U2 Lack Vintage Magic on ‘Songs of Innocence’
U2 is easily one of the most popular rock bands, easily. Led by ubiquitous frontman Bono, the Grammy-winning collective has played a gargantuan role in shaping rock music. Since their last big Grammy-winning album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, the band hasn’t exactly had the same oomph. 2009 effort No Line On The Horizon didn’t near reach the same heights. Neither does 2014 effort, Song of Innocence. Interesting, Rolling Stone has exhibited mad love for the Dublin band’s last two efforts – go figure!
On a side note, Songs of Innocence received a unique rollout, being issued as a free album in everyone’s iTunes account in September. Some were pleased while others were not, and Apple even offered a fix – ouch! Songs of Innocence received its official, physical release October 14.
On “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” Bono exhibits sound vocal clarity, never fighting the production work. In regards to the song itself, the refrain stands tallest, led by a tuneful, memorable melody. If How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is regarded as U2’s most notable recent album, then “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” pales a shade in comparison to “Vertigo,” that album’s high-flying opener.
“Every Breaking Wave” has a difficult act to follow. While it doesn’t supersede “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” it has its moments, again by way of the tastefully produced chorus. “California (There Is No End to Love)” proceeds in energetic fashion, thanks to quick tempo and Bono’s assertive pipes. Solid, “California” lacks the memorability of U2’s best. That said could anything the band releases at this point in their career supplant their classics? Highly improbable such happens.
“Song for Someone” melodically shines a general highlight of Songs of Innocence. While it’s not quite the second coming, the sentiment after listening is that U2 come close to something dynamic here, even if it just misses being on the next level. “Iris (Hold Me Close)” is a complete change of pace, anchored by a danceable groove and prominence of synths. Give U2 credit for the experimentation, though “Iris” doesn’t quite make the leap either.
“Volcano,” like everything else, has its respective pros and cons. Ultimately, pros outweigh the cons: Bono’s falsetto, the driving groove, and the backing vocals during the bridge. Still, it’s flawed. Similarly, while the minimalist, pulsating intensity of “Raised By Wolves” shines itself, “Wolves” isn’t an outright win per se. It has its moments without quite picking up an undisputable win.
On “Cedarwood Road,” the guitars definitely rock – the riffs shining. Additionally, both the grittiness and harmonic progression are strong points. Followed by “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight,” initially rhythmic synths instantly contrasts the more guitar-driven “Cedarwood Road.” Eventually, distorted, and assertive guitar makes its presence known, and it is good. Status: better than a majority of others.
“This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” definitely has Danger Mouse’s production written all over it. “The Troubles,” another Danger Mouse production is stronger, closing Songs of Innocence on a high note, and ranking among the best records and songs of the album. Maybe it’s the strings, or the pronounced bass line, or the haunting guest vocals by Lykke Li:
“Somebody stepped inside your soul…little by little they robbed and stole / till someone else was in control.”
Regardless, it’s easily among the most spin-worthy tracks.
All in all, Songs of Innocence is a good, but not a truly, great album. There’s nothing that’s an outright miss, but often, there is a lack of the vintage magic that has made them so revered as a band. Still, there are some worthwhile moments to sink your teeth into, namely opener “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” and the beautiful closer, “The Troubles.”
Gems: “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” “Song for Someone,” “Sleep Like A Baby” & “Trouble”