Author Topic: Initial Thoughts on SOE?  (Read 4917 times)

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Offline miryclay

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #75 on: December 03, 2017, 01:06:58 AM »
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Thanks to the moderators for bringing the forum back. It's fun to read the reactions to the record so far.

For me, SOE is good in spots, really weak in others, maybe a B+ overall. It's in a league with ATYCLB and HTDAAB, though without the high points of either (Beautiful Day, Walk On, Vertigo, etc.). It feels more cohesive than the last two. My highlights are Little Things (I was fortunate to hear this live in Dublin), Love Is All We Have Left (a wonderful Zooropa-esque opener), The Blackout, and Book of Your Heart (I would've put this in the main 13). Best Thing has grown on me, but I don't know that it's going to have a long shelf life (I like sugar cookies, but I won't eat ten in one sitting). The rework of Song For Someone is a charming end to the record, and I like it better than the original. American Soul is a missed opportunity, especially with the killer momentum of the Lamar bit over the stomping intro. I can totally do without Summer of Love, Red Flag Day, Landlady, and The Showman, which remind me of the more lightweight pop that might've been a B-side in an earlier time (like Sweetest Thing, although that is better than any of the ones I mentioned).

The biggest weakness is, by far, Bono's lyrics. Lazy, overly simple, repetitive, often vapid and cringe-worthy in places. Too many superficial, lightweight concepts (like American Soul). And man, while I'm optimistic by nature, the world is a lot more complicated than "love is [fill in the blank]," and being hammered over the head with it while the daily news makes me want to wretch is not a good thing. FWIW, Neil McCormick replied to me on Twitter to say he thinks they're Bono's best lyrics since ATYCLB It also feels like Edge has lost his mojo as the band's main source of new musical ideas -- some of his bluesy riffs are uninspired, too.

On one hand, as a lifelong fan, it's hard for any record to measure up to their peaks. I'm 51, came on board when I first heard Gloria on MTV, and have seen almost every tour since the original JT tour. So there are my early loves (Boy thru TUF), my coming of age record (JT in my senior year in college), and the crazily productive peaks of Achtung thru Pop with B-sides that are better and more inventive than anything they write now. That said, I'm also a lifelong Bowie fan, and his two last records were positively brilliant; Blackstar is now one of my favorite records of all time, and had an enormous influence on me as a musician and songwriter. I also loved REM's last two records, so it's not as if I'm some old dude who can't get past the glory songs of my youth. ;-)

Bowie and REM also provide relevant context to SOE in other ways. Bowie released his last two records with no fanfare -- both came out of the blue with no rumors or leaks (musicians signed NDAs to enforce the secrecy). He made them both with a small crew of musicians (The Next Day with some of his longtime sidemen, Blackstar with Donny McCaslin's brilliant quartet), one producer, (the brilliant Tony Visconti), and one studio. No hype, no interviews, a few videos -- just a focus on the songs. I was able to take both records just as they were. With U2, I can't help but expect more than this after the endless blather, hype, multiple producers, reworking the record, ad nauseum, etc. Bowie just said "f**k it, I'm David Bowie," while U2 is desperately striving for relevance and radio success, almost embarrassingly so, it seems. (Like others, I wonder if the Live Nation contract influences this.)

REM is relevant because I've been listening a lot to the 25th anniversary of Automatic For The People. REM knew they weren't going to tour behind it, so they weren't concerned with writing songs that would have to go over in arenas or stadia. Michael Stipe has talked recently about their knowing that they finally had major cachet and that radio would play basically anything they released, so they perversely released the slow, spacey Drive as the lead single. I would love to hear what U2 would release if they weren't concerned with big Coldplay-ish whoa-oa-oa choruses for arena shows and if they weren't so concerned with relevance and radio success.

I dunno...as I told my wife and a couple close mates who are all big U2 fans, I miss the days when new U2 records made me cry, dance, and hug my friends, rather than trying to rationalize why I don't love the record. I'll keep listening and how this grows on me, but more than likely, I'll end up listening to a best-of playlist of my fave songs from NTOTH thru SOE, something I thought I'd never do with my favorite band of all time.

Thanks for listening. Cheers, all.

I also thought of Blackstar with the mortality theme running through SOE. Thanks for sharing.

