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Old 12-04-2017, 10:12 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by DaveC View Post
yea, get out is far from the worst thing they've ever done. it really doesn't elicit any sort of emotion out of me at all, much less hatred. it's just a song that blends into the background mush of songs i might hear coming out of a store in the mall for 10 seconds as i pass by. track 4 on songs of experience - no more, no less.
Yep. I'm sure if I heard it around the place - without knowing SOE beforehand - I'd assume it was some young U2/Coldplay knockoff act backed by Live Nation who'll be headlining some bland festival lineup down here in a couple of years. I'd forget about it before it's even out of earshot.
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Old 12-04-2017, 10:59 PM   #42
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Old 12-05-2017, 12:31 AM   #43
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The Stern interview was pretty good. It was interesting hearing Edge play a bit of the Streets intro on a acoustic guitar. It sounded cool.
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Old 12-05-2017, 02:26 AM   #44
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Shuttlecock XX - Laz Is All You Have Left

Stellar review Laz. Even though I like Get Out Of Your Own Way alright (it and American Soul are the two I’d cut if I wanted an 11-song album).

Also: every time I hear the intro to The Blackout, I don’t hear Zoo Station as much as I hear Discotheque. I always want to start singing “you can reach...” while the intro is going on.

My only real grips on this album are (1) the guitar tones being to round and pillowy mostly and less cutting and biting, (2) a few of the songs seem too short, and (3) the order is a little clunky. I find myself liking it more and more with every listen.
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Old 12-05-2017, 02:36 AM   #45
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I think if I were to try my hand at a running order, I’d go something like this:

1. Love Is All We Have Left
2. The Blackout
3. The Lights Of Home
4. The Best Thing
5. Summer Of Love
6. Red Flag Day
7. The Showman
8. Landlady
9. The Little Things
10. Love Is Bigger
11. There Is A Light

I’d relegate Get Out Of Your Own Way, American Soul, The Book Of Your Heart, The Lights Of Home (Strings Mix), Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix), and The Best Thing (Kygo Mix) to a companion EP.
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Old 12-05-2017, 06:54 AM   #46
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2. The Blackout
3. The Lights Of Home

When I was playing around with the order myself, I found that these two go together very well.

Still think The Blackout would work better on SOI though.
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Old 12-05-2017, 08:04 AM   #47
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My free copy should be delivered soon.

I'm glad you're back. Laz.

I'll read all he reviews after I've listened to it at least once.
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Old 12-05-2017, 02:23 PM   #48
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Be careful what you wish for! I'm going to follow this in the near future with my custom tracklisting, so I won't be talking much about order or placement this time around. Before the deep dive, I'll preface this by saying I either like or love 13 of the 14 new tracks, which is a welcome surprise. So what follows might seem really negative at first glance, but I'm very much on the positive side regarding SOE.

This is perhaps the hardest U2 album for me to review and parcel out. There's a lot going on, both in terms of content and the various producers and musicians involved, and its issues are more complicated than on previous releases. As Bono once referred to Pop, I'd call it "a mixed-up kid of a record", despite its conceptual nature. So forgive the partial career overview as the context is important to the critique.

For many of us more discerning listeners (and I do mean the people who have frequented this thread series for years), there is a long-waged struggle between the band we want U2 to be, and the band they are, or have chosen to be. Those things are sometimes more unified, and sometimes seem diametrically opposed, even within the same album. Ultimately, one has to evaluate the recordings only after coming to terms with the general path they've taken, or you're just subjecting yourself to perpetual frustration and bitterness.

Personally, I didn't want them to spend "more time writing and less time recording", but I can acknowledge ATYCLB as a well-crafted set of pop songs. That they don't breathe very much or go in measurable interesting directions is what makes it subpar for my taste. Was the album a success? Hard to say it wasn't by their yardstick.

