U2 released its 14th studio album, Songs Of Experience, in early December and so when my son asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said, “you can get me that new U2 CD.”
Despite his objections that I should simply get it on Spotify (first, I’d have to get Spotify) or download to my device (ditto, iTunes), he relented and picked me a genuine, three dimensional, CD version of the new collection.
So here are some reflections after solid week of Experience …
1.I hated it before I loved it. The last few U2 albums have gone heavy on Bono-led mid-tempo bland rockers and light on Edge-driven, high energy, stadium ready anthems. In fact I have had a theory that when they recorded “City Of Blinding Lights” in 2004 they decided, “that’s the formula! Every song now will be variations on this theme.” So my first listen to Experience seemed to confirm my suspicions: lots of mid-tempo and mid-energy.
Yet repeated listening has proven how wrong my first impressions were. While it’s not The Joshua Tree, Experience nevertheless shows more variety and better hooks than any U2 albums in a long while.
2. If you liked “Vertigo” or “Desire,” then you’ll like “American Soul.” Most U2 collections have an early moment of frantic energy, and American Soul works better than most. Plus, it launches with a modern take on the ancient Beatitudes.
3. If you liked “Walk On” you’ll like “Get Out Of Your Own Way.” Except this has a more memorable chorus and it will preach. Bono’s lyrical riffs here sound both spontaneous and meticulous.
4. If you liked “The Sweetest Thing” or “Angel Of Harlem,” you’ll like “Summer Of Love.” Again, this new one surpasses both of its predecessors with its chunky, funky groove.
5. If you liked “Beautiful Day,” you’ll like “Red Flag Day.” And no, not because they both have “day” in the title. The songs share the same urgency, the same global perspective, and both feature Bono at his soaring best.
6. If you liked “Bullet The Blue Sky,” you’ll like both “The Lights Of Home” and “The Blackout.”
7. If you liked “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” you’ll like “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way.” In this case, the next generation can’t quite top the original (but then again, not many songs can). Whereas Still Haven’t Found was simultaneously full of pathos and ambition, Love Is Bigger feels almost … preachy.
8. If you have the CD, songs #3 – 8 are worthy of permanent repeat. A truly glorious collection in the midst of a mostly satisfying larger one.