Review a u2 album review

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Review a u2 album review
« on: April 10, 2020, 09:16:00 PM »
I'll whack up u2 album reviews from different sources - some glowing, some less so, some slating an album...

The idea is for us to dissect the reviews pulling out what we think are really good points, and discussing them - looking into what we think are unfair or bad points and anything else we find interesting in the reviews and discussing those points, their context etc...

First up is a review from The Guardian of SOI.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/sep/11/u2-songs-of-innocence-review



Full text in case anyone can't access link:


U2: Songs of Innocence review – listenable, but not the grand return they clearly crave.

3 out of 5 stars

Even in an age in which we’ve grown accustomed to artists giving away their albums for free or suddenly unleashing them without warning, the arrival of U2’s Songs of Innocence feels slightly curious. It was announced, minutes before its release, at Apple’s Keynote Presentations: Bono and the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, indulging in some scripted “hey-why-don’t-we-do-the-show-right-here” banter so teeth-gritting it seems a miracle no one in the audience of assembled geeks tried to bludgeon themselves into insensibility with an iPad before its end. U2 and Apple – the latter footing the bill – don’t seem to have released the album so much as foisted it upon half-a-billion people: if you have an iTunes account, it is there in your “purchased” folder.

Whether this amounts to an act of great munificence, or the musical equivalent of a unsolicited email offering safe and fast penis enlargement, is a moot point: a cynical voice might read Bono waxing lyrical on U2’s website about the album winging its way unbidden to Africa and east Asia and suggest that Songs of Innocence amounts to payback for all those spam messages from Barrister Joseph Obagana and Mr Wong Du, South Korean banker, concerning million-dollar inheritances. Indeed, your attitude to the album’s arrival on your computer might depend on your attitude to U2, or at least the U2 of the past 10 years, a troubled and confused period in the band’s history. Having deconstructed their sound and image to vast success in the 90s, U2 have spent much of the intervening period looking like they can’t find the instructions to put themselves back together again. So record-breaking tours and hit singles have been interspersed with albums that band members openly criticised – Bono would subsequently claim that 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb “fucking annoys me” – and commercially underperformed, or at least commercially underperformed by U2 standards: the worldwide sales of 2009’s No Line on the Horizon slumped to a meagre 5m copies.

For all the grandiosity of its launch and Blakean title – and indeed for all the talk of it as a concept album based on the band’s Dublin childhoods – Songs of Innocence is audibly a product of that confusion. It took years to make, involving five different producers, who between them seem to have covered every base. Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton hints at dance dabbling of the kind U2 indulged in on 1997’s Pop; Declan Gaffney worked on the experimental No Line on the Horizon; Paul Epworth – who graduated from hip indie producer to chart blockbuster by way of Adele’s 21 – and Beyoncé collaborator Ryan Tedder suggest a lunge for vast commercial success; and fans of classic U2 might be reassured that Flood’s name first appeared in the credits of The Joshua Tree. You might detect a certain whiff of desperation in the fact that parts of the album sound distinctly like Coldplay – literally the first thing you hear is the kind of massed woah-oh vocals with which Chris Martin reliably rouses the world’s stadiums, while the guitar line on Every Breaking Wave carries an echo of Paradise’s melody – or, even more startling, Emile Sandé, whose Read All About It seems to have informed the tune of Song for Someone. Bono has claimed that Where You Can Reach Me Now is influenced by the Clash’s disco experiments on Sandinista!. Listening to the taut guitar line and disco drums you can just about hear what he means, but the song feels pallid and tentative, the work of a band who have had the wind knocked out of them.

Nevertheless, Songs of Innocence isn’t a bad album as such. The only person who’d agree with Cook’s suggestion that The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) amounts to “the most incredible single you’ve ever heard” is someone who hasn’t heard many singles. Detached from that excitable assessment, however, it’s actually a really good exploration of adolescence, alternately sardonic – “I’ve got music so I can exaggerate my pain,” notes Bono at one point – bullish and uneasy. The guitars crunch stridently over drums that keep threatening to resolve into a glam stomp, but never quite do, hovering somewhere more fidgety instead. Elsewhere, the best moments usually involve Danger Mouse: the lulling synth pulse of Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, and Raised By Wolves’ potent, smarting evocation of the 1974 Dublin and Mognahan bombings. Anyone who feels their sphincter involuntarily tightening at the thought of a U2 song called The Troubles might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t seem to have much to do with ethno-nationalist conflict. Presumably taking heed of the wry self-portrait in the lyrics of Every Breaking Wave – “I thought I had the captain’s voice,” he sings, “but it’s hard to listen while you preach” – Bono spends most of Songs of Innocence avoiding grandstanding in favour of personal recollection.

