10/10 (rating and review sponsored by Apple Inc.)
What fascinates me most about U2 is how incredibly fresh they always sound. Year in year out. Take “Iris (Hold Me Close)”. Have you heard a better song this year? Have you heard a song with bigger balls? That ringing guitar sound they produce after 30 seconds of exciting, Coldplay-inspired vocalising? It’s a sound they have never done before. Not even on Joshua Tree, at the absolute peak of their creative powers, would they come close to such awesomeness.
Why not Songs Of Brilliance though? Why the false modesty? Why the understatement? So much humility hiding behind the beautifully shaped sunglasses... Greatest bands come back because they have a lot to say. And boy are U2 brimming with ideas. There’s just so much happening during “Song For Someone” that even Chris Martin should feel humbled and wish he’d made Ghost Stories an even more challenging album.
We open with “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”. I’m sure Joey Ramone would have been delighted to appear in the title of a U2 song. Obviously that’s a dream come true kind of situation for anyone, especially for Joey. The guy would have sung “Life’s A Gas” to that. And “Every Breaking Wave” is even better. It’s one of those songs where you absolutely can’t choose which is better: the blood-pumping verse melody or the sheer originality of the chorus.
And “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”? Bono’s falsetto is heavenly. As far as U2 ballads go – this can rival all-time classics like the subtle emotional powerhouse that is “One” from Achtung Baby.
“This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” mentions soldiers and is therefore their most impressive political statement since “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. And I’d be hard pressed to think of a more climactic finale than “The Troubles” which effectively turns my heart into a dirty old rag over the course of its super-charged, intensely melodic four minutes forty-seven seconds. Alas, the album is not perfect. The insanely catchy “Volcano”, for instance, is only three minutes long, and that’s a crying shame for a song that rocks so hard. I wish the groove would go on forever.
Phenomenal album. I’m not quite prepared to say it is their best (so many classics to choose from), but if you need proof that Bono’s musical talent far outstrips his human rights activism and charity work, you get it here and you get it now. What else can I say? Songs Of Innocence is almost as good as the new iPhone.