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U2 - Songs of Innocence

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A letter from Bono on U2.com.

 

 

 

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. 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… 

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My response about halfway through:

 

 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Also, I'm with Jeff--my booklet was corrupted. I'm really curious to see the liner notes. 

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The liner notes are pretty extensive. It's a full booklet with photos plus a rather lengthy essay by Bono (not the same as what is posted on U2.com).

 

The production credits are massive, too. Lots of people worked on this, although it doesn't sound overproduced the way Atomic Bomb does. Just an example, on track 1 alone there are FIVE keyboard players: Bono, Edge, Brian Burton, Paul Epworth and Ryan Tedder. Good grief.

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Anybody know if Keith Richards stepped into the studio on THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN REACH ME NOW?  I got a definite Rolling Stones vibe from the intro...   very MONKEY MANish. 

Really enjoyed this album.  As Jeffrey said, my favorite first listen since POP.  Now listening to it for a second time.

Anyone know if they've announced the titles of the four additional songs that will be on the October CD release?

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Anyone know if they've announced the titles of the four additional songs that will be on the October CD release?

There are four bonus tracks PLUS acoustic versions of some of the album tracks.

 

From U2.com:

On October 13th the physical release of Songs of Innocence comes with a 24-page booklet. A deluxe, gatefold double album, contains an acoustic session of songs from the album and four additional tracks: Lucifer's Hands, The Crystal Ballroom, The Troubles (Alternative version) and Sleep Like a Baby Tonight (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake) 

The album will also be available as a gatefold, double white-vinyl LP with an exclusive remix of "The Crystal Ballroom". 

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I listened to this a couple of times yesterday evening, and continue to be grateful for it.

 

I wanted to make note of Danger Mouse's work here, and that of the other producers. I've been rather critical of Danger Mouse's work on the "Ordinary Love" and "Invisible" singles, and I stand by that criticism, but I think his achievement on this LP is significant. As Morgan noted, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen-- a huge list of production credits for each song-- yet the album doesn't feel nearly as overcooked, as relentlessly fussed-over as the last couple have. (And truly, that was my biggest complaint about both previous U2 albums.)

 

God knows Bono and Co. tinker with their songs endlessly, but this album has an appealing looseness to it that's been missing on their more recent work. That looseness may be an illusion, of sorts, but it's no less alluring because of it.

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Greg P   

In the minority here, I guess. I find this incredibly boring. The bones of these songs are really, really flimsy-- the hackneyed progressions following predictable anthemic, almost Hillsongish, changes. Sheesh, "Song for Someone" evokes Taylor Swift. Melodically speaking, I know exactly where each song is going within about ten seconds. "Raised by Wolves" and "Cedarwood Road"  bring some much needed powerchord heat, but we have to wait nearly 30 minutes for the thaw. Say what you want about some of the gloppy production of Atomic Bomb or Horizon, both of those albums had a smattering of enduring tunes, particularly Bomb. This ultimately strikes me as perhaps their most forgettable album. 

Edited by Greg P

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God knows Bono and Co. tinker with their songs endlessly, but this album has an appealing looseness to it that's been missing on their more recent work. That looseness may be an illusion, of sorts, but it's no less alluring because of it.

 

This is exactly how I feel. Production credits aside, this album sounds less calculated and more off-the-cuff. It doesn't sound like something that's been labored over and continuously reinvented over 5+ years. The rawness may be an illusion, as you say, but the overall effect is amazing. I feel like I should take back some of the snarky comments I made about Ryan Tedder.

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"... their best and most thematically complete album since Achtung Baby." - Mojo

 

After six listens and a late night reading lyrics and figuring out how the songs all fit together, I'm leaning in the direction of agreeing (although I think the highs of Pop and Zooropa go higher).

 

This track-by-track consideration has some good notes.

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That Mojo review isn't the only one to call this a "concept album." It really is thematically complete and that's part of what makes it so memorable.

 

Bono has written lots of songs about his mother, from "I Will Follow" to "Tomorrow" to "Lemon" to "Mofo." But "Iris," positioned among songs about growing up in Dublin and marrying his high school sweetheart, has an acute impact. It's gorgeous in this context.

 

And although it doesn't fit as neatly with the "concept album" idea compared to the other songs, I'm enamored with "Every Breaking Wave." It might be the most slickly produced song on the album, and it originated in the NLOTH sessions, but I love the way it finally landed. The live versions on the 360 Tour were gorgeous, but this new chorus takes it to a different level.

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I'm drawn to "Every Breaking Wave" as well. To my ears, it's the closest thing here to a classic U2 throwback, yet it's a lot more appealing to me than-- just to be random here-- "City of Blinding Light," "Miracle Drug," "Magnificent," or some other recent entries in this category. And I think a lot of that comes back to the comparatively light touch on the production, as well as to Bono's focused songwriting.

