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U2-Songs of Experience (2017) - Review

U2 has just released their fourteenth studio album, Songs of Experience. As with each release from these Irish rockers, critics and fans are divided as to which side of the spectrum the album falls under.

You see, U2 has become one of the preeminent voices of a generation. Being billed as just 4 regular guys, driven by fierce idealism, ready to fight the good fight and tear down each and every status quo. Well the plan worked out so well that they became one of the biggest bands on the planet. They managed to release some of the hardest hitting political, sociological, emotional driven albums (War, Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can't Live Behind) ever to be recorded. Those albums and their songs have been ingrained into our psyches, becoming the rally cry for the millions of fans across the globe. Because of this, the band has put themselves in a very odd position indeed. One in that, each and every album they release must have a potent message; and sometimes U2 just can’t deliver on those unfair expectations. Whether those expectations are self-imposed or just a brilliant marketing move however, is up to you to decide. Solid or decent albums will never be good enough for some U2 fans who yearn for their next masterpiece that can shed some light on these dark times. In reality, after 3 decades and 14 albums, U2 is simply a four-man rock band, who, like everyone else, is just looking for meaning in these turbulent times.

Bono himself has described SoE as a collection of songs for family, fans and America: messages and advisories from a globally minded public figure. For the most part of the album ,U2 are offering a relentless sense of optimism to counter the anger, despair and cynicism of 2017.

With a multitude of producers and engineers, it seems like no expense was spared in creating U2’s latest album. The album sounds like a multimillion dollar recording. But, there are a couple of problems. First, U2 has its own distinct sound and changing that sound to get them played on the same radio stations as Maroon 5 or Imagine Dragons is a major misstep. It’s those vintage songs like Lights of Home, Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way & Get Out of Your Own Way that are the saving grace of SoE.

Second, the band has traded in angst and urgency for love and optimism. So if you’re looking for the next Sunday Bloody Sunday, you won’t find it here. But if can get on board with the “all you need is love” theme, then the album has its rewards.

The bottom line is that unlike most of U2’s contemporaries, the band is still searching for answers. They are not the messiah of rock n roll, they are human beings who are struggling and stumbling to reach for the stars in search of that compelling message for this era to rally behind.

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