My friend Greg Blosser, the consummate U2 fan, just posted on Facebook his initial thoughts about the new album Songs of Innocence,which dropped by surprise today, (available for FREE on iTunes!) and he gave me permission to re-post the thoughts here…
U2’s new album: Immediate Thoughts
Songs of Innocence was released about six hours ago. I haven’t listened enough to give my full assessment of the record and its place in the hierarchy of U2’s body of work, but here are some immediate reflections.
1. No Leaks.
I was pleasantly surprised that the album was able to remain a secret for the launch. Standard operating prodcedure for the release of a new U2 album always includes an “accidental” leak to the listening public a few weeks before the record’s street date followed by feigned indignation. “You rascally kids! Always stealing the new u2 album before it’s ready to be released… hmp!” I’ve been tired of that routine for nearly twenty years.
2. No Lemons.
I’m not ready to give an opinion on the quality of the album, but I have heard enough to say there are no absolute stinkers on this one. Not a single lemon to be found. I’m not talking about weak songs. I’m talking about songs that are so bad or bland you are left wondering how it is it ever saw the light of day. Zooropa had one. Pop had a few. HTDAAB had one or two. NLOTH had a couple. Songs of Innocence has zero songs that strike me as terrible. Thats gotta count for something, right?
3. No Album Cover.
Like The Beatles self titled album, or the Who’s Live from Leeds the new album cover is brilliantly minimalistic and casual. I LOVE it! I love it precisely because it is so contrary to the band’s usual obsessive preoccupation with self-presentation. Alas, I fear its temporary. When the physical product hits shelves in October, I’m guessing there will be a proper album cover. Until then I’m appreciating the non-cover.
4. No Cover Album.
In the past decade or two, U2 have released albums that occasionally sound to me like U2 playing covers of U2 songs, rather than U2 writing new songs that didn’t previously exist. I feel like NLOTH helped to break that troubling cycle and Songs of Innocence continues the trend. There are several moments on the album (whether its the sonic palette, the chord progression, the vocal melody, etc) that are relatively unlike anything else I remember hearing from the band. I consider that a good thing.
5. Guitars & Amplifiers.
We all know that the Edge basically invented the “jangle-jangle jingle-jingle” echo pedal sound and it’s cousin the “DOO-Doo-doo- DEE-Dee-dee” echo pedal arpeggio riff. And that’s certainly present on Songs of Innocence. I’m also familiar with the palette of tones he occasionally invents with his infinite chain of processors and digital effects. “Hey that guitar sounds like a synthesizer!” “Hey this guitar sounds like on old Atari 2600!” “Hey this guitar sounds like the Edge’s door bell!” It’s fun. I get it. But with this new album I greatly appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to detect a handful of tones that sound like an electric guitar made of wood and wires plugged directly into a glowing hot tube amp turned up to eleven. That sound is one of the purest sounds in the universe. It never gets old to me. Ever.
6. Who Sells Out?
The album is free. That’s pretty fantastic. Any talk of U2 “selling out” should immediately be met with the reminder that they arranged for this album to be given away to listeners for free. So if you and I are enjoying the fruit of U2’s labors on Apple’s dime… then lets be careful who we’re calling a sell-out.
And as a gesture of thanks for the free album, below I offer U2 the following FREE advice concerning the future course of their musical career:
1. Stop thinking about your legacy.
You release eleven songs about every five or six years. That’s ridiculous. You are professional musicians. Your job is to make music and sell it to people. That’s what you do. Do it more frequently and stop worrying about your “legacy”. You should be releasing eleven original songs every 12-18 months. Some of them won’t be great. Some of them will be fantastic. A lot will be in between. But frankly that’s been your story for quite some time now. So get crackin’. Let’s dirty up this legacy a little bit.
2. Stop thinking about being relevant.
I got news for you. You guys are 50 years old. You will never be the hippest, hottest, most relevant rock band in the world ever again. You are free of that burden! Write songs. Record them. Release them. If they are good, people will listen to them. If they aren’t good, so what, you are &*%$# U2. Go make something that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever done before. Experiment. Let Edge play with all his gadgets and don’t worry about it if there’s no hit single to release. After that, lock your selves in a garage-studio somewhere and record an album with these rules: Edge, you get to bring one guitar, one amp and a couple of stomp boxes. No sequencers. No digital processors. No computer gadgets that make your guitar sound like an underwater space ship. Larry and Adam, you guys still remember what rock and roll sounds like so you can help Bono and Edge when they get stuck. Spend a week writing and a week recording. Then ship it off to be mixed and mastered and don’t think about it again. There’s not time. You guys have another album to write starting next week.
3. Enough with the Super Bowls and the Commemorative iPods and the Target Ads
Seriously. Let it be about the music for a while. Just for a while. Here’s the rule: You can play one Superbowl, Apple Product Release Party or New York City Rooftop Christmas Concert Muppets TV Special featuring Kate Moss, Mikhail Gorbachev and brought to you by Facebook for every three albums you release.
4. Stop calling Spiderman. He doesn’t want to talk to you.
Seriously though. That was the worst I idea I’ve ever heard.
Thanks, Greg! I now have my copy of the album and look forward to giving it a listen tomorrow!