Surprise surprise. U2 have released “Songs of Innocence” for free for every iTunes customer, generous move. Obviously they’ll have been subsidised by the mega-money giant but the surprise of opening your iPod to see the new album downloading is still a nice gesture. U2 however have not recaptured their creative genius that came with albums like “The Joshua Tree”, and “Achtung Baby”. The last few albums haven’t missed out on their share of great songs, but having a wall to wall album of inspiring album is a far cry.
It’s definitely a pop album. It’s also clear they’ve been listening to current popular music in their time away. The recent “band revolution” is clearly inspiring on this album, ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’ clearly attributing guitar styles that have come to prominence again. An obvious contender for their pop anthem is ‘Song for Someone’, which is U2 through and through but again has clearly taken inspiration from modern music, for the better. It does lack in that it doesn’t live up to their previous ‘ballads’ but credit is due for evolving the sound, one thing U2 manage to do well (sometimes not so well) is change their sound to what fits the time best. ‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’ is one of the songs that molds the two styles and produces a genuinely great song, definitely one of the best songs on the album. ‘Raised By Wolves’ too is one which feels like U2 finding their good streak again, whilst ‘Cedarwood Road’ adds a delicate acoustic guitar riff to the normally spacious and airy music which balances well with the normally effects laden music.
“Songs of Innocence” sounds like U2 in their early days, but more mature, with inspiration from today’s music meaning it doesn’t sound aged. No, it isn’t fantastic and it’s songs likely won’t be remembered in as bright a light as classics like ‘One’ and ‘With Or Without You’ will but it’s still a reflective evolution of the band’s career, whilst continuing to move forward musically. The influence of the modern era can sometimes hold it back, sometimes sounding as though it’s playing catch up with what’s popular. But their willingness to escape ego of what is “U2‘s sound” and advance it is what makes them a great band.
Verdict – 7/10 – It’s enjoyable but missing that divine spark.