U2 Songs of Experience

The new U2 album, Songs of Experience, came out today. For the last several U2 albums, I’ve blogged my impressions as I listen to the album for the very first time.

It’s a silly thing to do because I’m not very good at writing about music. But I like capturing my first impressions and then coming back later to laugh at my first take.

So here we go…

  1. Love Is All We Have Left – Weird slow intro. The reverb vocals are even weirder. Sets a unique tone for the album, thought not sure I like it.
  2. Lights of Home – Sonic shift from that opener. Seems to have a different feel from what I expect from a U2 song. I like the chorus better than the verses. “Free yourself to be yourself” bridge with the piano is interesting.
  3. You’re the Best Thing About Me – This is kind of a weird pop-rocker hybrid. Initially it struck me as so-so, but it’s growing on me. (This came out early as the first single, so hearing it again now with the album, it feels more familiar and I’m definitely liking it more.) “I’m the kind of trouble that you enjoy.”
  4. Get Out Of Your Own Way – The intro music feels so U2. The intro vocals are a little weird and breathy… ah, there’s Bono. The breathy part of the “Get out of your own way” in the chorus is kind of weird… and that’s a mouthful.. but the rest of the chorus is great. I like the repeats. “Nothing’s stopping you except what’s inside, I could help you but it’s your fight.” Hearing this again (it was released early), I like the rhythm in the verses. This feels like a quiet favorite.
  5. American Soul – The beginning of this does not sound like U2 at all. That guitar sounds a little more U2, but it’s different. I like it. The chorus sounds like another U2 song, I can’t place which one though.
  6. Summer of Love – This is slower and somehow more melodic. I liked the bridge, I was waiting for some soaring vocals but we barely got those. Meh.
  7. Red Flag Day – Seems like a very different album rhythmically, and I don’t mean drums and base but the rhythm of the vocals. This one feels catchy.
  8. The Showman (Little More Better) – Nice: “Singers cry about everything.” This reminds me of a song I hear on the radio and think, “That’s dumb, I don’t like it.” Some phrasing or the way they sing something seems annoying. But they keep playing it, and I start to like it. I don’t get that feeling often from a U2 song, but this song is totally it.
  9. The Little Things That Give You Away – This is the slow verse U2 song that’s itching to turn into an anthem on the chorus. We get hints on the first chorus, we’ll see if it picks up as it goes. The bridge sounds familiar (like another U2 song I can’t place). Now it’s picking up. I’m curious to see how this one holds up to repeat listens.
  10. Landlady – This song really didn’t catch my attention, until the last minute or so. That part felt catchy. Otherwise meh.
  11. The Blackout – The beginning sounds like several different old U2 songs (again, I can’t place them). Love the bass. I love these driving rockers. Second verse, is this about Trump? Seems like this one will be better live.
  12. Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way – Sometimes it’s just interesting to hear U2 make music. They’re trying to do new things, not just cranking out more U2-sounding songs. That doesn’t always work. This song feels like that kind of experimentation. Parts of it work, parts of it don’t. Parts of it feel familiar, parts of it feel unique.
  13. 13 (There Is a Light) – Is this our quiet album closer? The chorus is super familiar—where have I heard this before? Is this a reprise of another song? Oh there, it is, “A Song for Someone” from the last album. Interesting choice there—I’ll need to compare these versions.

It’s always hard to judge a new album after hearing it for the first time. Am I liking it just because it’s U2? Is it initially catchy but won’t last?

I think it’s fair to say U2’s last several albums haven’t been major hits. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb seems like the last one I thought, yeah, I like that. No Line On the Horizon still feels kind of fuzzy in my mind (what are the hit songs? None? “Moment of Surrender” and “Magnificent” are my favorites, but probably not hits). Songs of Innocence likewise felt short on hits (though “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” got radio play and is probably my favorite).

Songs of Experience feels lacking in a signature single. I like “The Blackout,” but other songs feel like they’ll need to grow on me.

We’ll have to revisit these thoughts and see how wrong I am. (My previous takes on Songs of Innocence, No Line on the Horizon, and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.)

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