With The Bomb, things opened up a bit more, the main focus this time around was getting back to some rock and roll roots. There's an increase in energy, but once again there's not much sonic ambition, and what you're left with is a collection of a well-crafted set of pop(-rock) songs, often harkening back to earlier incarnations of the band. Was the album a success? A handful of relative hits and a long-coveted second AOTY Grammy says yes. Is this the album I was looking for? Not really, but it's the post-1990s album I have the least issues with, aside from leaving off the session' two best tracks. I can play it straight through no problem as released.

No Line was initially a promising idea, the band finally seeming interested in returning to expansive, atmospheric material again, and Bono attempting some new directions lyrically as well. Somewhere down the line, second-guessing occurred, and there's a major fracture in the unity and cohesiveness of the finished album. It's nearly impossible for most of us to reconcile "the middle three" with what surrounds it, regardless of how we may enjoy some of those individual ill-fitting tracks. For the first time, for me at least, it became impossible to listen a U2 album straight through as intended. I couldn't take it at face value because the band didn't do so themselves. So while it contains some of the band's best and most adventurous late work, it also set the stage for some unfortunate tendencies.

A similar thing happened on SOI, where an exciting new collaboration with a talented and creative younger producer was contaminated by bringing in even younger hands to mess with the material after years of recording sessions. More long delays, and an album that struggles to hold together despite the lyrical focus. What does make it an easier listen than its predecessor is that the album seems split it half by its pop and more creative halves rather than a giant pothole in the middle; one endures the sweet candy to get to the more enriching medicine that follows.

SOE is another animal altogether. The returning presence of Ryan Tedder (now joined throughout by one of his OneRepublic bandmates) isn't exactly a welcome one, but he can't solely be blamed for this album's problems, as he's also responsible for co-producing some of its best tracks. And because this isn't masquerading as a rock album (aside from the choice of brash singles) but rather proudly displaying its pop sensibilities throughout, it doesn't seem as compromised from a sonic perspective--unlike SOI, Tedder was part of the team early on as opposed to being called in for unnecessary damage control.

A common complaint I've seen from fans this time around are that some of the new songs end too soon and/or too abruptly. It's an unexpected new problem to have, and it's hard to pinpoint where the blame lies. Did Tedder encourage them to keep things concise? Jacknife Lee? It's odd to start an album with a spacy, atmospheric prologue (their most indirect, searching opener since Zooropa), but then be unable or unwilling to let others continue to more fitting, satisfying conclusions. Sometimes they do, in the case of Little Things's extended outro or the concluding sing-along of Lights of Home. But there are clear missed opportunities.

For a lot of fans desperate for new, pleasurable material, these flaws will be easily overlooked. And they are relatively minor, rather preventing some already-impressive songs from being next-level fantastic as opposed to crippling the entire piece. These choices are just perplexing considering how almost all of SOI's tracks were allowed to reach their more appropriate conclusions (even if The Troubles could have used a longer fade-out).

While I don't find the album to be aesthetically schizophrenic, it's still troubling to see so many hands on deck. There's simply no excuse to use that many producers, even if you miraculously manage to get something that still holds together fairly well. One wonders what an album headed by just Jolyon Thomas and/or Andy Barlow would have sounded like, but I doubt we'll get the chance. It's especially troubling on an album where Edge really seems to be coasting or fading into the background. That's not to say that there isn't variety to the sounds on the album, but I'm not hearing many interesting guitar parts. It's fine if they want to make less of a capital-R rock album (American Soul being the main exception), but considering how much energy he seemed to be putting into making himself distinctly heard on SOI (Raised By Wolves, Iris, The Miracle, Volcano, Reach Around, Cedarwood, even Song For Someone's acoustic melody), his contributions on SOE don't stand out as much. And I don't want to bury the lede here, but there are credits for "additional guitars" on 9 of the 14 new tracks, from Thomas, Lee, Tedder, and OneRepublic's Brent Kutzle. Even if Bono can't play guitar anymore, there's no reason that Edge shouldn't be laying down the majority of the overdubs. And then you have "additional keyboards" credits on EVERY track, from all of the above people plus Declan Gaffey and Barlow (but not Bono). I don't know how anyone can say this isn't disconcerting, regardless of how much you like the album.

