Music’s Prodigal Sons, U2, have returned with their first new album in more than five years, Songs Of Innocence. Released on September 9th as a five week iTunes exclusive, all 500 million iTunes account holders in 119 countries received the album for free in their account within 24 hours. The album will be released physically to all retailers on October 14th on standard CD and deluxe CD and LP with extra tracks on a double album.
During the past week, rumors leaked that the band would make a special appearance at Apple’s unveiling of the new iPhone and Apple Watch in Cupertino. Those rumors were squashed repeatedly by the band’s reps and label execs who tried to keep it under wraps. All, of course, to keep the element of surprise when the band not only showed up, but performed its new and catchy single “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” and joined Apple CEO Tim Cook on stage to make the album announcement.
“To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers,” Bono tells fans as he reintroduces the band on their official website. “Free, but paid for. Because if no-one’s paying anything for it, we’re not sure ‘free’ music is really that free. It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music… all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them.”
And what a gift it was. Fans have been eagerly awaiting Songs since a follow-up to 2009’s No Line On The Horizon, known as Songs Of Ascent, was announced shortly after its release in March 2009. While the band failed to deliver the companion album, fans will not be disappointed in Songs Of Innocence as the band returns to the punk rock roots of their early (and glory) days.
Since Achtung Baby in 1991, the band has focused more on electronic and pop music than punk and rock. While the band gained a presence among the younger teen crowd during the first decade of the 2000’s with pop hits like “Beautiful Day,” “Vertigo” and “Get On Your Boots,” Songs no doubt draws more from the band’s rock foundation of the 1980s, resembling more of The Joshua Tree (1987) and the much underrated and ever elusive Rattle & Hum (1988) — which compiled a mix of studio tracks recorded during the time and live gems from The Joshua Tree Tour — than the EDM of today.
From the album’s opening number of “The Miracle” to it’s closing track, “The Troubles,” Bono’s voice sounds better than ever. The singer sounds young and vibrant and passionate although the album’s main subject — the band’s youth — takes listeners through some light and dark subjects, including the foursome’s first arrival to California. The singer even throws in some false setto (remember “Lemon” from Zooropa?) which he can still nail at 54 years of age. The Edge’s guitar playing returns to what defined U2’s music in the 80s — ambient, chiming and rhythmic. Many licks even reign in the style of “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Clayton’s bass thumps and drives the band while Mullen pulsates the drums with his iconic groovy beats.
U2 may have been absent for awhile, but they are back and with lot of fanfare surrounding them! They have been trending on social media for two days and more than a half a billion people received their album automatically with 24 hours of its release — a first in music. Long time fans will love the new music, and fans who have yet to experience “the biggest band in the world” can now do so without costing them a cent.
If you haven’t yet, I highly suggest you take advantage of Apple’s gift and either download the new album or stream it on iTunes Radio or Beats Music sometime during the next five weeks. Then, you need to look up Boy, October, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Rattle & Hum and, yes, even Achtung Baby to fully appreciate what the band has to offer (and understand this review better). If that convinces you to explore more of their music, then feel free to find their latter albums and buy or stream them. I also suggest you check out a live concert film (or two or three or four) and experience the band like never before.
Despite releasing two singles (“Ordinary Love” and “Invisible“) over the last year and several false hopes for the new album sooner than later, Bono and Co have succeeded the reinvention they were hoping which is sure to put them at the top of the charts — however that is handled with this unconventional release — and playing to stadiums full of fans who are ready to experience the new tunes live next summer.
“I think you can expect a major tour starting next summer that will in every way be what people expect of U2 – groundbreaking, unique and world-beating,” former U2 manager Paul McGuiness tells The Hot Press.
Fans looking for more U2 music may be in luck. Shortly after releasing Songs Of Innocence on Tuesday, Bono took to the band’s website to state that a follow up album is in the works.
“We’re collaborating with Apple on some cool stuff over the next couple of years, innovations that will transform the way music is listened to and viewed,” he writes. “We’ll keep you posted. If you like Songs of Innocence, stay with us for Songs of Experience. It should be ready soon enough… although I know I’ve said that before.”
So, perhaps a pair of companion albums from U2 will see the light of day after all. Hopefully not before too long as Bono stated on Tuesday that they recorded five different albums over the last several years, but decided not to release any of them. How cool would a boxed set of these tracks be? I won’t get my hopes up of seeing that happen any time soon or ever, but I will enjoy these 11 songs until I can get my hands on a copy of the Deluxe Edition that features four extra tracks and acoustic versions of some of Songs‘ tracks. Perhaps a retailer exclusive or two will pop up as many, like Target, may refuse to carry the set since it wasn’t initially available everywhere at once.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.