Author Topic: The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?  (Read 795 times)

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Offline A_Fly_On_The_Wall

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The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?
« on: January 05, 2018, 05:39:23 PM »
So, have U2 done it? Have they made the relevant record they wanted with Songs Of Experience? I think so, and here are some reasons why.

Firstly, there is no doubting this album’s cohesive storyline when listening throughout. Each song flows flawlessly from one to the next without feeling rushed or any of the songs out of place - it all glides naturally and seems to keep the underlying theme present in the background subtly yet effectively.

The opening “Love Is All We Have Left” is, in my opinion, U2’s second-most daring album opener (closely behind Achtung Baby’s “Zoo Station”). A stratospheric, sensual and vulnerable opening offer showcasing Bono’s deft vocal ability in the lower register whilst including experimentation with a vocal decoder. An eerily stark awakening and a bold statement to advise the world that, instead of hate, it is actually love that is all we have left.

Without a moment’s breath, Edge’s blues-inspired slide riff intro to “Lights Of Home” catapults you into the album with Bono encapsulating the listener with his opening line “I shouldn’t be here ‘cos I should be dead” - it grabs your attention immediately and doesn’t let you go until the final note; something which only U2’s songs appear to be able to do to me as a listener. The final rousing chant of “free yourself” etc. rounds off this track beautifully and reminds the world of that fact; “if only you could see yourself, if only you could see” - Bono’s personal letter to the world asking you to look inside yourself and change whatever wrong doings may be present is a subtle, yet direct, message to the masses.

The joyful “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is one of a couple of personal dedications to Bono’s wife, Ali, on this album and is a great all-round track. Uplifting, spiritual and joyous is just what an album of experience should include and this song has it in spades - a great track performed excellently by all four members of U2.

Smoothly transitioning into the dreamy intro of “Get Out Of Your Own Way”, this is where the album really kickstarts for me. With an intro harking back to ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, before morphing into a current transformation of ‘Beautiful Day’, this song lifts the listener up to a place high and above everything else whilst shooting out a message of self-doubt and fear of what the world is, potentially, going to become. A song with mixed feelings for the listener but a powerful and present message of declaration for us all to get out of our own way of seeing, hearing and living - take time to look around, listen and, potentially, change our ways for the better. Incredible power and emotion behind this song, ending with a direct and take-note spoken outro by Kendrick Lamar...

Which beautifully leads into an equally direct and take-note spoken intro to “American Soul”. This is, by no mistake, Bono’s love letter to the USA; clearly stated in his lyric “this country is, to me, a though that offers grace”. Hard-hitting musicality from Edge, Adam and Larry blasts this song through Bono’s militant-like vocals making this a very direct, and relevant, piece of music in the present day.

Spiralling down to the other side of the spectrum, we hear the soft and delicate opening riff from Edge on “Summer Of Love” - for me, his most beautiful riff for a long time. Again, this song sounds as if it should be listened to on a sunny beach somewhere exotic with nothing but blue skies and sunshine reverberating across the most perfect of days. However, whilst the music may well suggest such a thought, the lyrics and vocal from Bono suggest very much otherwise. A joyous sounding song stabbed in the heart with painstaking and, almost tragic, lyrics - “I’ve been thinking ‘bout the west coast, not the one that everyone knows” - that line is so heart-wrenchingly true in today’s day and age and something which certainly hits home whenever I hear it. Another message of what is actually going on in this world at times and one which, I think, Bono wants to make people stand up, listen and take action to.

“Red Flag Day” soon follows on from where ‘Summer Of Love’ left off; however, with a much more powerful commencement of music from Edge, Adam and Larry - this, for me, is the finest work these three musicians have ever put together on record. A song of dominant musicality and shouty, in-your-face vocals for the most part; all whilst telling the story of the harrowing Syrian refugee crisis. For me, it’s the perfect U2 song - one which displays amazing musicianship whilst delivering a message that hits your right in the heart and doesn’t give you a chance to ever forget it. In other words... timeless.

