U2 released their new album Songs of Innocence on September 9th. I found out about it by accident. I signed into my iTunes account to update my information and there is was ready for download.
I have listened through the album eight times. I love it. It is blend of different genres, with touches of punk, pop rock, alternative rock, and metal. It is almost two separate albums. The first five songs sound similar to songs from All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (I must also give credit to the band for picking a shorter album title this time around).
The bands shakes things up with the six track, Volcano. From there, they begin to jump from style to style. It reminds me of what Linkin Park tried to do on their last album Hunting Party, except U2 succeeded. The songs feel like the belong on the same album. There is clearly a theme to the album, mostly the band looking back on their past.
Some of the songs are over before they begin, like Raised by Wolves. That speed makes the album move fast. Even though the album is 48 minutes long, it feels shorter.
The album has received mixed reviews. One of the problems for bands as long-lived as U2 is that their new work will be compared to their masterpieces. Another problem is that people develop favorite versions of the band. Some prefer the post-punk feel of early U2, others the Americana flare of the mid 80s, others the experimentation of the 90s.
I prefer to focus on whether the band plays at their best. Is this the best album U2 can make? Probably not. However, it does sound like they brought their A-game. I would say this album is better than No Line on the Horizon. It is more cohesive, despite the numerous producers, and feels finished and less experimental. There is not a song on the album I do not like, nothing I want to skip past, and several I like to replay.
I rate my albums in iTunes, mostly to make it easier to create playlists. According to the ratings, Songs of Innocence is one of my top four U2 albums, with a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. (For those interested, my favorite album is The Joshua Tree.)