You would have had to be living under a rock to miss the news that U2 dropped a new album at the Apple press conference on Tuesday. With a click of a mouse, Songs of Innocence was deposited into the accounts of 500,000,000 Itunes user accounts, the largest music release in history.
The New York Times reported that Apple promised a $100 million marketing campaign around the new album - nice promotion if you can get it.
“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,” muses Bono on the band’s website. “Country fans, hip hop aficionados 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.”
Many music fans are labeling Songs of Innocence as junk mail. Reaction has been swift and not always charitable; many resented Apple’s assumption that a U2 would be welcome into their customers’ library, with some describing the “intrusion” on the Twitter-verse as ‘malware’ (malicious software).
I’m not sure what the hate is all about: if the biggest rock band in the world decides to partner with the largest music distributor to drop some free music in my account, who am I to complain? I’ve only been with the album for a few hours and as we know, a good U2 album is like a fine wine that needs time and air to appreciate. Since we are in a constant news cycle, that luxury of time isn’t always possible.
The first thing one notices on Songs of Innocence is how the music looks backward, in both sound and musical content. According to interviews and press releases, the boys in the band went back to the bands and the Dublin streets that inspired them. “This Is Where You Can Reach Me” has spooky Eighties synths and a bass line that’s a Far East cousin to David Bowie’s “China Girl.” “Volcano” could be an outtake from The Clash’s London Calling. “"After we saw the Clash, it was a sort of blueprint for U2," Bono tells Rolling Stone. "We knew we couldn't possibly hope to be as cool, and that's proven to be true, but we did think we could get behind a sort of social justice agenda."
“Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” is constructed around a minimalist synthesizer riff that calls to mind Kraftwerk, an early influence. “Your eyes are red as Christmas/you’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight/in your dreams everything’s all right,” Bono coos before the dreamscape is violently interrupted by Edge’s corrosive riff. They even update their hit “I Will Follow” on the infectious “Raised by Wolves,” a politically tinged track that chronicles the “red sea (that) covers the ground in a metal crash” of a Northern Ireland bombing with chilling detail.
Bono has addressed the subject of losing his mother at an early age before; on Pop’s “Mother”he called out to her, “Mother, am I still your son?/You know I've waited for so long/To hear you say so.” He is even more direct on “Iris (Hold Me Close), singing “the ache in my heart is a part of who I am” about losing her so suddenly. “I have your light inside of me,” he assures her over a classic U2 riff that calls to mind “New Year’s Day.” Over a chunky metallic riff, Bono returns to his roots again on “Cedarwood Road,” named after the Dublin Street of his youth. “I’m still standing on the street/I still need an enemy/if the door is open it isn’t theft/you can’t return to where you haven’t left,” he sings.
Nothing is ever cut and dried with U2, but this writer suspects we have just received the band’s first concept album with a storyline made up of Bono’s backward glances. "It is incredibly Dublin-centric" the Edge told The Irish Times. Bono said "This album is somethign hard Jimmy Iovine said to me.He looked me in the eye and said "You're a long way from where you live.This is my reply."
The bottom line is that Apple and U2 have dropped Songs of Innocence ,a great album, into your library. You’d be a fool not to download it.
Have a listen: