I’ve just spent the afternoon listening to Songs Of Surrender, the latest release from U2.
When I say ‘spent the afternoon,’ that’s an accurate summation:
Given the 2 hour 46 running time.
I actually could have flown to Dublin, drunk a pint and paid reverence to the statue of Phil Lynott and still made it home in that time.
In retrospect, it’s around 2 hours 30 minutes longer than necessary.
The album grew from a Covid lockdown project led by The Edge that then tied into Bono’s memoir; Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, and got out of hand with each member selecting 10 tracks for reworking.
Anyone else have a band that they’ve been in a long term relationship with that just isn’t working anymore?
It’s not that it’s got ugly. But you’re left thinking that the good times are someway back in the distance even though you cling to the hope that next time round will be the one to rekindle the passion.
U2 formed in the year of my birth so there’s a lot of shared history.
They first properly entered my consciousness with The Joshua Tree when I was 11 and they’ve been there ever since.
And yes, I know that Bono is a polarising figure. I never said I wanted to be best mates with him. I imagine he can be a bit much.
Larry looks the right sort though.
I reckon you could depend on him.
There’s a lot of great songs and albums.
Personal favourite? I go with Achtung Baby. I even like Pop. I might be the only person that does.
It’s been a while since there was an essential U2 album. Perhaps How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb?
I’ve given the ones since a cursory listen and they haven’t grabbed me. They’ve become a legacy artist to me: I can still go back and enjoy a rich history and pretend that the (unforgettable) fire never went out.
All the while, they kept doing their best to wind people up. Songs of Innocence caused fury with its method of release as people woke up to find U2 had inserted themselves into the world’s iTunes libraries.
I actually didn’t have that problem. For some reason, my iTunes account remained free from this tyranny. I didn’t know whether to be thankful or indignant at being singled out for special treatment. OK, so I hadn’t been frothing with rabid praise for No Line On The Horizon. But I don’t think that justified the cold shoulder.
Such is the cooling of passion that it was only last week that I saw there was a new album on the horizon.
An intimate, acoustic reimagining of their back catalogue. An intriguing prospect, the chance to hear the songs that I love in a new and less bombastic light.
Well… that didn’t turn out so great.
One word; lacklustre.
Still, we’ll carry on and hope that was just a mis-step.
Where The Streets Have No Name.
Now, I’m worried, taking in the enormity and commitment of that run time and thinking that its gonna be a long afternoon.
Its not that it’s actively bad. Its that there are no active ingredients to it whatsoever, passing me by in a blur of beige. If this is intimacy, I’m considering celibacy as a viable alternative.
That’s 2 for 2 on reducing their classics to aural wallpaper. What have you done, boys?!
We get deeper into their history mixing the big hits with album tracks. The stripped back arrangements remove any sense of forward momentum and time slows down.
Its not until track 8; Every Breaking Wave from Songs of Innocence, that a song focuses my mind and the approach makes sense.
The irony doesn’t escape me that it takes a lesser known song from the latter period malaise to have a positive impact. This is just temporary relief though, we’re soon back to wall to wall tedium.
Some might call 40 tracks value for money.
I call it torturous self-indulgence.
I’m sure there must be the odd piece of gold in there, and I’m no quitter. So I’m in for the long haul.
But as each track slips by, the fact that there’s almost three hours of this to wade through is prejudicing me against what’s to come.
At least these arrangements are a reminder by omission of what I like about U2.
It’s interesting to see what they’ve picked. Or rather what they’ve left out.
Turns out that October, No Line On The Horizon and the Passengers: Original Soundtrack 1 experiment are the runts of the litter with nothing selected from any of them. The best represented albums with four selections each are The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and surprisingly, Songs Of Innocence.
Determined to have that one reappraised after its difficult birth.
Obviously this is my subjective opinion. There are people who like it. Metacritic currently gives a score of 6.8 from 12 critic reviews, indicating generally favourable responses which is mirrored by user reviews.
For me though, is a soul sapping exercise in draining the life from some of the greatest songs of my formative years.
Having reached the end there are six songs I’ve cone away with a positive opinion of.
This is my revised, reduced, new and improved tracklisting;
If only they’d asked me first. I could have condensed this whole thing into an EP that leaves the fans wanting more. Whereas I very much want less.
Songs of Surrender is about right. I give in.
Despite it all…
I’m sure that as soon as the next album appears I’ll be giving it a listen…
In an act of hope over expectation that it provides the clichéd but elusive return to form.
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