I've tried to make these observations as objective as possible before saying how I actually FEEL about this album. I've given it a lot of spins already, in the car, on the home stereo, and on headphones. And I'm tempted to say that even without messing around with the tracklist, it may be their strongest overall work since Pop. Unfortunately, I still don't think it's an album I'm likely to listen to straight through as officially released. There are only three album tracks by the band that are on my "always-skip" shitlist. Two of those songs are Crazy Tonight and Stand Up Comedy. The other is Get Out Of Your Own Way. It may not stick out sonically like a sore thumb relative to its album like those No Line songs do (and actually fits with the pop directive), but it's offensive in other ways. I can accept a song written to Bono's daughters as a call to action. And the sloganeering and platitudes combined with Bono's overstuffed verbiage on the verses isn't something new. But when you combine it with the desperate and lazy use of Beautiful Day's heartbeat/electronic drum pad thing as well as the "ahh ahh ahh" nonsense, it's basically irredeemable. Making it even worse is that the band has chosen it to represent their return in these promo appearances. I stand with Cobbler in saying this is probably the biggest piece of shit the band has ever perpetrated on a proper album.

There are two other songs which I won't say I merely tolerate, but actually enjoy with slight reservations. Best Thing is undeniable catchy, even if it's the last kind of thing I want to hear the band doing. But the "breakdown" at 2:45 before Edge's sung bridge is one of the most plastic, shallow pieces of music they've ever put down. It sounds like something you'd hear on some manufactured pop star's hit. Appallingly, this isn't even one of the songs where anyone besides Edge plays guitar! Luckily this section is brief. American Soul has some dumb lyrical choices, but as a straightforward rocker, it has
more going on than ABOY, isn't as frankensteined or awkward as Stand Up Comedy, and isn't overpolished like The Miracle. It's not as perfectly executed as Vertigo either, but it has a welcome energy. I do prefer the more distinct War-vibe and surface pleasures of its relative Volcano, however.

With those criticisms out of the way, I find the rest of the songs varying degrees of intoxicating. The aforementioned final section of Lights of Home is maybe the closest the band will come to Hey Jude's rousing second half, bravo to Haim for the inspiration and participation. The trio of Summer of Love, Red Flag Day, and The Showman have been rightfully singled out, all with distinct vibes and great contributions from everyone in (and out of) the band. The former shows yet another shade on the band's palette, continuing to explore different moods and sounds. Whereas Pitchfork wants to criticize the blend of the personal and political on this and Red Flag Day, I think it's admirable that Bono doesn't merely look at these war-torn refugees simply as victims to be pitied, but humanizes them with these half-love songs. They aren't just escaping, they're looking for better lives with their families. And it helps us tie the political section of the album back into the personal material. Before the album's release I saw a lot of mentions of Red Flag sounding like War, and I expected something more muscular akin to Raised By Wolves or Volcano. What I found was something even more welcome, like post-punk with a heavy dose of reggae/island groove. Easily an early favorite. And then you have The Showman, which I'll go out on a limb and say has maybe the catchiest chorus the band has ever put down. I can't call it "dumb" just because it's playful (I love the casual group chatter you can hear in the background at the end), and the self-deprecation here sounds much more natural than the forced approach on Stand Up Comedy. Perhaps a lot of people don't want U2 going in this organic, retro pop direction, but I don't know how it can be done any better than this. It should have been the second single, and hopefully isn't treated as a throwaway and forgotten like the similar but less gleeful Wild Honey. A melody like that is a gift from above. Tedder, Kunzel, Lee, and Lillywhite deserve high praise for the production on all three of these songs, they sound just perfect.

The Little Things isn't a surprising standout for many, it captures the driving power of the band when they open up and shoot skyward. Bono's confessional lyrics are some of his darkest and most doubting. Having said that, there is a bit of been-there, done-that to the second half, though I wouldn't go so far as to say Edge is on auto-pilot as there's clearly some feeling there. At the risk of bringing up the "controversial" Mercy, this is cut from a similar cloth, and I prefer the older song. I think its classic-U2 guitar work is more distinct and fitting to the material, whereas here it sounds liberating on a song that doesn't seem to reflect that feeling with its lyrical content.

