U2 – “You’re the Best Thing About Me” (Lyric Video – 2017)

September 6, 2017 at 6:50 pm (Music, U2)

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U2 – “The Blackout” (Live Video – 2017)

August 30, 2017 at 6:56 pm (Music, U2)

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U2 – “Songs of Innocence” (2014)

September 11, 2014 at 7:57 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, U2)

Another look at U2’s brand new album, which has finally come out (via a free download on iTunes). This review comes from Jon Parales in The New York Times, Sept. 10th…

With Songs of Innocence, U2 Recasts Its Youth

Memories are a blast on Songs of Innocence, the album that U2 released on Tuesday afternoon as a worldwide giveaway. With a title that echoes William Blake, the album is a blast of discoveries, hopes, losses, fears and newfound resolve in lyrics that are openly autobiographical. It’s also a blast of unapologetic arena rock and cathedral-scale production, equally gigantic and detailed, in the music that carries them.

The immediate news was that Songs of Innocence (Interscope) can be downloaded free until Oct. 13 by everyone with an iTunes Store account: half a billion people in 119 countries. (Physical and digital versions of the album go on sale Oct. 14.) The giveaway is a dream scenario for U2, a band that has always wanted everyone to feel its choruses and sing along. Apple has made distribution the easy part; the bigger challenge for U2 is to make people care about a new statement from a familiar band.

During its five years between albums, U2, which released its first recording in 1979, publicly pondered how to stay relevant. Its solution, on Songs of Innocence, is to reimagine its young, retrospectively innocent selves and recall what fired them up: family, neighbors, lovers, street action and of course, music. Liner notes by Bono, the band’s lead singer and main lyricist, fill in many of the back stories, describing the songs as “first journeys.”

There are tributes to Joey Ramone, whose example showed Bono how to sing melodically but feel punk, and to Joe Strummer of the Clash, whose social consciousness inspired U2. In other songs, traumas are as significant as joys. Songs of Innocence includes “Raised by Wolves,” about a terrorist car bombing in Dublin in 1974 and its aftermath; “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight,” a prettily sinister depiction of a pedophile priest; and a nostalgia-defying song about “Cedarwood Road,” the Dublin street where Bono grew up. In the song he calls it “a war zone in my teens.”

The music on Songs of Innocence doesn’t hark back to the open spaces of early U2; it exults in multitrack possibilities. But it connects emotionally to a time when, as Bono sings in “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” “I wanted to be the melody/Above the noise, above the hurt/I was young/Not dumb.”

As U2 worked on the album, producers came and went, including some now-vanished flirtations with dance-music hitmakers and the back-to-basics guru Rick Rubin. Of U2’s longtime production brain trust—Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, Flood—only Flood has a few credits on Songs of Innocence. Instead, the album credits Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells) as overall producer, with frequent collaborations from Paul Epworth (Adele) and Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic). And U2 sticks decisively to rock.

Clearly determined to compete for radio play with the many younger rockers who studiously emulate U2, most of the album puts a higher gloss, and sometimes a heavier fuzz tone, on the band’s instantly recognizable sound. The music is still defined by Bono’s buttonholing vocals, the Edge’s echoing guitars, Adam Clayton’s brawny bass lines and the steadfast march beats of Larry Mullen Jr. on drums. But there’s a newly eruptive sense of dynamics in these tracks; when the band assembles a celestial vocal choir or a gorgeous swirl of guitars and keyboards, a pummel or a distorted roar is rarely far behind.

U2 also makes clear its sense of history. The first verse of the Joe Strummer tribute, “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now,” looks back to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” before switching to a Clash beat. An homage to the Beach Boys—a chorale of vocal harmonies and then a surf-tinged beat—runs through “California (There Is No End to Love),” a song about U2’s first visit to Los Angeles and broader thoughts. “There’s no end to grief,” Bono sings. “That’s how I know/And why I need to know there is no end to love.”

The songs ground philosophical musings and high-flown imagery in concrete reminiscences and events. “The star that gives us light has been gone a while/But it’s not an illusion,” Bono declares in “Iris (Hold Me Close),” which memorializes Bono’s mother, Iris Hewson, who died in 1974. It has the album’s most poignant chorus: “Hold me close,” he sings, “I’ve got your light inside of me.”

Conscious of mortality and tied to personal stories, most of U2’s new songs don’t sell themselves to teenagers like the generalized pop anthems of current U2 imitators (including Mr. Tedder’s OneRepublic) or, for that matter, the 1980s U2 that came up with songs like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Even the album’s two most direct songs about romance, with sturdy melodies and straightforward buildups—“Song for Someone,” about meeting a soul mate, and “Every Breaking Wave,” about a looming breakup—are tinged with misgivings and ambivalences. U2 can’t return to innocence, and knows it.

