Following in Beyonce‘s footsteps, U2 dropped a surprise album during Apple’s latest gadget presentation. Songs Of Innocence will be free on iTunes for a few weeks to any subscriber! Pretty cool. While they shocked us just like Queen Bey, they unfortunately don’t shock us with the quality of the album. Beyonce’s album will probably lead her to a triumph at the Grammys next February. I wouldn’t say the same thing about this album.
This is U2’s (unlucky?) 13th studio album, so their music is bound to lose some of its luster. They have employed Danger Mouse and Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic‘s lead singer who also produced tracks on Beyonce’s album) to help invigorate things, and they do in the beginning. Things start on a rockin’ good note with “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”. You can hear the excitement in Bono‘s voice about hearing the punk rocker for the first time. “Every Breaking Wave” is a grown-up ballad, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard from the veteran band before.
“California (There Is No End To Love)” has an interesting slow-build chant that opens the track. It’s an energetic song about the boys’ first trip to the Golden State. The acoustic “Song For Someone” has a sweet innocence about discovering love when Bono was 12 (that’s when he met his wife), then builds to a “Walk On”-like crescendo. The emotionally-heavy “Iris (Hold Me Close)” works to a certain extent, but the repetitive chorus for the 5-min+ song gets annoying.
The boys get back to rockin’ out on “Volcano” but it doesn’t produce anything memorable. The most interesting song on the album is “Raised By Wolves”. With its aggressive guitar riff, it’s a track that teases you. You’re waiting for it to explode like a ticking timebomb, which is appropriate since the song is about a car-bombing in Dublin. “Cedarwood Road” doesn’t make an impression, while “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” is the bang-on title for this track because it will put you to sleep. Yawn.
Things pick back up with “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”, and end on a strong note on “The Troubles” featuring Lykke Li. The band rarely does collaborations so it’s nice to hear them think outside their box. You just wish they did that more often on Songs Of Innocence. While there’s nothing wrong with any of the tracks, too much of it sounds like the band is on automatic pilot. Lyrically, this is a very emotional album, but with such a unique release, I would like to hear some of that originality in the production on the album as well.