After seven days, and now countless listens, I have come to the rather painful conclusion that Songs Of Innocence ranks dead last for me out of U2’s thirteen albums. There isn’t a single track that captured what I really love about them. It feels like a collection of 11 slapped-together, meandering B-sides, or early drafts of better work. Nothing aims high in the way their best songs do. It’s a solid album overall, and I’m sure I’ll pull it out and give it another spin every now and then, but there are no new favorites, and no insta-classics. This probably was intentional, considering how high-reaching, and over-importance tends to be what non-fans hate most about them. Maybe they figured that this was the time to reign it in a bit. But couldn’t they have at least put together one memorable tune in this sea of middling tracks?
For a band that’s always been vague enough with their lyrics that people could come up with numerous interpretations of the meanings of their songs, I was surprised by how straight story are they are here. Make no mistake about it. This album is about them, and their experiences. There really isn’t a single track with any kind of ambiguity. And that’s not a complaint. That’s fine. I appreciated that. I just wish the melodies could have been more interesting, instead of mostly pale imitations of their former work. And when they aren’t imitating their former work, the new stuff they come up with just isn’t particularly memorable. Or worse, they deceive you into thinking they’re doing something new, but then fall right back into the same predictable groove.
This could mean that those who aren’t big fans of theirs may end up appreciating Innocence, but for me, after 5 1/2 years of waiting, I felt pretty cheated, and dismayed. But hey, they’ve been together for 38 years. They have 13 albums in their repertoire. If they’re deciding that now is the time to go into their “Greatest Hits” phase, I think that’s perfectly okay. But it is sad to think that the days of the quality of Boy, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Pop (which is an amazing album, I will fight anyone who tries to challenge me on that) and All That You Can’t Leave Behind are probably behind them.
Just to be clear again though. I didn’t hate it. It’s a solid work, but it doesn’t take any real chances. Say what you will about No Line On The Horizon. At least they were aiming for something. To me, that makes for a far more interesting listen.