Offline lucas.homem

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #76 on: December 03, 2017, 04:03:58 AM »
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well i'd just like to say....not bad.!!

sure some tracks lag, filler material (LIBTAIIW, 13 There is a light, YBTABTM) but on the whole a solid effort with a plethora of catchy tunes. Absolutely adore Summer of Love, the edge's best licks since In a little while imo. Studio versions of the Blackout and LTTGYA are dull and tame in comparison to their explosive live versions- great songs hidden under the dullness of the studio. Book of Your Heart, worthy of inclusion on the main disc.

I get the thematic link between SOE and SOI, hence why there are so many references to the previous album- this is a first for U2 I think where they've never before made such a blatant reference to their past. Nothing wrong with that, but this is a band that prided themselves on looking forward, not living off the past, but I guess the passage of time and the creature comforts they've accumulated along the way have perhaps tamed their lust for pushing the envelope like they did in the 90''s- the best u2 period.

Still looking forward to the shows in Europe next year..i give it a sold 8/10

Some things to say here...

1) unfortunately (and this is a little disappointing for me too), it looks like the guitar licks from Summer of Love are not from The Edge, but instead a gift from Ryan Tedder to U2, since the licks and the chorus were already being designed to two different songs of OneRepublic, as we can see here: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

2) I agree with you regarding The Blackout, but I do think Little Things is way better in the studio version, even if less explosive.

3) I completely disagree with your statement that the links between SOI and SOE are signals of "living off the past". Well, SOI isn't even a successful album to be used as such (btw, it is even surprising to me that U2 didn't try to erase SOI from existance like they did with POP and NLOTH). They are just companions albums as it was intended to be from the beginning. Mostly, making these citations is just the perfect way to convey the ideas present on SOE itself, because experience comes after innocence.

I think we'd be in for a bit of a shock if we found out how much U2 music was created by Eno and Lanois and Lillywhite. If Tedder has a good hook for a U2 song, power to him.

I agree with you. And I do think Summer of Love is also a U2 song (I suppose U2 have done more than just put Bono to sing it). But it's also a little sad that those fantastic guitar licks are from someone else, even because that's the core and the magnet of the song. One of the highlights of the whole record, in my opinion, maybe even more.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 04:16:41 AM by lucas.homem »

Offline olimar

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #77 on: December 03, 2017, 06:13:23 AM »
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I agree with you. And I do think Summer of Love is also a U2 song (I suppose U2 have done more than just put Bono to sing it). But it's also a little sad that those fantastic guitar licks are from someone else, even because that's the core and the magnet of the song. One of the highlights of the whole record, in my opinion, maybe even more.

Judging by the One Republic demo (as much as there is available), the guitar riff does appear to be borrowed and the chorus, but the verses and lyrics are obviously all new. The best bit of the entire song is the last 1 minute or so, when the strings are brought in to it. It sounds fantastic.

Also, there was an interview somewhere, possibly last month in Q but Id need to check, where Bono talks openly about Edge stealing riffs from other songs and how open they are to the idea of taking someones idea and working it up. Its impossible for any music to be unique anyway, its always going to be influenced by whatever else youve listened to (even subconsciously in the most part), so Im fine with it.

Album is really strong for me- I look at the lists of favourite tracks people are putting together and agree with the ones they put at the top, then find I disagree with some that end up near the bottom. That tells its own story- Im liking a high percentage of them (not taken with Showman or 13 particularly though).

Offline lucas.homem

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #78 on: December 03, 2017, 06:20:41 AM »
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I agree with you. And I do think Summer of Love is also a U2 song (I suppose U2 have done more than just put Bono to sing it). But it's also a little sad that those fantastic guitar licks are from someone else, even because that's the core and the magnet of the song. One of the highlights of the whole record, in my opinion, maybe even more.

Judging by the One Republic demo (as much as there is available), the guitar riff does appear to be borrowed and the chorus, but the verses and lyrics are obviously all new. The best bit of the entire song is the last 1 minute or so, when the strings are brought in to it. It sounds fantastic.

Also, there was an interview somewhere, possibly last month in Q but Id need to check, where Bono talks openly about Edge stealing riffs from other songs and how open they are to the idea of taking someones idea and working it up. Its impossible for any music to be unique anyway, its always going to be influenced by whatever else youve listened to (even subconsciously in the most part), so Im fine with it.

