Author Topic: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on  (Read 2557 times)

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Offline Yukona [The League of Extraordinary Bonopeople]

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Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« on: December 19, 2017, 09:44:09 AM »
Hi guys, coming back to the (new and revived) forums for the first time in a while, thought i'd share my thoughts on the new u2 record...this isn't a comprehensive review by any means, more a stream of consciousness thing. feel free to disagree.

so right off the bat i have to say that i had very very low expectations of the record. i disliked everything i heard from the singles—Best Thing was sonically and lyrically uninteresting, with a middle eight that was U2 by the numbers, and it sounded like a bad outtake from the ATYCLB/HTDAAB sessions. Get Out Of Your Own Way was catchy, but I was very disappointed by the recycled sounds and beats from Beautiful Day. American Soul was...a car crash. I started out really excited on first listen when I realised that this single was linked to that snippet from Kendrick's XXX, but the song fell flat on its face very quickly. They tried for a big rock song in the vein of Vertigo but it had nothing in the way of hooks at all, and the bloody Refujesus part...sigh. Enough said about that.

That said, the rest of the album when it was finally available to me was a pleasant surprise. Refujesus turned out to be mercifully the lowest point on the record, and the rest of it wasn't too bad. I liked that they tried to go for some Bon Iver-ish sounds on All We Have Left (always wanted them to work with Justin Vernon, actually, but whether he would is another story). The Lights of Home was good old fashioned U2 stadium-rousing, if a bit lyrically light. I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the melodies—Bono found some good hooks on songs like Showman and Bigger and Little Things and Summer of Love, so credit to him on that. Those songs have definitely grown on me since I first heard the record, and Love is Bigger/Showman have been on constant repeat on my Spotify. Blackout is an unqualified triumph for me—I'd take it with any of their 90s work; it's not the same U2 as on Achtung Baby, of course, but a good, healthy amalgamation of 90s U2 groove and post 00s radio-friendliness, as it should be.

One thing that really has to be said: I truly feel the boys desperately need a good producer who respect their sound and their dynamics. This record could—would—have been so much better if it was a) sonically consistent, b) texturally more rewarding. I went back to listen to NLOTH after SOE and was struck by how much space the different instruments had to breathe on that record. Here, each song sounded like it was recorded on a potato inside a tin can. This isn't what U2 is about, they're meant to sound better when you listen to them on better sound systems, not exposed! It's painfully apparent that stripped of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the band don't really know what to do with Bono's voice and Larry's drums. Bono sounds awkwardly thin and strained on nearly every song, and Larry's drums sound way too dry and flat, without any dynamics at all.

Lyrically...I suppose I understood what they were going for, big memorable anthems that people would wave lighters to, but I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief at some of them. Not just at the obvious lyrical clunkers, but at the massive misreading of the spirit of the times. There was a kind of earnest desperation there to be Relevant and Inspiring and Political, as we all know U2 to be, but when you're shoehorning refugees into a song about swimming off the South of France, it comes across as trying to be Relevant through being Political, and that just feeds into all the worst U2 stereotypes that people have accused them of for years. I think fundamentally this album might have benefitted from a bit less jingoistic flag-waving and a bit more interior soul-searching—a bit more "talk like this/act like that".

Anyway, my two cents. Feel free to savage me for this. It's good to be back, either way. 



Offline lucas.homem

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2017, 11:35:49 AM »
"Bono sounds awkwardly thin and strained on nearly every song, and Larry's drums sound way too dry and flat, without any dynamics at all."

Comparing NLOTH and SOE, for me it's the opposite.

Offline eldercantrell@yahoo.com

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2017, 05:18:53 PM »
agreed about bono's vocals on SOE being better. He literally is shouting on Moment of Surrender ("the stone was semi-precious… we were barely conscious"). Which, kinda fits the song's tone, but his voice is really warn on that album. I think he sounds way fresher on SOE. Just my opinion. People have suggested his voice is slightly auto-tuned on red flag day. I thought he sounded 20 years younger on that song though and amazing.

Regarding the bon-iver auto-tuned sound on Love is All We Have Left. I guess he made it popular, but he wasn't at all the first person to do it. Not even Kanye. And it's not like bono hasn't done voice distortion before. The reason I like it on Love is because it's conceptual. It has a purpose rather than just being a stylistic choice. It fits the subject matter brilliantly of experience-self talking to innocence-self, or even the voice of his mom from heaven talking to him in life (which lights of home suggests could be another interpretation). Either way, I think it works well.

Offline suitoflights

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2017, 11:01:08 AM »
It's not a patch on Songs of Innocence. That was a really great record and probably their most consistent since the 90s. I'd say virtually every song off SOI is better than any on SOE.

Offline BigTuna

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2017, 11:42:41 AM »
Really trying to like this album but I'm not feeling it so far after about 6 listens. Lights of Home is great, and The Little Things. Love is Bigger is also solid but the rest....not for me, so far.

Songs of Innocence got a lot of abuse but it's a much more consistent and superior record. to me.

Offline ckimhere

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2017, 02:43:06 PM »
I loved Songs of Innocence.  It was concise, it had edge and blew the cobwebs away (for me).

Songs of Experience has taken a few listens to appreciate it.  I think 'The Blackout' was a false step in that it should have been the first single but you expect the rest of the album to be that dynamic and its not.

They're still suffering from the multiple producers syndrome.  Bono still wants hit singles but the charts are catering to an audience way younger than they are promoting to.

