- 10 Sep 14
There’s been an avalanche of reaction to U2 taking us all unawares, with the release of their Songs Of Innocence album.
“It is an album of big, colourful, attacking rock with fluid melodies, bright anthemic choruses and bold lyrical ideas,” enthuses former Hot Press-er Neil McCormick, in his Daily Telegraph review. “Perhaps the most surprising thing is that, despite apparently being created in a spirit of self-doubt, it sounds fresh and cohesive, bouncing out of the speakers with a youthful spring in its step.”
“Brilliant album,” remarks MCD booker Noel McHale. “What a way to launch; show the world how it’s done. Up the Dubs!”
“The Edge wins MVP after one listen… although you can't hear much bass on a laptop,” was former U2 producer Steve Lillywhite’s snap assessment last night.
“Really liking the U2 album,” says Niall Breslin. “You can see why they took their time. Sonically sweet.” He adds: “Trying to figure out where I stand on U2 giving their album away for free. Well aware they will be okay - it’s just the industry I’m thinking of.”
Overall, the response has been hugely positive – but not uniformly so. Legendary Blur, Cranberries and Smiths producer Stephen Street is critical of the free release strategy.
“I have visions of royalty throwing gifts to paupers from gilt lined carriages on the road,” he opines. “If all you're worried about is max exposure to get bums on seats for your world tour then it might work, but giving away recorded music is not a model that helps most signed acts trying to climb the ladder and is a disservice to rest of industry.”
As it happens, all of that and more – including U2’s renewed relationship with Apple – is addressed by Bono in an open letter to fans, who’ll be pleased to hear that the Songs Of Experience follow-up could be with us sooner rather than later.
“Hello, bonjour, ciao, hola, hallo, zdravo, dobar dan, Dia duit, hæ, hej,hei, cześć, olá, ćao, namaste, sawatdee, jambo, pozdravi, Γεια σου, привіт, שלום, مرحبا, こんにちは, , سلام, 你好, Привет…” he opens. “Remember us? Pleased to announce myself, Edge, Adam and Larry have finally given birth to our new baby… Songs Of Innocence. It’s been a while. We wanted to get it right for you/us. We just finished it last week and thanks to Apple and iTunes it’s with you today. That’s already amazing to me as it normally takes a few months to turn this stuff around.
“Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible. In the next 24 hours, over a half a billion people are going to have Songs Of Innocence… should they choose to check it out. That is so exciting. People who haven’t heard our music, or weren’t remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we’re in their library. Country fans, hip hop afficionados from east LA, electro poppers from Seoul, Bhangra fans from New Delhi, Highlifers in Accra… might JUST be tempted to check us out, even for a moment. What a mind blowing, head scratching, 21st century situation. Over 500 million people… that’s a billion ears. And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.
“You’ll have noticed the album is free to U2.com’ers from the band. It’s also free to everyone on iTunes thanks to Apple. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers. Free, but paid for. Because if no-one's paying anything for it, we’re not sure ‘free’ music is really that free. It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music... all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them.
“We’re collaborating with Apple on some cool stuff over the next couple of years, innovations that will transform the way music is listened to and viewed. We’ll keep you posted. If you like Songs Of Innocence, stay with us for Songs of Experience. It should be ready soon enough… although I know I’ve said that before…
“I hope after listening to our new long player a few times, you’ll understand why it took so long. We really went there… it’s a very, very personal album. Apologies if that gets excruciating… actually, I take that back. No apologies if it gets excruciating. What’s the point in being in U2 if you can’t go there?
There is no end to LOVE.”