In his introductory piece on the U2 website, Bono refers to Songs of Innocence as the first instalment of a two-album set – “if you like Songs of Innocence,” he wrote, “stay with us for Songs of Experience, it should be ready soon enough” – which makes it sound suspiciously like an interstitial release, with an album proper, that you presumably have to pay for, to follow. That would make sense in light of the music it contains. As a free sample, it’s fine: it has its moments among the longeurs, enough of them to suggest U2 aren’t a spent force. But what Songs of Innocence isn’t is the grand return the band obviously crave. Perhaps that’s to come.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2020, 09:18:43 PM by an tha »

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laoghaire

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2020, 09:35:52 PM »
Good review. I liked this line:

"Having deconstructed their sound and image to vast success in the 90s, U2 have spent much of the intervening period looking like they can’t find the instructions to put themselves back together again."

He misheard the lyric in EBW, which arguably throws his conclusion about the song's lyrical theme off.

I haven't seen the Apple release thing, and the more I hear, the worse it sounds - like, not merely bad, but shudderingly so. I think I'll choose to remain innocent there, sigh.

All the same, I like the album.

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Layton

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2020, 11:07:17 PM »
2 1/2 paragraphs of baselining a perceived environment the album was created in is a terrible start. What's worse is that the actual music analysis becomes inextricably linked to that baseline context. Whatever one may think of the album, I don't think this reviewer scores to high for that work. It's as if the 'story' was more important than an actual album quality assessment.

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2020, 07:27:13 AM »
Good review. I liked this line:

"Having deconstructed their sound and image to vast success in the 90s, U2 have spent much of the intervening period looking like they can’t find the instructions to put themselves back together again."

He misheard the lyric in EBW, which arguably throws his conclusion about the song's lyrical theme off.

I haven't seen the Apple release thing, and the more I hear, the worse it sounds - like, not merely bad, but shudderingly so. I think I'll choose to remain innocent there, sigh.

All the same, I like the album.



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laoghaire

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2020, 07:43:41 AM »
FUCKING HELL.


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an tha

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2020, 08:36:05 AM »
Good review. I liked this line:

"Having deconstructed their sound and image to vast success in the 90s, U2 have spent much of the intervening period looking like they can’t find the instructions to put themselves back together again."

He misheard the lyric in EBW, which arguably throws his conclusion about the song's lyrical theme off.

I haven't seen the Apple release thing, and the more I hear, the worse it sounds - like, not merely bad, but shudderingly so. I think I'll choose to remain innocent there, sigh.

All the same, I like the album.


This is IMO a really good point.

I have long argued that the so called return to their traditional sound that ATYCLB and Bomb were called was about as accurate a reflection as the 'u2 have made a dance album' calls that were tagged onto Pop.

u2 were NEVER a band who made MOR pop rock - they were NEVER a band who made big, dumb vapid rawk songs like Elevation and Vertigo and the other clones of those songs they have peddled for 20 years.

u2 have for 20 years now been stuck in a position where they found a template for some hits and in their desperation for more hits and to be relevant they have used that template over and over again to try and repeat those hits but with ever diminishing returns - For Beautiful Day in 2000 see GOOYOW in 2017....

They have at the same time seen their more natural alternative leanings battle for space and that has led to some gems like Fez and SLABT for example - but sadly the desperation to be loved by the masses has seen those kind of songs buried, you don't see them live, the band does not push them or talk about them - fear is why.

I get the impression they at times would like to get away from the middle of the road but are afraid of doing so and so they reach for that safe space - whilst in it they start to look at moving away from it again, but the feat keeps them there and they convince themselves they will nail that big hit with Ryan Tedder.

