The Irish giants have kept their fans waiting for a while. Half a decade, to be exact. Releasing an album without warning seems to be a growing craze: Beyonce’s music videos and album combo in December last year was quite the achievement, and there’s a murmur that one Adele might do the same with 25. Now, U2 have taken up the mantle, and it feels like a stagnation of creativity, particularly because they chose to collaborate with technology behemoths Apple.
The album, coinciding with the announcement of some complicated and fastidious watch, is essentially 46 minutes worth of advertisement for iTunes. Songs of Innocence, to put it simply, feels like commercial drivel straight off the conveyor belt. It’s easily forgettable and it’s not surprising if you believe the rumours of its postponement due to Bono suffering from writer’s block.
U2 seem obsessed with how their songs might sound in an arena when composing them, hopelessly recalling past triumphs like “Pride” or “Angel of Harlem”. A lot of the songs here feel formulaic, repetitive choruses aplenty, “Raised By Wolves” being a good example. Even “California” loses the remnants of originality, curiously sounding like The Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”. The Edge gives the guitar a go now and then and it produces the odd pleasing sound, as does the violin-laden intro to “Troubles”. And “This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” is catchy enough, more so than the title. Generally, the album is so run of the mill that it begs the question of what they’ve been doing for five years. Perhaps it’s just made to sound better live?
It’s all quite sad when you think of the anthemic U2 of the 80s. Where are they now? Swallowed by Bono’s growing ego and business acumen? The best thing about this release are the comments of cynical Guardian readers.