Landlady is something that could have been terribly saccharine and cringey based on its subject matter. But Edge's subtle texture and shading compliments Bono's conversational, detailed thoughts on the verses. This is one of his great late vocal performances, alternating between tender restraint and a powerful wail on "the stars up there" that legitimately gave me Sinatra vibes. Well-modulated sentiment on this beautiful track. It ends a little too abruptly for my taste, considering the emotion involved and what Edge is doing, he should have had a little more room there.

After the first couple listens of The Blackout, I was ready to ditch it for the "live" version, the only new song pre-release that I was really excited about. I miss the larger (and louder) presence of Edge, the abrasive first sounds reminiscent of Zoo Station teasing something it mostly backs away from. The rhythm section is great regardless; the studio version accentuates the groove and has some other nice details. But I'm also really missing Larry's cymbal work on the "go easy on me" section from the live take as well as the modern punctuation at the end of the verse lines to go along with the bass. This album version is growing on me but I haven't yet decided what's going to make the cut.

Here's where a lot of people around here seem to be getting off the boat. If you can't stomach a big, shameless pop kiss on the mouth, you'll likely roll your eyes into the back of your head at the sounds of Love Is Bigger, especially the vocoded "oh oh ohs" that open and close it (which to me would have been worse if they featured an untreated Bono). I go for this one in a big way, and if there are similarities to Coldplay, what that band doesn't have is a major vocal talent and personality pushing the song past the lightweight and anemic with its power and conviction. That you can tell how personal it is and how it acts as a summation for the album's themes doesn't hurt, either. And the chorus of voices at the end (which to these ears seems to have some women or kids involved but mysteriously only Jacknife is credited with additional vocals) builds to an unforgettable crescendo. Tragically, when it reaches its peak, and stops for what sounds like a breakdown before a reprise, it just ends. I feel robbed every time I hear it, but I guess that's a testament to what a great pop confection this is. As the penultimate track, it really deserved another 30 seconds of SOMETHING before cutting out.

I never minded Song For Someone outside of its generic, obnoxious solo and Bono's "yeah yeah yeah" idiocy because of its lovely guitar melody and the full-bodied chorus. Again, not what I'd prefer the band to be doing, but as a pop song about losing your virginity I've heard far worse. It's not something I needed to hear revisited on the following album. But there's something about the sober delicacy in which Bono lays out his closing thoughts that I feel is pretty moving, and the plaintive, delicate piano from either Edge or Paul Epworth is nicely contrasted by some muted siren wails in the background on the "if there is a light" pre-choruses, which could either be a guitar or keyboard. I think this also works well as a bookend to the similarly downbeat opener. The addition of "someone like me" to the recycled refrain is nice, addressing the idea of things passed on from parents to children, as well as the old notion of "the child is father to the man".

Book of Your Heart isn't as glaring an omission as Crystal Ballroom, Mercy, or Fast Cars, but it's certainly album worthy, not just because of the subject matter about marriage, but because Edge does some of his most notable work of all the new songs in the second half, as him and Bono both give this a bit of Latin flavor and melodrama. It's an interesting mixture with the pulsating electronic foundation, but it works.

So there's a lot of promising developments and some others that leave me wary. If this is the end of a cycle before another course change on a potential final album, its fine with me. I'm not sure how much further they can go down this particular road with this many rotating collaborators. I guess it depends on how much it sells, if it receives award recognition, how well the songs go over live. I'll be missing a U2 tour for the first time since I've been a fan (ZooTV being my initial live experience with them), but I'm ok with that as three of the songs sure to be in the setlist aren't ones I care to hear, and I can bet they'll skip a few of my favorites. I'll be able to feed on what this album has to offer (in some altered form) for quite a while, I think.