That fear is what sees them water down an album like NLOTH with the unholy trinity in the middle of it...

The use of so many producers is further evidence of their uncertainty, of them being lost in terms of what they are - they have become a band who are trying to cover all bases and be all things - a jack of all trades, master of none act....

Here is a little bit of pop, a big ballad, a bit of old chiming u2, a touch of 90's experimental u2, a bit of ambient, oh hang on we better put in a big chorus, oooh let's get Will.I.am in to help, Ryan Tedder knows what the pop kids want, we need Beautiful Day mark two, radio need to love this take out that atmopsheric weird sound, add in some nice familiar big chords, oh a nice bit of pop sheen will work here.....and so on - just over cooking, over polishing, over thinking....

It is why they called NLOTH 'too esoteric' a statement that says it all about their mindset.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 08:41:41 AM by an tha »

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Layton

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2020, 11:28:33 AM »
u2 have for 20 years now been stuck in a position where they found a template for some hits and in their desperation for more hits and to be relevant they have used that template over and over again to try and repeat those hits but with ever diminishing returns - For Beautiful Day in 2000 see GOOYOW in 2017....

I have a crazy theory regarding that quote. Here goes, Mofo is the precursor of those 2 songs mentioned. Specifically, the line "lookin for the father of my 2 little girls". Much of that song and that album refers to a character who has become lost down a rabbit hole and is struggling mightily to figure a way out. Much of the next album features a character with a much firmer resolve to fight their way out of that hole. Beautiful Day and Elevation are fight songs where that resolve is tethered to the anchor of family. Those songs don't fight for their right to party, they fight for their right to be cliche, banal, normal, boring, etc. Elevation is practically a nursery rhyme where the will to fight for the simple joys of life stem from a strong desire to be a father. The delivery and spirit of the song are far more important than the mechanics of the song (lyrics, chords, arrangement, soundscape, etc.) in terms of quality assessment. Beautiful Day evolved out of a very similar will to fight. Which brings us to Get Out Of Your Own Way. A song referring to a passage of that will to fight down to his now grown daughters. A song whose execution is full of caring and affection because the lead character can't help but see those grown daughters through the lens of being '2 little girls' Hence, a creatively deliberate callback to Beautiful Day. Echoes of the original fight song inspired by the next generation, now being used to inspire the next generation. Innocence and Experience contrast through the use of echo. Seems kind of apropos for U2.

None of this is meant to change any minds regarding the aforementioned songs. It's just that I think the narrative that's been formed around U2's evolution toward creative maturity isn't a very sound one. Forums like this are essentially crowdsourced opinion making factories. Which is great, but when a professional writer/journalist/reviewer peddles in that domain I find it to be a bit more inexcusable. I think that U2's post-Pop creative transformation has been under discussed and under evaluated due to the retreat narrative becoming such an easy and safe landing spot for the disappointed. Not to say that the disappointment wouldn't still be there once the egg really gets cracked, but it would shine a sharper light on that disappointment. Personally, I think there's been a lot of creatively interesting things happening during the second half of U2's career. And to think, some of it is 'All Because of Mofo'.  ;D

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Twilight

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2020, 12:25:12 PM »
2 1/2 paragraphs of baselining a perceived environment the album was created in is a terrible start. What's worse is that the actual music analysis becomes inextricably linked to that baseline context. Whatever one may think of the album, I don't think this reviewer scores to high for that work. It's as if the 'story' was more important than an actual album quality assessment.

This.

u2 have for 20 years now been stuck in a position where they found a template for some hits and in their desperation for more hits and to be relevant they have used that template over and over again to try and repeat those hits but with ever diminishing returns - For Beautiful Day in 2000 see GOOYOW in 2017....

