U2
Songs of Experience


2.7
average

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
December 5th, 2017 | 58 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: William Blake rolls over in his grave, uninstalls iTunes

U2, as taken for granted since 2000, deal in big, big-sounding declarations of bigness. Their canvas is devoid of a centre or legitimate meaning, but splattered with enough colour and hung up so goddamn high it's hard for eyes to wander. To their credit, that's what they know how to do, and vagueisms rarely sound as competently pleasant as they do from U2's mouths. All we're left wondering is what the band is supposed to have learned since their innocence was plastered across the world's iTunes accounts three years ago.

Well, they've learned to make a slightly better Songs of Innocence, whose first half was so formless the audio files nearly dissolved into mist. This gained knowledge still can't bring us back to the level of No Line on the Horizon, where traces of The Unforgettable Fire's quietly experimental U2 poked their heads above the ground, bedraggled survivors having barely weathered the bland pop onslaught of 2000. For about nine songs, Experience is good: "Get Out Of Your Own Way" and "American Soul" make for a catchy two-parter, both strengthened by the smooth transition courtesy of Kendrick Lamar, while "The Little Things That Give You Away" marries sweet pop with an almost post-rock sensibility a la "City of Blinding Lights", allowing Edge to build from gentle twinkles to a classic delay-powered onslaught. Straight after, the truly gormless one-two of "Landlady" and "The Blackout" allows Bono to clean out his backlog of clunkiest rhymes, but it wouldn't be a U2 album without some filler clogging up the tracklist.

"We came here lookin' for American soul", Bono declares over a great chorus pasted over from the bridge of "Volcano". Okay, all well and good – but that's the third time in as many years, so I guess they didn't find it on Rattle and Hum or "Bullet the Blue Sky". I wouldn't give this a second thought, except that Songs of Experience is so naively, childishly convinced that it's wizened and adult. The childhood focus of Innocence managed to wrench up some fossils of Bono's personality, especially on "The Troubles", and glad as I am that Adam Clayton has awoken from a 17-year hibernation to dispel that room-temperature water musicality, it's a shame the echo of emotion didn't carry over.

No one ever needed U2 to be the big political statement band. Actually, as "Moment of Surrender" and "Stuck in a Moment" seemed tacitly aware, their best tunes feel like frozen instants, little memories snuck out of time and smothered in amber. An abused woman buying cigarettes at a 7/11; the moon shining down on One Tree Hill; a black car pulling up outside Bono's childhood home after his mother's death. There is only one such human moment here, when "There Is a Light" reprises and improves "Song for Someone" – the latter a deeply mediocre cut which gave us one of Bono's greatest pieces of unintended comedy, "you've got a face/not spoiled by beauty". Simple-n-dumb highlights "You're the Best Thing About Me" and "The Showman" suggest a version of the band who could broaden their musical scope – a little more vocoder, throw Edge some more bridges, release that No Line sister album, anything - while just allowing themselves to be stupid fun. ("The Showman" wrestles a serviceable hook out of "baby you look so good/little more better", which is pretty impressive in spite of itself). But a few good songs don't stop the Innocence/Experience thing stinking of an Apple-funded gimmick to appeal to the poetry-loving college crowd; especially when it was encapsulated flawlessly on "An Cat Dubh"/"Into the Heart", wait for it, nearly forty fucking years ago. Somewhere in England, William Blake rolls over in his grave, downs a coffee and puts Allen Ginsberg on his iPod instead. You'd probably be well served doing the same.



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user ratings (79)
Chart.
2.7
average
other reviews of this album
Ollie7475 (3)
it's fine...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


39516 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

U2 x Jaden Smith when

Digging: Glassjaw - Material Control

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2017


15803 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

"thankfully it's a good album"



and here we are, at last

Digging: George Russell - Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2017


15803 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Glancing over this, this kind of reads more like a solid 2 than a 2.7. Nicely put, however.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


39516 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

more like a solid U2*



fixed

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2017


15803 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

My god, what have I done?

Dewinged
December 5th 2017


7041 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

That summary LOL!



Edit: Also "No one ever needed to U2 to be the big political." It reads weird to me Row.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


39516 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

you're right, that was a mistake. good eye dewi

Pho3nix
December 5th 2017


381 Comments


Nice review, +1

ProjectFreak
December 5th 2017


2252 Comments


The Little Things That Give You Away

actually if U2 was going to cover any Linkin Park song it would be that one

(also review is good ofc)

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2017


5979 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

are Oranges Oranges or just irish ranges?



album is a predictable bore, review is lovely, Row..

onionbubs
December 5th 2017


7021 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

great review. this is already starting to wane on me but ill keep the rating for now. the good songs outweigh the bad ones, even tho they still mostly pale to the high points off their albums up to even like no line

Digging: Jimmy Eat World - Invented

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


16938 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

For me this gets better with every listen. It's their most diverse and ambitious of their 00s albums, besides No Line.

Digging: Tom Rogerson with Brian Eno - Finding Shore

onionbubs
December 5th 2017


7021 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

this album is like a 3.2-3.3 i just dont know if id rather round up or down

ashcrash9
December 5th 2017


2850 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah I was feeling very similar to this review on my first listen (though I personally think its back half is stronger) but it's only grown on me since



EDIT: album's prob a 3.4 for me, close enough

onionbubs
December 5th 2017


7021 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

ive only heard it like thrice tbf. ill give it more spins eventually

ChaoticVortex
December 5th 2017


513 Comments


That summary made me LOL.

clavier
December 5th 2017


472 Comments


What a summary (and what a nice review)

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 5th 2017


20133 Comments


best summary yes

rodrigo90
December 5th 2017


3451 Comments


Allmusic reviewer agrees with that rating so all the sites have the same perspective of U2.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 5th 2017


39516 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

lol @Project I nearly went for the Linkin Park joke but it was just lengthening the review out... glad to know someone else's mind went there though



Ash I actually liked this way more on my first listen and then it bored me more each subsequent one, so different strokes I guess



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