Despite not being the most adventurous of albums, Songs of Experience puts U2 back on track.
After three years of reflecting on what has been a particularly unsuccessful period for the band, U2 have released the follow up to the widely criticised Songs of Innocence, with new album Songs of Experience. Over the course of time, the band have seemed to counter their early-career success with a much more recent struggle in finding acceptance among a new generation of listeners. It has become rather fashionable to hate U2, largely down to their obnoxious release of previous album Songs of Innocence, but Songs of Experience shows the band returning to a sound that emanates a nostalgic sense of their glory days.
Whilst being far from perfect, it is clear that in Songs of Experience Bono and co. have done some serious self-reflection in their time away from the studio, producing an album that is full of humorous self-deprecation and philosophical musing about the band’s commercial and mainstream appeal in the current day. Although they do not exactly push the boat out in terms of providing anything even slightly progressive or musically profound, playing it safe was probably the most advisable move for U2 in the wake of the Apple Music debacle that saw Songs of Innocence pushed down the throats of everyone with an account. So, commercially, the less intrusive Songs of Experience couldn’t really have been a backward step as long as the music was at least satisfactory – and luckily the seventeen songs long album is far from offensive to the ears.
The album is audibly much more palatable than its recent predecessors. Being a largely political band who are keen on raising fans in rebellious momentum with hits such as ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’, it seems that they have taken a backseat in this sense, in order to focus on regaining some respect in their ability to produce stadium-filling ballads. Opening with the unnecessary indifference of ‘Love Is All We Have Left’, the album soon improves with Bono crooning his way through a series of light but uplifting songs such as the mellow ‘Summer of Love’ and ‘Love is Bigger than Anything in its Way’. Whilst he showcases his ability as he rips through the opening sequence of ‘Lights of Home’ on his guitar, his presence is somewhat lost on this album, with it lacking some of the heaviness and passion that has become synonymous with U2. Nonetheless, the highlight of the album is undoubtedly the lead single ‘Get Out of Your Own Way’which epitomises U2 in their prime, with the most eruptive chorus on the album that will certainly get arenas singing along in no time.
Of course the album does not live up to the likes of The Joshua Tree, but with a band coming to the end of their career it is surely impossible for them to ever do so again. Unfortunately, it seems that even though the album has its positive elements, the world no longer has a need or a want for U2, with Songs Of Experience’s only purpose really being to rebuild a diminished reputation. The band will never be seen in the same light as their god-like status in the mid-’80s, but the album does remind us that we have been too judgemental of them in recent times, with U2 still being able to produce some decent tracks.
Songs of Experience is out now via Universal