There is a 'companionship' between 'Innocence' and 'Experience' of sorts - the former is rough and ready with drive and power, I suppose like the exuberance they had when they started out; whereas, the latter is warmer, it's polished and dynamic.  If you want comparisons, it's similar to how Unforgettable Fire followed War.  Fire was more personal as much as War was political.

U2 are still as making dynamic, somewhat experimental music, whereas their contemporaries aren't.  But you can't compare modern albums to the classic ones because they have reached such elevated heights, nothing that follows can be compared.  They were both a product of their times and the personal circumstances of the band that created them.

Offline Airuarak

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2017, 04:55:24 PM »
I think Love Is All We Have Left is their best album opener since JT. I listen to The Little Things, Landlady, and Love Is Bigger constantly and think they're songs that will be timeless. Even after a couple of weeks I listen to the full album at least once a day. My 10 year old walks around the house with his ear buds in, singing really badly to The Blackout and Red Flag Day... its a great album. I'd suggest as a complete album it's better than AB... and it's the best B-side of any U2 album.

Offline Blueyedboy

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2017, 12:43:11 AM »
Following this band is just the craziest sh**. Just when I thought I was done with them after thirty odd years of fandom they go and pull an album like this out of the bag.
It's mature, lyrically strong and the way the music, the themes and the previously mentioned lyrics speak to past albums, not just SOI is one of the most intriguing things the band has ever done. It makes an absolute ass out of people like me who took SOI on its own, this album ties it together but also reaches back to POP with its lyrics.

The album is pretty uplifting despite its roots being in a dark place. I'm somewhere in the world where we are in the summer months which I think helps the whole enjoyment of the album. It's definitely a record to enjoy in the great outdoors with the sun on your back, the complete opposite to the gothic feel of Achtung Baby.

While I'm under no illusions that this album doesn't reach the heights of their most exalted offerings, they're the best version of the band they could possibly be at this stage in their career, and that is pretty impressive for a bunch of 50 something millionaires who have been doing what they do for so long.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 12:51:43 AM by Blueyedboy »

Offline lightmyway92

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2017, 04:43:21 AM »
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Following this band is just the craziest sh**. Just when I thought I was done with them after thirty odd years of fandom they go and pull an album like this out of the bag.
It's mature, lyrically strong and the way the music, the themes and the previously mentioned lyrics speak to past albums, not just SOI is one of the most intriguing things the band has ever done. It makes an absolute ass out of people like me who took SOI on its own, this album ties it together but also reaches back to POP with its lyrics.

The album is pretty uplifting despite its roots being in a dark place. I'm somewhere in the world where we are in the summer months which I think helps the whole enjoyment of the album. It's definitely a record to enjoy in the great outdoors with the sun on your back, the complete opposite to the gothic feel of Achtung Baby.

While I'm under no illusions that this album doesn't reach the heights of their most exalted offerings, they're the best version of the band they could possibly be at this stage in their career, and that is pretty impressive for a bunch of 50 something millionaires who have been doing what they do for so long.
I especially like how "Love is all we have Left..." transitions into and sets up "The Lights of Home," which in turn flows into "Best Thing," which starts (and ends) abruptly.  The album has a really nice flow.  I really appreciate how U2 still sticks to the album format even as it's going extinct.  I'm something of a dinosaur myself :)

Offline blovesu2

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2017, 09:06:49 AM »
Love the album absent one song. Loved it from first listen and has not waned one bit. So grateful

Offline dirtdrybonesandstone

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2017, 09:10:31 AM »
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I think Love Is All We Have Left is their best album opener since JT. I listen to The Little Things, Landlady, and Love Is Bigger constantly and think they're songs that will be timeless. Even after a couple of weeks I listen to the full album at least once a day. My 10 year old walks around the house with his ear buds in, singing really badly to The Blackout and Red Flag Day... its a great album. I'd suggest as a complete album it's better than AB... and it's the best B-side of any U2 album.

I agree regarding the opener; it really makes a big difference.    Had Fez/BB opened NLOTH, it would have improved that whole compilation.   

I wish they would have went with the Kygo version of Best Thing.   I seriously don’t care for the album version.   I think the Kygo version has a fresh/modern sound that I actually don’t care to skip over.  If I could figure out a way to cut my own CD of this, I would replace it, and also do the same with the string version of LOH.

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Regarding the bon-iver auto-tuned sound on Love is All We Have Left...The reason I like it on Love is because it's conceptual

^this
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 08:18:44 PM by dirtdrybonesandstone »

Offline BalconyTV

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2017, 03:47:22 PM »
I was initially excited when I heard the album.

But strangely I haven't managed to listen to it much since.

One issue is that it is a couple of songs too long.

I think the album has some great songs that I love listening too but I have to admit I find it very hard  getting over Best Thing/ GOOYOW and American Soul. They just really let the whole thing down. Its like a giant hurdle. A giant lightweight hurdle.

Other than that, when I think of the album, I think of lots of colors. Its a colorful album.

I'd give it a 7/10 right now.


Offline bw

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2017, 09:49:14 PM »
This album would soar for me if these beautiful songs of the last three years - "Invisible", "Ordinary Love", and "Crystal Ballroom" - replaced "Love is All We have Left", "Red Flag Day" and "Summer of Love"...


Offline suitoflights

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2017, 02:14:39 AM »
I think Bono's ego has got out of control on this album.

Offline TongueInMyEar

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Re: Songs of Experience, a few weeks on
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2017, 02:51:05 AM »
A few weeks on I'm still listening to this twice most days. I toyed with listening to some older U2, but found I just wanted to keep listening to this, which is a good sign.

I'm still saying it's in my top 7.