The album offers a slight change in tone with the next tune “The Showman (Little More Better)” as, in my eyes, this is a story written about Bono and by Bono - “when I’m all lit up, I can’t make a mistake” is proof enough on this point! Beautifully written, and cheekily candid at some points, but another true U2 song through and through and a letter to his fans which Bono can solely keep the credit for forever.

Slowly bringing the listener back to reality, after the aforementioned fantasy tale of a rockstar, “The Little Things That Give You Away” serves up a delightful reminder of just what U2 are capable of as a band. For me, it is the classic recipe of a U2 song; a slow burner which builds and builds climaxing to a screeching crescendo. Bono’s vocals are absolutely on point and the band back him up sublimely well with Edge taking centre stage through his gorgeous solo. One lyric which particularly sticks out for me is “and all my innocence has died” - if you had doubted this album’s ability to be one of experience and the journey of life, you need not doubt anymore as Bono makes it personally clear on his mindset here... and, to finish, “the end is not coming” #Truth.

Another sonic landscape of sounds appear with the next track “Landlady”; again, as another ode to Bono’s wife, Ali, this song is extremely personal and sang beautifully. Just take a moment out of your day to appreciate how wonderful one man’s dedication to his life-long partner can be - “I will win and call it losing, if the prize is not for you”. Bono at his most personal best.

If you needed to be awoken slightly after the previous two slow-building ballads then fear not; “The Blackout” screams out of this album with a stark nod to ‘The Fly’. The rhythm section of Adam and Larry are bang on point with clean, clear and precise timing and a kick-ass groove that’ll rock your world. Bono brings us listeners back into the equation with “when the lights go out, don’t you ever doubt the light that we can really be” - reminding us all to find our inner-strength to break through our fears and conquer the previously unconquerable. U2 are saying ‘we're a rock band and we can take on the world so come and be part of the journey’ - I can tell you now, this is a journey I will gladly attend with open arms.

The most grandiose of musical events quickly follows with “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way”. A song which, again, is a reminder to the audience that love is a message of hope and nothing negative will ever be able to take over or control our feelings of love. It is bigger than anything; and that, albeit slightly corny, is sort of true in a way. This is the kind of message the world needs right now - positivity, defiant joy, emotive compassion and LOVE!

Book-ending this album with the final chapter of experience comes “13 (There Is A Light)” which works exceptionally well to close an album in a similar fashion to its opener. A rehash of ideas from ‘Song For Someone’, yet done much better this time around, this song offers up another message of hope to the audience to never let any glimmer of light falter or fade away if it can be seen. Seize every opportunity you get as you only get one chance on this merry-go-round of life and “if there is a light, don’t let it go out”.

A wonderful ending to an album packed full of magnificent melodies, vulnerable vocals and real relevance in this world.

With Love,
A U2 Fan

Offline skelter

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Re: The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2018, 08:16:23 PM »
Relevance? I ain't heard this album on the radio. Title of this thread should be "some dude's review".

If I wrote a review of SoE (as we all dream of being professional reviewers for U2, where other people will actually give a toss what we think), I'd title it " Showman prays his heartache will chart".

Offline Blueyedboy

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Re: The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2018, 08:41:37 PM »
Nice review. Yes the album is full of relevant themes, but the battle has been finding relevance for the band rather than the songs.

White millionaires in their mid 50's who have schmoozed with the higher echelons of the western political world don't carry a message in the same way a cash strapped youth who is struggling against the current regime due to their social standing/race/beliefs or which side of a conflict they may sit does.

I think this album benefits from the fact that relevance isn't being chased as pathetically as it once was. Yes there are songs that have been polished to appeal to the casual streamer or radio playlist but hey, they've got bosses to answer to. It's a mature album which is so much better than a band of this many years should ever be capable of producing.

Offline mc

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Re: The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2018, 05:23:51 AM »
They have recorded a number of One Republic sounding songs...but One Republic are not even relevant.
For the first time I have a new U2 album that I barely listen to after just a month.
If anything I will go straight to Little Things or Landlady.

Offline Nagrom76

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Re: The Holy Grail - Have U2 Finally Found Relevance?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2018, 02:04:18 PM »
They still gross more than any other band on tour. The album was #1 in the US. They're still relevant.