Tuesday, May 1, 2018

U2 - Songs Of Experience

Critics have been debating whether U2 deserves its lofty status ever since Rolling Stone writer Debra Rae Cohen claimed while reviewing Boy in 1981 that it didn’t mark the band as a “new Next Big Thing.” They were, in her estimation, “only the next best thing to something really new.” Decades of landmark albums and massive sales later, U2 suffered a backlash after distributing a free download of Songs Of Innocence.

For the most part, Songs of Experience arrived without controversy in 2017, garnering favorable press even from the journalists who slammed its predecessor. For those of us who not only graciously accepted Innocence but enjoyed it, Experience serves as further evidence that U2 remains a vital force in rock and roll. It’s an ambitious 17-track effort, that like Innocence, finds lead vocalist Bono trying to make sense of a violent world.

At times, the lyrics serve as a pep talk for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the menacing forces they see around them. “Don’t you ever doubt the light that we can really be,” Bono advises amidst the otherwise dire references in the pulsating techno rocker “The Blackout.” That same healing light metaphor also appears on “Lights Of Home,” and on “13 (There Is A Light).” The catchy, bass-driven “Summer Of Love” offers lines like, “We’ve one more chance before the light goes.”

The call to action on the hard-edged “American Soul” directly addresses the U.S. with lines like,“Let it be unity/Let it be community/For refugees like you and me.” “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” seems to anticipate the youth movement that sprang up only recently. “So young to be the words of your own song,” Bono observes, “I know the rage in you is strong/Write a world where we can belong.”

“Get Out Of Your Own Way” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me,” the songs that have garnered the most airplay from Experience, relate more to personal relationships. They succeed with the classic U2 elements—Bono’s soaring vocals and The Edge’s shimmering guitar playing. The remixed versions of “Lights Of Home,” with its dramatic string arrangement, and the hip hop infused “You’re The Best Thing About Me (U2 VS KYGO)” make Songs Of Experience even more of an adventure.

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