So a couple of weeks ago, U2 surprised us all by releasing a new album “Songs Of Innocence” exclusively on iTunes. This surprise release is becoming a bit of thing with big-selling artists. I think Beyonce did it, and just today, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has released a new album on Bitstream, which I think means you buy it direct from him. I haven’t tried yet, as I’ve read it is quite complicated to download, though also cheap ($6). I shall have to gird myself to battle with the technology. I must admit, I’d happily buy it off iTunes at the normal price and get listening!
Anyway, U2 did something different. They gave the album away for free to iTunes users, by putting it on their iTunes uninvited. A generous act, you’d think. But no, lots of people objected because they hate U2, and couldn’t delete it. So Apple had to come up with something to delete it. Not quite what was intended, but still, I doubt all the publicity has done any harm.
I had the opposite problem on my iMac – it wouldn’t load. iTunes told me I’d purchased it (for free) but it wasn’t on my purchased list. I did get it on my iPhone though – had to click on the Cloud to put it there. I gave the album a quick listen on the phone and thought, hmm, nothing new here. Still, because it was U2 I wanted to give it another go. One of my first ever blogs was called “Still in Love with U2“. I managed to download it on to my iPad and from there I was able to transfer it to the computer and then on to my iPod. All these Apple products! The iPod was key though, because that’s where I listen to things most. On my 160 GB Classic – which Apple has just discontinued. Outrageous! Blatant discrimination against music obsessives…
So, the music. Well, I’ve been listening to it quite a lot this week, and have revised my initial view. I think it’s really good. It won’t make it into my top five U2 albums, but it’s a good, tuneful rock album. There’s a really slick sound to it, with plenty of Edge’s guitar trills and some thumping bass lines. It will sound good in the stadiums, when they tour in 2015. And it tells me they have been listening to a few of their successors, and learning. “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” and “Volcano” remind me a bit of Arctic Monkeys, as they are now, with “AM”. Maybe Britain’s premier live band, as they showed at Reading and Leeds. “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” has a feel of Foals, again as they are now, playing the big festivals. I can imagine both these bands, as they graduated from their early sounds (which is what made them) to festival/stadium rock, looked to U2 for an example, an inspiration. U2 have now returned the compliment.
But of course there is one band that lurk behind the latest U2 sound more than any other. Coldplay, of course. Now, when Coldplay began, much as I liked them, I regarded them as U2-lite. Now, when I listen to a track like “Every Breaking Wave”, I’m thinking that U2 now sound more like Coldplay than Coldplay on their last album, “Ghost Stories”, did.
So, yeah, what I’m saying is that “Songs Of Innocence” is a very good pop/rock album. In spirit it’s probably closer to “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” than any other previous U2 album, but with even better production.
If you like U2 and haven’t heard it, try to. If you don’t like them, this won’t persuade you to change your mind. But it it has whetted my appetite for their 2015 tour whenever they announce it. Which was, of course, the point of the innovative release.
It’s big business, but I don’t mind, if I still like the music.
And I do.