Album is really strong for me- I look at the lists of favourite tracks people are putting together and agree with the ones they put at the top, then find I disagree with some that end up near the bottom. That tells its own story- Im liking a high percentage of them (not taken with Showman or 13 particularly though).

I agree. No big problem for me too. I come from a background of classical music and it was pretty normal to quote (or steal) themes and melodies from others, sometimes more openly, sometimes not. All fine, because the final product was unique.

Offline BalconyTV

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #79 on: December 03, 2017, 06:33:57 AM »
So would you be cool if you found out the main sound from New Years Day was from someone else?

Offline croni

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #80 on: December 03, 2017, 06:43:00 AM »
Okay I've listened to the album about 15 times now.

First things first. It blows Songs of Innocence out of the water. That's a relief.

In large parts of the album there's a confidence and a swagger that was seriously lacking for about twenty years. Whether it be recent global events or personal experiences, the album is a lot more focused and has greater cohesion.

In some ways this is the album U2 have been trying to make for a very long time, that pop-ier album. It's surprisingly easy to listen to while you're doing other things, which U2 rarely do. It's not as needy or as abrasive as a lot of their recent stuff. Some lovely experimentation as well.

Possibly their best post millenium work

It's up there with, if not better that ATYCLB and No Line (a demanding but ultimately very rewarding listen, apart from those 3 stinkers crazy, boots and stand up)

Atomic Bomb and SOI are duds IMHO.

Standout tracks: Little things, Red Flag Day, Summer of Love

Binners: Best Thing, American Soul, Landlady, Love is bigger (vacuous anthems, boring rockers or broadway musical numbers)

easily a 4 star out 5 album.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 06:49:27 AM by croni »

Offline lucas.homem

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #81 on: December 03, 2017, 06:51:18 AM »
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So would you be cool if you found out the main sound from New Years Day was from someone else?

The piano melody? No problem at all. Depending from where they were stealing it, I'd actually find it even more awesome.

Offline croni

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #82 on: December 03, 2017, 06:53:22 AM »
It boggles the mind how Book of Your Heart was left off the album

Offline olimar

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #83 on: December 03, 2017, 07:14:27 AM »
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In large parts of the album there's a confidence and a swagger that was seriously lacking for about twenty years. Whether it be recent global events or personal experiences, the album is a lot more focused and has greater cohesion.

Interesting- Id definitely say there is so much more cohesion than there has been on an album going back probably to ATYCLB (although that might be unfair on Atomic Bomb that has a fairly even style to it).
However, rather than saying its confident or full of swagger, one of the things I really like is that I find its actually quite understated, melancholic in places and feels like a band so much more relaxed. Several songs just move along with a lot less... I dont know.... Noise.
Case in point, the sections at the end of Landlady, Summer of Love, Little Things would ordinarily move towards big swirling traditional climaxes, but instead they play out in a much more understated style and sound great for it.

Offline blovesu2

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #84 on: December 03, 2017, 09:03:22 AM »
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It boggles the mind how Book of Your Heart was left off the album

100% agree! and that they left Love is Bigger on the album is equal in baffle

Offline hollywoodswag

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #85 on: December 03, 2017, 09:10:51 AM »
Copied from elsewhere:

I've played through this album end-to-end only once so far, and I find that it takes multiple listens to really form a proper opinion, but so far, I'd say it's probably in the bottom rung for U2 albums for me.

I had an endlessly long review that I deleted to avoid any TLDR issues, but, at least after my initial play-through, this album is so-so, possibly even duking it out for the position of my least-favorite U2 album with its predecessor (October would be in contention as well because when it's bad, it's bad, but Gloria, ITABTAW and especially I Fall Down cover a multitude of sins). I think that SOE benefits from many strong lyrics in a lot of areas, and the occasional references to songs on the predecessor (American Soul drawing much of its chorus from a snippet in Volcano and 13 appropriating the chorus of Song for Someone and turning it on its head to suit the theme of this album), but when it's using names like Fred, Ned, Jack, and Zack to preserve rhyme scheme, well, come on, even at their silliest, U2 is better than that. I also don't like the flip-flopping between political and personal. At times, the lyrical themes make it feel like two albums stitched together. I have no problem with albums having multiple lyrical themes from song to song, but when there's a disproportionate level of lyrical strength between one theme (the personal being very powerful) and another (the political not so much), it creates a rough contrast.