I have a crazy theory regarding that quote. Here goes, Mofo is the precursor of those 2 songs mentioned. Specifically, the line "lookin for the father of my 2 little girls". Much of that song and that album refers to a character who has become lost down a rabbit hole and is struggling mightily to figure a way out. Much of the next album features a character with a much firmer resolve to fight their way out of that hole. Beautiful Day and Elevation are fight songs where that resolve is tethered to the anchor of family. Those songs don't fight for their right to party, they fight for their right to be cliche, banal, normal, boring, etc. Elevation is practically a nursery rhyme where the will to fight for the simple joys of life stem from a strong desire to be a father. The delivery and spirit of the song are far more important than the mechanics of the song (lyrics, chords, arrangement, soundscape, etc.) in terms of quality assessment. Beautiful Day evolved out of a very similar will to fight. Which brings us to Get Out Of Your Own Way. A song referring to a passage of that will to fight down to his now grown daughters. A song whose execution is full of caring and affection because the lead character can't help but see those grown daughters through the lens of being '2 little girls' Hence, a creatively deliberate callback to Beautiful Day. Echoes of the original fight song inspired by the next generation, now being used to inspire the next generation. Innocence and Experience contrast through the use of echo. Seems kind of apropos for U2.

None of this is meant to change any minds regarding the aforementioned songs. It's just that I think the narrative that's been formed around U2's evolution toward creative maturity isn't a very sound one. Forums like this are essentially crowdsourced opinion making factories. Which is great, but when a professional writer/journalist/reviewer peddles in that domain I find it to be a bit more inexcusable. I think that U2's post-Pop creative transformation has been under discussed and under evaluated due to the retreat narrative becoming such an easy and safe landing spot for the disappointed. Not to say that the disappointment wouldn't still be there once the egg really gets cracked, but it would shine a sharper light on that disappointment. Personally, I think there's been a lot of creatively interesting things happening during the second half of U2's career. And to think, some of it is 'All Because of Mofo'.  ;D

And this.

Having not engaged with many (any?) U2 fans in the past 40 years, I developed my own narrative of their career, based solely on listening to their albums and maybe the occasional music review. And my narrative looks completely different than the one that seems almost universally accepted here on this forum. It's been an eye opener, and I finally understand that line about "But they want their money back if you're alive at thirty-three."

To be honest, I stopped placing much faith in art critics long before U2 came along; with few exceptions, it doesn't appear to me they know anymore about why something is good or not than any of the rest of us; they just know, like us, what they like or don't like.

There's a joke an artist friend shared with me:
A critic approaches an artist at an exhibition.
(Critic) Would you like my opinion on this painting? It is worthless.
(Artist) I know. But please share it anyway.


It's been a good attitude to keep around in my own career. It wouldn't surprise me at all if U2 feels the same at this point.

Are you tough enough to be kind?

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an tha

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2020, 12:42:15 PM »
2 1/2 paragraphs of baselining a perceived environment the album was created in is a terrible start. What's worse is that the actual music analysis becomes inextricably linked to that baseline context. Whatever one may think of the album, I don't think this reviewer scores to high for that work. It's as if the 'story' was more important than an actual album quality assessment.

This.

u2 have for 20 years now been stuck in a position where they found a template for some hits and in their desperation for more hits and to be relevant they have used that template over and over again to try and repeat those hits but with ever diminishing returns - For Beautiful Day in 2000 see GOOYOW in 2017....

I have a crazy theory regarding that quote. Here goes, Mofo is the precursor of those 2 songs mentioned. Specifically, the line "lookin for the father of my 2 little girls". Much of that song and that album refers to a character who has become lost down a rabbit hole and is struggling mightily to figure a way out. Much of the next album features a character with a much firmer resolve to fight their way out of that hole. Beautiful Day and Elevation are fight songs where that resolve is tethered to the anchor of family. Those songs don't fight for their right to party, they fight for their right to be cliche, banal, normal, boring, etc. Elevation is practically a nursery rhyme where the will to fight for the simple joys of life stem from a strong desire to be a father. The delivery and spirit of the song are far more important than the mechanics of the song (lyrics, chords, arrangement, soundscape, etc.) in terms of quality assessment. Beautiful Day evolved out of a very similar will to fight. Which brings us to Get Out Of Your Own Way. A song referring to a passage of that will to fight down to his now grown daughters. A song whose execution is full of caring and affection because the lead character can't help but see those grown daughters through the lens of being '2 little girls' Hence, a creatively deliberate callback to Beautiful Day. Echoes of the original fight song inspired by the next generation, now being used to inspire the next generation. Innocence and Experience contrast through the use of echo. Seems kind of apropos for U2.

