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Old 02-11-2019, 03:36 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,079
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Happy that they still bleed when cut

So I planned on posting a review of the album with all the benefit of hindsight on December 1, 2018 – exactly one year after it came out. But procrastination, my lifeblood, prevented that. I am doing my best to do this – which I fancy to be devoid of bias, or as free from it as a U2 fan can be.
A preface and a disclaimer/apology first. Leading with the latter: Haven’t come on these boards since about a month after Songs of Experience came out, so if this pisses people off because everyone has been posting reviews lately like U2 have been making bad first-single choices of late, I am sorry... bear with me or just ignore this post.
The preface (and a sort of second disclaimer, I guess) is that I am part of a friend group who are all U2 fans of widely varying dispositions towards the band’s current output, and there is one buddy of mine who matches my level of fanaticism. He pretty much always disparages their late-career songs and I asked him a question about four months ago, when he was done criticising the new album. I, on the other hand, revel in their late-career output, so you can take this with however much salt suits your taste, my claims to neutrality notwithstanding.
First off, speaking of lead singles, I was surprised last September at how much I liked The Best Thing. It’s weird, yes, perhaps even a weird choice for the first single but they struck something there. It’s genuinely fun to listen to, and I think the Edge solo and falsetto is one of the best moments of the album. After GOYB and Miracle, this was certainly a move in the right direction and achieved the spearhead effect because it is a joyous (yet somehow melancholy, how can anything represent U2 better?) shout in a dim world.
For me, though, the album might well have started from there, because with time and the passing of the honeymoon period, the first two songs don’t do it for me. Love is All We Have Left is not the right kind of weird to my ears. And Lights of Home is a strange one for me. I don’t mind sampling intros or codas, but to sample the chorus/the main groove is a little off – not because of any prideful notions of it really not being a U2 song, but when you outsource such vital material you are effectively not in control of the song. That is just me trying to intellectualise the essentially emotional exercise of songwriting, but at the end of the day I just don’t like the song. The string version is better, the lyrics are pretty good, but as a package it doesn’t work. This album’s miracle.
Neither was I enamoured with GOOYOW. It’s weak – the words are good, Bono did a sensational job writing this album – and I think ‘Lincoln’s ghost says...’ is on par with ‘you ate all your friends’ as far as bad U2 lyrics go. Funnily enough, I don’t mind American Soul, although I don’t listen to it much. It’s not a song trying to be terribly serious, and Refu-Jesus (I understand that was a cause for vehement objection here) does not bother me. It’s got a good groove and the band were on form, they play it well live too (although I haven’t really delved into live videos yet, would fall in love with anyone who can point me to a pro shot concert. Might be very off about this, because they may not have played this, but I think I remember that they did).
Then comes the strongest portion of the album and in my opinion the strongest second side since Zooropa. The reason I waited before posting a review was that, being a diehard, I feel a certain obligation to listen to their whole album front to back for at least six months after they release it. That leads to Stockholm Syndrome, and I needed a break from the album to listen to other music by other (lesser?) beings, and basically see what stuck in the playlist between my earholes.
Red Flag Day is a great song that U2 of old can be proud of. As I said when the album came out, “One word that the sea can’t say is No.... no, no, no, no....” is one of the most poignant lyrics U2 have ever come up with. Nothing sums up the refugees’ plight better. But it’s still not an all-timer to my ears.
Summer of Love is a song that I would listen to again and again even if it wasn’t by U2, which for me is the litmus test. It just falls short of being an all-timer for me.... but
Landlady and Little Things are bonafide all-timers. Landlady is a new high for me. Don’t get me wrong – I fully appreciate that U2 are not a rock n’ roll band anymore because they are multi-millionaires who don’t suffer the miseries of the common man, and so don’t speak for them, a primal factor in the popularity of such bands. Bono saying in their early days that ‘there’s no difference between you and us’ to an audience because they were a ‘rock n’ roll band’ no longer holds true. But on this album they showed that they are artists who bleed, cut into their veins to show what’s inside, which is what every artist should do. I am happy that they still bleed when cut.
And I will tell you this... every married person I played Landlady to could not help but smile when they heard ‘it was you that always paid the rent’, and most of their eyes glistened when ‘Every wave that broke me....’ began. I must say that ‘the strangers that protected me’ is one of my favourite lines ever. It’s magic in a fucking bottle and for me, hands down the best moment of the album.
Blackout and Love is All We Have Left (although the ‘moonlight caught you crying in Killiney Bay’ part gets me sometimes) are the weaklings in the second half, not unpleasant to listen to, but Songs of Experience ends with the best song since Kite. 13 is just fucking crazy awesome. “And the ship that stole your heart away/ sets sail”, you just don’t get better than that. Only my conservative (opinion-wise, not socially, politically, or fiscally) nature stops me from putting it in a higher place in U2’s echelon.
So, in the end, I am happy with this album. In my view, it has outperformed everything since ATYCLB, possibly even ATYCLB (that decision will have to wait till Songs of Ascent, assuming that’s still a thing) and to be presented with three U2 all-timers is special.
Coming back to my friend who tends towards hating U2’s current product, I asked him whether he was not a richer human being for having songs like Kite, In a Little While, Vertigo (yeah, dude, I said it), Miracle Drug, Yahweh, Every Breaking Wave, This is Where you Can Reach me Now, Sleep Like a Baby, Troubles, Best Things Landlady, Summer of Love, Little Things and 13.
He said yes. That is the best argument for U2 continuing to create music and I am pretty happy that they are doing that.

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Old Yesterday, 04:18 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Dundee,scotland
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I love SOE ( apart from GOYOW of course),but I just cant get into landlady. My top 3 are The Blackout,Red Flag Day and Little Things. But of course I disagree with their choice of singles. Should have been The Blackout,Summer Of Love Red Flag Day then maybe Little things to round it off. But overall it's a very strong album.
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