My biggest issue, though, is the sound of the album. It suffers from the same problem as SOI, which is that it sounds like generic top 40 radio. Gone is U2's usual brand of either creating their own sound or modifying an existing sound with their own flavor (i.e. the 90s material), and instead we're stuck with a Coldplay or OneRepublic album that just happens to have Bono on vocals. I think that when SOE succeeds on the sonic front, it does so far better than SOI, but when it flops, it falls hard. I also think that even some of the highlights (The Blackout, for example), have a structure that seems like it's building to something that never materializes. To expand on that, in the chorus of The Blackout, you get this bass drum beat that sounds almost club-ish, but you have the guitar and the bass in full-on rock mode. I feel like a drum beat that's not so focused on the bass drum alone would have made that song more explosive. YTBTAM suffers even more from an energy drop-off, where you have these amazing guitar-driven verses only to bleed off that energy into the softer chorus.

I'd say that The Little Things is probably the album's strongest overall performance, and YTBTAM, American Soul, and The Blackout are all strong in their own rights. I also think that the album reaches the point of being a tear-jerker in several spots (13 is one of those songs where, were it accompanied by glass of wine, the listener would likely be reduced to a blubbering mess), and I can admire the vulnerability it takes to go there. In an overall sense, though, I'd probably put the album near the bottom of the U2 catalogue based on my first impression. I don't rule out it being a grower, even if I've played the living daylights out of a few songs, but I don't see it climbing high in my rankings.

Oh, and one last highlight: Adam Clayton's bass. Good grief, does that man bring the thunder on this thing.

On a side note, I really hope it's not a goodbye album, but it sure as heck comes off as one in some areas.

Offline tommyboy6913

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #86 on: December 03, 2017, 09:59:53 AM »
Here's my initial impression after only 2 listens: It's a solid album but does not live up to the hype. To use a baseball analogy, the last several albums have had Home-Runs such as Beautiful Day and Kite, Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights, EBW and Sleep Like a Baby Tonight and SFS. This album has no Home-Run hits but does have some solid doubles Black-out, Showman, Your the Best Thing and triples Little Things, RFD and Get Out of Your Own Way. The rest are all singles, no fly balls or grounders but no home-runs.
I will need to give it a few more listens. I see this album as a Grower but at this point, I would say it's not a Top 10 album for me. However, it's very consistent and the only song I dislike is 13. How some of you can say 13 is better than SFS is beyond me. Also track 12 sounds like Christian music to me...puke  :-\ There are a couple of songs that sound a little "show-tunes or Broadway" to me like Landlady and Love is Bigger. At this point, I would give this album a 2 out of 4 stars.

Offline Stateless

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #87 on: December 03, 2017, 10:42:04 AM »
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In some ways this is the album U2 have been trying to make for a very long time, that pop-ier album. It's surprisingly easy to listen to while you're doing other things, which U2 rarely do. It's not as needy or as abrasive as a lot of their recent stuff. Some lovely experimentation as well.

I agree.  I have it playing while cooking or doing dishes etc.  I am also a gamer and there is an ability on the Xbox One X to stream music while playing a game, so I had SOE playing while playing some of my video games (racing games mainly).   It is very easy to listen and it is kind of rare that that I am not reaching for the "skip" button on some songs.  Usually with a new U2 album there are some songs that don't connect with me initially and I hit the skip button.  The only time I have done that was on my drive home the other day and the only reason I hit skip was because my commute was only 30 minutes and I was skipping Best Thing, Blackout and Little Things just because I have heard them a lot already and wanted more time with some of the newer songs to me. 


Offline wraitii

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #88 on: December 03, 2017, 11:13:28 AM »
In a lot of ways, this is the first album on which Bono is the highlight since forever.

Offline derry falcon

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Re: Initial Thoughts on SOE?
« Reply #89 on: December 03, 2017, 03:08:25 PM »
Easily the best material since Pop. Red Flag Day could end up in my top 10 U2 songs ever. Lights of Home, The Little Things and Summer of Love are easily better than anything on SoI. Can see The Blackout being a stomping opener on the tour. And Adam Clayton is on absolute fire on this album. Brilliant stuff, I'm absolutely delighted with the finished product, I was a bit skeptical after hearing American Soul and was honestly fearing the worst but thankfully the album is a classic.