Album Review: U2 - Songs Of Innocence

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Reviewing the new U2 album is quite a loaded endeavor because one would have to review the current state of the music industry in order for the reader to understand this album's magnitude.

But saving you the hundreds of paragraphs that would take, let's simply tell you this: When U2 decided to surprise-release Songs Of Innocence last month via including it on millions of iTunes users' iClouds (finally figured out what the iCloud is, thanks U2!), U2 unknowingly shot themselves in the leg.

Instead of the focus being on the music, countless critics, comedians and social media "experts" instantly tore the record apart like a group of hyenas attacking a gazelle.

Say what you will about the release method, it was an experiment and it didn't work the way U2 wanted. Silver lining? The world got to see Bono and company exhibit a certain self-depricating humor in the wake of the album release.

U2 rarely screws up (sans 1997's Pop Mart tour and accompanying passion-less "Pop" album) so we are used to seeing the stoic, bespectacled and quite Shamanistic side of Bono.

Well, the guys are trying to get past this moment in their history. The album is now off the iCloud, in stores with a physical copy and a new (slightly creepy) album cover.

So forget the release debacle, how are the tunes? Empty Lighthouse readers should know this fact, that U2 are one of the longest-running bands containing all original members. Only ZZ Top and a few others have them beat in this arena. The four lads got together in 1976 and are approaching forty years together with no break-ups, no deaths, no overdoses, no Scientology, no members giving it all up to become farmers. So that should instantly garner your respect.

Also, few bands have had as many rebirths. After years of arena rock domination, they resurfaced in 1991 with the game-changing electro-rock of Achtung Baby.

Then, in 2000, they reversed that move by releasing the back-to-basics All That You Can't Leave Behind after years of wallowing in the electro-rock wilderness.

Songs Of Innocence finds U2 at neither one of those extremes, instead they sound like they are comfortable with their sound, in their skin and the way that the guys pretty much gave birth to Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Kings Of Leon and dozens of other huge current bands.

Lead track "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" immediately catches you with its hook and then reels you in with U2's respect for their own ancestors. But remember this: Patti Smith and The Ramones were at one point contemporaries of U2's.

One must remember that U2 began as a scrappy post-punk band hugely indebted to Joy Division (who's influence on this album weighs rather heavily.) "California (There Is No End To Love) it's a righteous anthem of devotion, something the guys are no strangers to.

"Song For Someone" is the album's deepest ballad, sounding as though it would have fit perfectly in the Reagan 80's during the whole AIDS scare.

The guys also make sure that there are plenty of rockers. "Volcano" and "Raised By Wolves" pummel with the loud ringing guitars we have come to expect from The Edge. " "Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" is a stand out: all brooding synths and loops with The Edge's guitar turned to a fuzzy sludge pulp and Bono singing a lullaby.

After nearly forty years, U2 still knows how to get us to talk about them.

The only problem being that it should be about the music and not the disastrous release experiment. Songs Of Innocence by U2 gets 4 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.