None of this is meant to change any minds regarding the aforementioned songs. It's just that I think the narrative that's been formed around U2's evolution toward creative maturity isn't a very sound one. Forums like this are essentially crowdsourced opinion making factories. Which is great, but when a professional writer/journalist/reviewer peddles in that domain I find it to be a bit more inexcusable. I think that U2's post-Pop creative transformation has been under discussed and under evaluated due to the retreat narrative becoming such an easy and safe landing spot for the disappointed. Not to say that the disappointment wouldn't still be there once the egg really gets cracked, but it would shine a sharper light on that disappointment. Personally, I think there's been a lot of creatively interesting things happening during the second half of U2's career. And to think, some of it is 'All Because of Mofo'.  ;D

And this.

Having not engaged with many (any?) U2 fans in the past 40 years, I developed my own narrative of their career, based solely on listening to their albums and maybe the occasional music review. And my narrative looks completely different than the one that seems almost universally accepted here on this forum. It's been an eye opener, and I finally understand that line about "But they want their money back if you're alive at thirty-three."

To be honest, I stopped placing much faith in art critics long before U2 came along; with few exceptions, it doesn't appear to me they know anymore about why something is good or not than any of the rest of us; they just know, like us, what they like or don't like.

There's a joke an artist friend shared with me:
A critic approaches an artist at an exhibition.
(Critic) Would you like my opinion on this painting? It is worthless.
(Artist) I know. But please share it anyway.


It's been a good attitude to keep around in my own career. It wouldn't surprise me at all if U2 feels the same at this point.

I don't think it would be a good idea to have any 'faith' in art critics - the most important view is of course your own.

All critics do for me is add to the discussion with another opinion - those opinions do nothing to sway me about works at all...

Where they do add value for me is articulating things that i agree or disagree with more cogently than maybe i can or feel i can and those articulations can then be used to inform discussions and engage with people in places like this.

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laoghaire

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2020, 01:38:28 PM »
Great theory, Layton. I have my own view on the nuanes of those songs, and I do see an overlap, maybe slightly different from yours. But I enjoyed the idea, which never occured to me before, that Mofo is an ancestor of those songs. Despite the agony this theory will no doubt cause to some, I like it.

Twilight, while my fandom is a mere 32 years old, I too have managed to avoid the fandom and its opinions (positive and negative) until relatively recently. It's both enriching and extracting. I have gained all sorts of new perspectives and ideas, but have somewhat lost some of my own unique vantage point.

Of course I guard my own opinion, and I freely admit I love SOE for example - but, see, it's turned into an "admission." I have of course been influenced by groupthink, and it's hard to sort out what influence was the real deal (ideas that I sincerely embrace for my own reasons) and what is just peer influence.

Would I like this song a little less or a little more if not for the group? Impossible to say, now.

Still, I've definitely gained a lot of detail from group inout, ideas I've never considered. And this is how EVERYTHING works - everything I know or opine on any subject has been influenced by others.

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Twilight

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2020, 02:02:37 PM »
That's why I'm here. I think I was just hoping for more joy and less .... whatever you want to call it. Should've known better, I guess. It's the age we live in. I've already discovered a few new songs and videos to enjoy, though.
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Twilight

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2020, 08:51:16 PM »
Just in case anyone's interested.

U2's 'Songs of Innocence' receives a five-star review from David Fricke. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/songs-of-innocence-118134/

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laoghaire

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2020, 08:59:45 PM »
I'm interested.

However. It appears The Rolling Stone is maybe kind of "fixed" when it comes to reviews of U2.

However, that aside, I will be interested in reading the contents of the review. Gotta charge my device though, back later, or tomorrow.

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2020, 09:07:52 PM »
Bono reading the phonebook whilst stopping only to say 'a mole digging in a hole' every 25 entries would get a 5 star review from RS.

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MPare1966

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Re: Review a u2 album review
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2020, 10:00:13 PM »
Bono reading the phonebook whilst stopping only to say 'a mole digging in a hole' every 25 entries would get a 5 star review from RS.

Best review I’ve ever read about a U2 album came from Entertainment Weekly, a US mainstream magazine. Zooropa was the album.
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