2 has gone so far. And there's some speculation that Songs Of Experience is the final full U2 album. I think that would be fine. But I'll be here, ready to see what's worth listening to from any future releases.