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I'm drawn to "Every Breaking Wave" as well. To my ears, it's the closest thing here to a classic U2 throwback, yet it's a lot more appealing to me than-- just to be random here-- "City of Blinding Light," "Miracle Drug," "Magnificent," or some other recent entries in this category. And I think a lot of that comes back to the comparatively light touch on the production, as well as to Bono's focused songwriting.

 

To me this song has huge hit single potential, but in the way "With or Without You" was a hit single, not in the gimmicky guitar riffs of "Vertigo" or "Get on Your Boots."

 

Also, I can just imagine this song live, with Bono pointing the microphone at the crowd encouraging them to sing "If you go," and then bringing the mic back to himself for "If you go your way and I go miiiiiine." That. Will. Be. Awesome.  :)

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Greg P   

A friend's FB post today:

 

if the true purpose of the new free U2 album is to make me question whether i even like music anymore, then it's a masterpiece

 

And then there's this.

 

A polarizing album already. I listened to it a second time this afternoon, because U2 is very near and dear to my heart. It not only didn't "take", but it left a sort of lousy aftertaste. 

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I totally get why some may not find their way into this music, but the mean-spiritedness of that Sasha Frere-Jones piece is really offputting. There's no effort being made to engage the music, or to open up to what it might have to offer-- so what's the point?

 

Incidentally, it's one of several articles or Facebook posts I've seen suggesting that it's somehow off-limits or in poor taste for U2 to sing a song about Joey Ramone, who-- it is well-known-- was a personal friend and mutual appreciator of Bono's. What am I missing here? Why is this so grievous?

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I used to enjoy Frere-Jones. He's perfectly welcome to dislike the record, but that's the ugliest, most hateful shit-smearing of a band I've ever seen from a professional critic. It's the equal and opposite piece of irrationality to that hilariously worshipful Paste review of Coldplay's X&Y that said the album had just "soared past" everything the Beatles had ever recorded. You don't like the album or the way it was delivered? Fine. But he's so obviously prejudiced against the whole thing from the beginning that he has no credibility,  and all he does is spew vitriol. What a nasty piece of work. That's the last time I bother with his opinion of anything.

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Greg P   

Incidentally, it's one of several articles or Facebook posts I've seen suggesting that it's somehow off-limits or in poor taste for U2 to sing a song about Joey Ramone, who-- it is well-known-- was a personal friend and mutual appreciator of Bono's. What am I missing here? Why is this so grievous?

I don't think the tribute is in poor taste, but the glossy, corporate spirit of their tune stands in direct contrast with the spirit of this. Invoking Joey in that ultra-safe, pop setting is tantamount to sacrilege for many of us.   

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Incidentally, it's one of several articles or Facebook posts I've seen suggesting that it's somehow off-limits or in poor taste for U2 to sing a song about Joey Ramone, who-- it is well-known-- was a personal friend and mutual appreciator of Bono's. What am I missing here? Why is this so grievous?

I don't think the tribute is in poor taste, but the glossy, corporate spirit of their tune stands in direct contrast with the spirit of this. Invoking Joey in that ultra-safe, pop setting is tantamount to sacrilege for many of us.   

 

If the argument is just that U2 is not The Ramones, well, I don't disagree. They're not a rough, rugged, punk rock band, and at this point I don't imagine they even could be: That window closed a long time ago. But I think their affection for Joey Ramone is sincere, and I think they're expressing it in a way that's true to them; I'd like to think Joey would be touched by it, but who could say?

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Greg P   

 

 

Incidentally, it's one of several articles or Facebook posts I've seen suggesting that it's somehow off-limits or in poor taste for U2 to sing a song about Joey Ramone, who-- it is well-known-- was a personal friend and mutual appreciator of Bono's. What am I missing here? Why is this so grievous?

I don't think the tribute is in poor taste, but the glossy, corporate spirit of their tune stands in direct contrast with the spirit of this. Invoking Joey in that ultra-safe, pop setting is tantamount to sacrilege for many of us.   

 

If the argument is just that U2 is not The Ramones, well, I don't disagree. They're not a rough, rugged, punk rock band, and at this point I don't imagine they even could be: That window closed a long time ago. But I think their affection for Joey Ramone is sincere, and I think they're expressing it in a way that's true to them; I'd like to think Joey would be touched by it, but who could say?

 

There are any number of ways a tribute to Joey could work-- and for the record, i always thought the posthumous association of "In a Little While" worked just fine in that regard. Joey loved the song and drew his final breath to it's lilting strains. Perfect.