The album’s closing song, “The Troubles,” moves abruptly away from glimpses of volatile youthful aspirations to envision lingering adult disillusion. The arrangement moves U2 considerably closer to Danger Mouse’s songs with Broken Bells. Over minor chords backed by a string section, a guest vocal by the Swedish pop singer Lykke Li warns, “Somebody stepped inside your soul,” and Bono follows up: “You think it’s easier to put your finger on the trouble/When the trouble is you.” It’s a dark postscript, a reminder that growing up doesn’t resolve youth’s contradictions; it brings sorrows of its own.

Jon Parales

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/arts/music/with-songs-of-innocence-u2-recasts-its-youth.html?_r=0

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U2 – “Songs of Innocence” (2014)

September 10, 2014 at 7:35 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, U2)

A first look at U2’s new album, which was, surprisingly, sprung on an unsuspecting public (via a free download on iTunes) last night (physical release comes mid-October). This review comes from Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph, Sept. 9th…

 

U2 have announced the release of their 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, available now and free to all iTunes customers. And, after several years’ gestation, five producers, ever-shifting release dates and Bono publicly fretting that the biggest band in the world was on the verge of irrelevance, fans will be relieved to hear that it sounds a lot like U2.

It is an album of big, colourful, attacking rock with fluid melodies, bright anthemic choruses and bold lyrical ideas. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that, despite apparently being created in a spirit of self-doubt, it sounds fresh and cohesive, bouncing out of the speakers with a youthful spring in its step.

On first impressions, Songs of Innocence is not an attempt to create a grand masterpiece that redefines the band, but rather, as the title suggests, to reconnect them with an elusive pop elixir of youthful energy and passion. Lyrically, it reflects on the past, on their origins as a band and as individuals, which is unusual territory for the usually forward-looking Bono and The Edge (who share lyrical duties). Lead single and opening track, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” sets the confident tone, with its “oh-way-oh” choral chant, glam rock stomping rhythm and surges of grungy guitar. Lyrically, it is a celebration of the transformative power of music, and in particular the effect on the young U2 of hearing The Ramones, and in that spirit it keeps things simple and direct. There are songs about growing up on the north side of Dublin (the fierce and strange “Raised by Wolves” and the dense, somewhat ungainly “Cedarwood Road”), memories of Bono’s late mother (the chiming disco driving “Iris [Hold Me Close]”) and appreciations of musical inspirations (the loose, groovy “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” is dedicated to Joe Strummer, and celebrates the Clash spirit of passion and purposefulness).

Each track seems very defined in itself, opening with a trio of songs aimed directly at American radio (“The Miracle,” “Every Breaking Wave” and “California [There Is No End to Love]”), packed with chiming guitars, synth hooks and epic choruses. It sounds like U2 taking on such young stadium rock pretenders as Snow Patrol and The Killers, intent on beating them at the game U2 themselves invented.

An immediate standout track is “Volcano,” a thrilling, thumping yet delightfully quirky celebration of the power of rock and roll that sounds a bit like Franz Ferdinand on steroids. The Ryan Tedder-produced ballad “Song for Someone” is probably the track that will have fans holding their phones aloft in stadiums, a mid-tempo ballad that builds from plucked acoustic intimacy to heart-bursting emotion. It is one of the songs that hints at ideas and feelings in the deeper currents of an album made up of dazzling surfaces.

It clearly hasn’t been an easy album to make. It is six years since No Line on the Horizon (itself widely deemed a flawed album) and three years since they completed their record breaking 360° tour. There were long sessions with cool American producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, who started working with the band in 2010. The album was first mooted for release at the beginning of 2014 (hence the release of a one-off single, “Invisible,” in February), but since then there have been sessions with Paul Epworth (British producer for Adele, Coldplay and Florence and the Machine) and Ryan Tedder (top songwriting collaborator with the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift and Beyonce), both highly commercial producers who bring some contemporary sheen. Long-time collaborator Mark Ellis, aka Flood, is also involved, although, in the end, it appears to have been U2’s engineer Declan Gaffney who has put in the long hours to tie it all together (leading to promotion to a full production credit).

With the album’s October release only confirmed at the very last moment (with the pressure of the Apple iPhone launch looming), I have the sense that it was plucked from the band’s grasp in the mastering suite, probably with The Edge protesting that he’s not finished yet and there’s one more echoing guitar note to be added.

