Sunday, September 14, 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: U2's 'Songs of Innocence'

Almost immediately after Apple CEO Tim Cook joined U2’s lead singer Bono in counting down the sudden, surprising release of the Irish Rock Giant's , hard-fought 13th studio album Tuesday during the tech giant’s keynote in Cupertino, Calif., the rock star leaned toward the microphone to reveal something new about the band's latest work.

The Band's Frontman, Bono stated that he wanted the more than half a billion iTunes subscribers worldwide who were about to unwittingly participate in the largest album release of all time (for free) to understand the value of what they were getting before Songs of Innocence magically appeared in their digital music collections. Saying,

“It’s kind of our core DNA. The clue is in the name,” he said. “We put everything we have into this. It’s our most personal record.”

The band had just finished shredding through its new hit single, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” which is a bold representative of the rest of the album . It’s a considerably

bold return to the youthful energy that’s gone missing since U2’s 2004 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which earned them an astonishing nine Grammys.

To their credit the Album was largely produced by Danger Mouse (Broken Bells, Gnarls Barkley) however U2 also recruited producers Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence and the Machine) and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic fame (Adele, Beyoncé) to further refine Songs of Innocence. The result is a vibrant, radio-friendly collection of well-crafted songs that sonically pay tribute to the late 1970s punk and glam rock that inspired U2’s early music and lyrically capture the many life-changing events of Bono’s formative years.

Throughout the Album the singer often flips through memories of his mother who died suddenly following the burial of her father in the yearning “Iris (Hold Me Close).” As well as the physical violence and spiritual awakening he encountered in Dublin come alive in the jangly “Cedarwood Road,” and the sectarian violence that spilled over from Northern Ireland in the 1970s is covered like breaking news in the defiant “Raised by Wolves.”

In the latter part of the album, the evils of the religious conflict make it difficult to see a loving God. “The worst things in the world are justified by belief,” Bono states before rattling off “1385-WZ,” the registration number of the blue Ford Escort that exploded, killing innocent lives.

While Songs of Innocence, which takes its title from William Blake’s collection of poetry of the same name (Bono recently confirmed Songs of Experience is on its way), is a deeply personal record, the topics it vastly explores has been covered repeatedly throughout U2’s illustrious music career. However this isn’t even the band members’ first time dedicating an album’s focus to their youth. If you recall , U2’s first release, 1980’s Boy, also explored similar adolescent themes — just not from the perspective of adulthood.

It is clearly apparent from listening to the album that Bono, 54, is still, after all these years as the world’s biggest rock star, wrestling with what he experienced as 13-year-old Paul Hewson.

Another recurrent lyrical theme that is explored throughout the album is the spiritual awakening Bono underwent, largely as a result of his oldest and best friend, Guggi, to whom he dedicates “Cedarwood Road.” As further detailed in the liner notes of the album’s digital booklet, the fellow member of the avant-garde street gang Lypton Village introduced him to a wild, passionate and personal Christian faith. Which was a like a rushing river to the dryness of the divisive Catholic/Protestant religious home he grew up in.

Whether you love U2 or you hate them there is clearly no denying that hey gave the music industry the finger and cut a deal with a company that just reinvented the wristwatch to essentially give you their heart — for free.