Thanks for reading to those of you who were able to stay awake.
HeartlandGirl sent me a text just to let me know you posted a review. I am glad she did, this was terrific. Thanks for taking the time to compose it.
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Old 12-05-2017, 03:45 PM   #49
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I was really hoping NSW would quote that whole thing and just say "Shut the fuck up."
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Old 12-05-2017, 03:54 PM   #50
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I was really hoping NSW would quote that whole thing and just say "Shut the fuck up."
Shut the fuck up.
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Old 12-05-2017, 04:51 PM   #51
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Catorce!
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Old 12-05-2017, 05:25 PM   #52
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If you have a spare 90 minutes, the Bono/Edge interview on Howard Stern is great.

https://soundcloud.com/super-yo/bono...ard-stern-show
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Old 12-05-2017, 07:22 PM   #53
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I was really hoping NSW would quote that whole thing and just say "Shut the fuck up."

I was scrolling...scrolling...scrolling, expecting nothing but a thumbs-up at the end.

Glad you enjoyed it, NSW.

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Old 12-05-2017, 07:36 PM   #54
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Two full listens in now. Red Flag Day is my favorite song on the album. Also still really like Love Is All We Have Left, Lights of Home, Summer of Love, Little Things, and Love Is Bigger.

Wow there are a lot of songs on this album with "love" in the title. Still good, though. The chorus of American Soul might be the only thing I actively dislike ("came here looking for American Soul"...ok Bono...sure).

Will Ali be divorcing Bono now that he wrote a song about her where she is characterized as a landlady?
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Old 12-05-2017, 08:36 PM   #55
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Shuttlecock XX - Laz Is All You Have Left

This might actually be 2 albums in a row where I don’t skip any songs years down the road. I still don’t skip any on SOI. NLOTH, I skip the middle 3. I also skip ABOY on HTDAAB.
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Old 12-05-2017, 08:39 PM   #56
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To be honest I think the only U2 albums on which I don't regularly skip anything are Boy and UF. Everything else has at least one song I don't dig and will normally skip.

But I don't really find that abnormal, I do a similar thing with most other bands I love whose discography is large.
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:28 PM   #57
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Thanks for all the positive responses to the review. I can't believe how long that ran. I don't know if I've ever written that much on a new release.

A couple notes:

It does feel weird saying "best album since Pop", mainly because of how shittily this album was promoted. As bad as U2 choosing The Miracle, EBW, and SFS to represent SOI was, this might be even worse. If they do continue releasing videos, even if they aren't "official singles", I really hope some of the better-executed tracks that show off the band's range get some exposure, particularly Red Flag Day and The Showman (those are the two I think would get the best response). And like SOI, it does kind of suck that you need to get a little ways into the album to get to the truly great stuff (which is something I'm addressing on my custom track order).

Having said that, I'd probably still take the second half of SOI over any stretch on this album. It's really hard to beat the collective power and variety of RBW/Cedarwood/Sleep/Reach Around/Troubles. The difference is that for me, SOE is a little more consistent overall and just has more standout tracks to offer. It's that simple. If you throw Invisible and Crystal Ballroom on SOI (as I've done on my playlist), it's a tougher call.

Am I the only one hearing a little bit of Paul Simon's Mother and Child Reunion on the verses of There Is A Light? It's notable because Bono was actually singing that part of Simon's song on the I&E tour right before Streets, if memory serves. It's not exact, but reminiscent in a good way.
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:38 PM   #58
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I don't skip songs on albums in general.

Sometimes I don't listen to all 15 minutes of Less Than You Think by Wilco, but that's about it.
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:40 PM   #59
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Here’s my custom tracklist,

Love Is All We Have Left
The Blackout
Get Out Of Your Way
American Soul
You’re The Best Thing About Me
Red Flag Day
Summer Of Love
The Showman
Lights Of Home
Landlady
The Little Things That Give You Away
Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way
13
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:49 PM   #60
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I don't skip songs on albums in general.

Sometimes I don't listen to all 15 minutes of Less Than You Think by Wilco, but that's about it.
Really? Once I get to know an album well I usually start skipping around.

I think Porcupine Tree is the only band I love with a large discography where I would not skip something on the majority of their albums.
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"And as for Bono, he needs a colostomy bag for his mouth."

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