U2’s Secret Album Release

U2

So this happened…U2 surprise released their long-awaited new album, Songs of Innocence to the unsuspecting masses via iTunes, but what about the music itself? First of all, Songs of Innocence sounds like a U2 album, unlike their previous effort, 2009’s quickly forgotten No Line on the Horizon.

Secondly, after hearing about the highly touted “Every Breaking Wave” during the past five years (reportedly conceived during the last album’s recording sessions), it’s nice to hear that track not only lives up to its mythic reputation, but is easily the band’s finest tune in years. It’s also good to know the band can still pack a punch, best evidenced in lead-off single “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” “Volcano” and “Cedarwood Road.”

While I’ll readily admit I’ve been a U2 fan for over 30 years, that doesn’t mean I’ve loved everything they’ve released. I can still be objective about my favorite artists and I’ll simply agree to disagree with David Fricke’s excessive five-star review for Rolling Stone, although he did make some excellent points concerning the album’s subject matter.

Songs of Innocence is indeed a very good U2 album, but I’d hardly call it perfect. To quote Bono: “Very good is the enemy of great,” but with that said, the band’s 13th release is a welcome return to form. Songs of Innocence successfully manages to be reflective, while concurrently demonstrating a positive step forward in the band’s canon, ultimately proving the world did indeed need another U2 record.

Addendum 10-14-2014:

U2’s Songs of Innocence arrived today in its proper physical release form as a 2-LP set on 180-gram white vinyl (with an exclusive 12” mix of “The Crystal Ballroom”), and as a 2-CD deluxe version complete with bonus tracks, acoustic sessions, plus the hidden full-length version of original lead single “Invisible.” The deluxe version adds a new dimension to the overall listening experience, as it highlights the set’s strong points (most notably the stunning acoustic version of “Every Breaking Wave”), adds high caliber bonus tracks (“Lucifer’s Hands” and “The Crystal Ballroom), as well as corrects the previous omission of “Invisible” with its apt inclusion.

Also, I highly recommend the following playlist sequence in order to maximize your ultimate listening experience:

1. The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)

2. Lucifer’s Hands

3. Every Breaking Wave

4. California (There Is No End to Love)

5. Song for Someone

6. Iris (Hold Me Close)

7. Volcano

8. Invisible

9. Raised By Wolves

10. Cedarwood Road

11. Sleep Like A Baby Tonight

12. This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now

13. The Troubles

14. The Crystal Ballroom

15. Ordinary Love

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U2’s ‘Zooropa’ Revisited and Re-examined

U2: Zooropa

With U2’s eighth studio album celebrating its 21st anniversary, I still recall getting caught up in the premature foofaraw surrounding Zooropa upon its initial release in 1993. The throngs hungrily tried to over analyze and dissect the latest release from Ireland’s renowned rock band.

Although Zooropa was originally intended to be an EP recorded during a six-month break during the third and fourth legs of the band’s monumental Zoo TV Tour, it eventually morphed into a full-length album. The band immediately hit the recording studio to try and capture the moment fresh from playing sold-out arenas in North America.

Delving even deeper into the alternative rock and electronic sounds hinted at on Achtung Baby, Zooropa may have failed to produce massive radio hits (although I remember the “Lemon” and “Numb” videos being in heavy rotation on MTV), but the Grammy-winning effort is still regarded as a highly creative and experimental entry into U2’s varied discography.

Bono and company, along with the help of Flood and Brian Eno, managed to explore new musical territory with the six-and-a-half-minute opening title track, the robotic rapping of “Numb,” the falsetto soaked “Lemon,” and the compellingly offbeat “The Wanderer,” with guest vocals by Johnny Cash. Add the more signature stylings of “The First Time” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” to the set’s unusually diverse track list, and the result is an oddly satisfying listening experience that still captivates with its infectious grooves.

Although Zooropa received mixed reviews upon its release, there’s no denying it has made a lasting impact among U2 devotees. I remember my first reaction was a combination of excitement and surprise upon its arrival, but over the years I’ve found myself reveling in its inventiveness with incessant appreciation. As far as its legacy, Zooropa managed to sit atop the charts in 10 countries, sell over seven million copies, and has been touted as one of the all-time best albums of the nineties. Not bad for what started out as just an experimental EP.