 

But the pedestrian riffing and top-40 chant chorus of the "The Miracle" pushes the incongruity and my tolerance to the absolute brink. It's not only NOT the Ramones-- which of course U2 have never been, and that's fine-- but it has power chords and it doesn't even remotely ROCK. The fact that THIS is the tribute Joey gets-- Joey, the really awkward singer with Marfan's who was never really cool, who probably got laid only a handful of times in his entire life, who never saw his band's shirts for sale in Old Navy, who influenced countless massively successful bands, but who died fairly broke in a NY hospital (without insurance? tried to fact check this claim i remember hearing when he died-- could be wrong) Achh! Sorry, the punk in me will never die. The affront is just too much, Mr Hewson. (edit: and let me clear, the song is bad enough on its own, but it's impiossible not to hear it in the context which the music is being delivered to us. Insert global launch/marketing event diatribe. This was all so Gene Simmons)

Edited by Greg P

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I noticed this morning that Rolling Stone gave the album a 5-star review, and I anticipated that it would be naked hero worship-- the opposite of the Frere-Jones piece, and nearly as pointless. To my surprise-- and although I don't think this is a 5-star record by any stretch of the imagination-- there's actually some substance to this review:

 

 

Songs of Innocence is aptly named, after William Blake's 1789 collection of poems about man's perpetually great age of discovery – childhood. For the first time, after decades of looking abroad for inspiration – to American frontier spirituality, Euro-dance-party irony and historic figures of protest such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela – Bono, the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. have taken the long way 'round to metamorphosis: turning back and inward, for the first time on a whole record, to their lives and learning as boys on the way to uncertain manhood (and their band) in Dublin.

...

This album was famous, long before release, for its broken deadlines and the indecision suggested by its multiple producers: Brian Burton a/k/a Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth of Adele fame and Ryan Tedder of the pop band One Republic. Those credits are misleading. Burton, Epworth and Tedder all co-produced "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" and contributed keyboards; that's Epworth on the additional slide guitar in "Cedarwood Road"; and Burton arranged the chorale in "Volcano." But the extra hands and textures are thoroughly embedded in the memoir. There is no time when the telling sounds like it was more than the work of the four who lived it.

 

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Josh Hurst wrote:
: They're not a rough, rugged, punk rock band, and at this point I don't imagine they even could be: That window closed a long time ago.

 

As a longtime Daniel Amos fan (and Larry Mullen Jr wears a DA badge in one of U2's earlier publicity photos), this is a very odd thing to read. DA had no problem going from super-produced fantasia pop sounds or whatever (Motor Cycle, for example) to "rough, rugged" stuff like the album Bible Land. A band should be able to follow its muse wherever it leads ... unless, I guess, its muse is audience expectations.

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Josh Hurst wrote:

: They're not a rough, rugged, punk rock band, and at this point I don't imagine they even could be: That window closed a long time ago.

 

As a longtime Daniel Amos fan (and Larry Mullen Jr wears a DA badge in one of U2's earlier publicity photos), this is a very odd thing to read. DA had no problem going from super-produced fantasia pop sounds or whatever (Motor Cycle, for example) to "rough, rugged" stuff like the album Bible Land. A band should be able to follow its muse wherever it leads ... unless, I guess, its muse is audience expectations.

 

I think audience expectations have a lot to do with it, in U2's case. It's not that I think they're incapable of it as musicians; I think they're incapable, at this point, of truly letting their guard down and doing something raw, something not calculated to project a certain image.

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Pitchfork's fairly nasty review includes some comments on the album's distribution method that are a little questionable to me, but some of its criticisms are actually thoughtful and worth entertaining:

 

 

Accordingly, the music itself aims for a one-size-fits-all, vaguely inspirational tone, with a lean approach to details despite the press kit assertion that it’s all “very, very personal.” So a song about Bono meeting his wife is given the non-committal title of “Song for Someone”, and a song called “The Troubles” isn’t a callback to the prolonged Northern Ireland conflict that inspired their first great song, but a bunch of self-pitying platitudes (which uses guest Lykke Li to mimic adult-contempo Duran Duran hit “Come Undone”). Even Bono’s opening love letter to Joey Ramone is only given specificity by the title’s parenthetical, a generic “last night a [fill-in-the-blank] changed my life” tale that could be adapted to the idol of your choosing. It’s all emotional content left intentionally formless, vaingloriously hoping to fit around the experiences of millions.

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Always a good thing, to write off a song because of its title.

 

A bunch of self-pitying platitudes? Really?

 

I believe "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" could be "adapted" to millions' of people's spiritual journeys.

 

I don't read criticisms here that they couldn't have applied (in a similarly lazy way) to songs on October or War.

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