For me, on first contact, it is the Danger Mouse tracks that hold the most interest, and perhaps hint at directions U2 might have rewardingly explored if they had stayed their original course and weren’t quite so intent on maintaining massive stadium-level success. Touching synth ballad “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” and dreamy, sinister album closer “The Troubles” (with a perfectly pitched vocal chant from Swedish singer Lykke Li) are the kind of strange pop songs that can really get under your skin.

Lyrically, here and elsewhere, hints emerge that these reminiscences of the past are not quite as innocent as they first appear, and that this is an album laced with guilt, working towards self-forgiveness and redemption. “I’m a long way from where I was and where I need to be,” Bono croons on “Song for Someone,” suggesting that there is perhaps more experience at work in this album than there is innocence.

It is, at heart, a highly personal set of songs. There are no flag waving anthems, no big social causes. If there is a moral, it appears in the coda of “Cedarwood Road”: “a heart that is broken is a heart that is open.”

As a long time U2 fan and supporter (in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I am thanked in the album credits, albeit with my name misspelled), I wouldn’t put it on a par with their greatest work Boy, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby or even the seamless songs of All That You Can’t Leave Behind. At times it does sound like it is trying a bit too hard to please. But it’s more pop than Pop ever was, and it certainly does the job it apparently sets out to do, delivering addictive pop rock with hooks, energy, substance and ideas that linger in the mind after you’ve heard them.

Neil McCormick

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/11084535/U2-songs-of-innocence-album-review.html

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Cactus World News – “The Bridge” (1985)

August 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm (Music, U2)

This song was produced by Bono and released on U2’s own Mother Records imprint…

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U2 – “Invisible” (2014)

February 2, 2014 at 9:22 pm (Music, U2)

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U2 – “Ordinary Love” (2013)

November 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm (Music, U2)

 

 

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Passengers – “Original Soundtracks 1” (1995)

July 25, 2011 at 2:34 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, U2)

A Boston Globe review of the U2/Brian Eno Passengers side project, from Nov. 7, 1995 and written by Jim Sullivan…

Eno, U2 Make an Original 

The five guys who put together Original Soundtracks 1 (Island) refer to themselves as Passengers, and that’s fair enough: They’re not trading on their star status, not publicly or ostentatiously, anyway. That is, they’re not billed as U2 and Brian Eno, and no one should misconstrue this album as being the latest U2 opus.

As to Eno fans? Well, they might automatically, and justifiably, perk up their ears, but they’re a more limited group, as Eno has never sold more than 100,000 copies of any one album.

Eno – Roxy Music cofounder, U2’s frequent producer, David Bowie’s on-and-off collaborator and a long-term progressive solo artist of high regard – is a wizard in many ways. This disc, in stores today, very much bears his sonic imprint. Fans of Eno’s Another Green World and his ambient work will be enchanted.
Original Soundtracks 1 also features the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing “Miss Sarajevo” with Bono. Before your knee-jerk reaction kicks in – yet another incongruous, showboating Bono duet! – let me state that’s it’s a sad, emotionally wrenching gem. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stephen Holden – “Irish U2, a Young Quartet, Plays at the Ritz” (1981)

January 4, 2011 at 7:44 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, U2)

A short March 9, 1981 concert review by Stephen Holden, taken from The New York Times, of when U2 were first making themselves known in America. Interesting to see what critics thought at the beginning of their career (making note of their real names), with only one album to their credit, at that point…

The Irish rock quartet U2, which has received extravagant critical praise in the British press, made a strong showing at the Ritz on Saturday. For such an accomplished band, U2 is unusually young.

Ranging in age from 18 to 20, its members met three years ago at a Dublin secondary school. Yet their sound, and eclectic hard rock with a mystically romantic strain, makes them one of the most harmonically sophisticated rock bands to emerge in recent years.

U2’s musical focus is its gifted guitarist, ”The Edge” Evans, whose extended lyrical guitar flights have a muscularity and an exotic flavor similar to Tom Verlaine. Mr. Evans knows exactly how far to push his mysticism Read the rest of this entry »

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Passengers – “Original Soundtracks 1” (1995)

July 13, 2010 at 1:41 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, U2)

This review of U2 and Brian Eno’s somewhat forgotten side project from 1995, was written by Jim Sullivan for the Nov. 7, 1995 issue of The Boston Globe. Whether there was ever meant to be a volume 2 or not, I’m not sure, but this album is definitely worth a listen — just don’t expect a normal U2 album. It even features the late Pavarotti…

Eno, U2 Make an Original

The five guys who put together Original Soundtracks 1 (Island) refer to themselves as Passengers, and that’s fair enough: They’re not trading on their star status, not publicly or ostentatiously, anyway. That is, they’re not billed as U2 and Brian Eno, and no one should misconstrue this album as being the latest U2 opus. Read the rest of this entry »

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