FOR more than a decade U2 have been mostly maligned for lacking the passion of their halycon ‘80s or the adventure of their experimental ‘90s.
The decision in 2014 to distribute their album Songs Of Innocence for free to all Apple iTunes customers meant the music was heard by 81 million people in the first month of release, but was critically panned and even described as musical “junk mail.”
The companion album Songs Of Experience has been released through traditional means and overall is a stronger record than its predecessor.
Lyrically the album is based around a collection of letters from Bono to people and places he loves. Among the most touching moments is Landlady when he sings, “And I'll never know, never know what starving poets meant/'Cause when I was broke, it was you that always paid the rent.”
Red Flag Day is another highlight. When the chorus soars it almost sounds like New Year’s Day and The Showman (Little More Better) is a jubilant Group Love-style slice of pop.
Yet overall there’s nothing to hold a candle to U2’s greatest glories. There’s obvious attempts to re-write their classic flag-waving anthems on Lights Of Home and Get Out Of Your Own Way, but they feel like inferior versions of The Joshua Tree.
Even Kendrick Lamar, the coolest man in hip-hop, couldn’t make American Soul sound dangerous. The Edge’s fuzzed guitar riff and Bono’s plead of “you and I, are rock’n’roll” doesn’t feel very rock’n’roll.
Songs Of Experience plays to U2’s stadium-rock strengths, but hasn’t re-sparked their once unforgettable fire.