U2 – Songs Of Surrender

Island Records

Release Date: March 17th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

U2– Songs Of Surrender (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. One
  2. Where The Streets Have No Name
  3. Stories For Boys
  4. 11 O’clock Tick Tock
  5. Out Of Control
  6. Beautiful Day
  7. Bad
  8. Every Breaking Wave
  9. Walk On (Ukraine)
  10. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  11. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
  12. Get Out Of Your Own Way
  13. Stuck In A Moment You Cant Get Out Of
  14. Red Hill Mining Town
  15. Ordinary Love
  16. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
  17. Invisible
  18. Dirty Day
  19. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  20. City Of Blinding Lights
  21. Vertigo
  22. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  23. Electrical Storm
  24. The Fly
  25. If God Will Send His Angels
  26. Desire
  27. Until The End Of The World
  28. Song For Someone
  29. All I Want Is You
  30. Peace On Earth
  31. With Or Without You
  32. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
  33. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  34. Lights Of Home
  35. Cedarwood Road
  36. I Will Follow
  37. Two Hearts Beat As One
  38. Miracle Drug
  39. The Little Things That Give You Away
  40. 40

U2 need no introduction. Seriously. The Irish rock quartet, comprising of Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton, have been creating thought-provoking, engaging, and resonating melodies professionally since the 1980’s, and with a resume of 14 studio albums, many more live projects, and an unshakeable brotherly bond lasting more than 45 years; these guys are rock royalty- one of the few much-loved and adored rock bands ever. Probably alongside the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. We blogged about U2 a number of years ago (you can read about them here!); and while we should have blogged about them as part of the series about iconic and identity-building artists of all time, their influence and timelessness and overall respect in the music industry at large, cannot be denied. Songs like “Where The Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “40”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “One”, “One Tree Hill”, “Window In The Skies”, “Beautiful Day”, “Magnificent”, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”, “Vertigo”, “City Of Blinding Lights”, Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, “With Or Without You”, “All I Want Is You”, “Stuck In A Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of”, “When Love Comes To Town”, “Mysterious Ways” and “Bad” (to name a few), have all blessed the ears of many who listen, as the group attempt to tackle the big questions, of the meaning of life, death, God, love, relationships, friendships, sex, the great beyond, the cosmos, the concept of suffering and evil, and everything else in between.

A couple of weeks ago, the group unveiled their brand-new album Songs Of Surrender. After the much-loved and highly rated 2017 project Songs Of Experience and the hit single “Your Song Saved My Life” for the movie Sing 2; long-time fans have been clamouring and hoping for something new. Well, U2 have answered. In a way. See, Songs Of Surrender isn’t a brand new album at all. It features 40 well-known classics (inclusive of many of their hit singles); and all of then re-recorded in an acoustic setting, repackaged for a new generation. It’s inspired by Bono’s autobiography called Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, and I personally reckon that these renditions are creative and smart, despite Bono’s evidently raspier voice. But for fans, this project divides them immensely. One may say that this is a cop-out release because ‘the band are so old that they’re out of ideas and that they’re mentally done’. That may be true. There are behind the scenes drama about Larry not touring at the moment, and some long-time fans are peeved that Bono, Adam, and The Edge are continuing touring without them. Regardless of your own views about the iconic rock quartet, one thing is for certain. That these 40 songs (either their re-recorded format or in their original form) are transcendent across time periods; and that U2 can inspire and encourage us both now and into the future.

What’s next for Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry… is anyone’s guess. Will we see a new studio album, or perhaps a full-length Christmas project? Are these guys finished like some fans are thinking? Or are they just taking a longer than usual break before the presumed and rumoured releases of Songs Of Ascent and Songs For Fighting? Whatever the case, we have witnessed the greatness of these four men and seen the wonders of the many artistic and creative melodies they’ve unveiled over the years. If U2 were to end tomorrow, then Songs Of Surrender, as a creative greatest hits project, is personally I reckon the perfect way to bow out.

Adam and Larry’s contributions were not as big because we were trying to come up with the minimum arrangement we could get away with. Everyone’s personality is there, and also the songs are U2 songs — so of course it’s a U2 album. They didn’t need to play on all the songs, because then we’d be just a rock band.

We didn’t go out of our way to change them, as such. In the case of, say, “Stories for Boys,” it was written when we were boys, and it explains what we were going through. It’s hard for a 60-year-old man to make those lyrics believable, so we rewrote the song. It’s got a pathos now, where the original version had exuberance and bravado.

Mostly the tracks started with me [the Edge]. I’d make a simple outline — what’s the key, what’s the tempo, add some acoustic guitar or piano. When Bono started singing, we knew instantly if it was working.

U2 songs quite famously have an emotional connection. The new versions often got too drenched, too sentimental, so Bono quite consciously kept his singing a little more deadpan than normal. With “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” we reined it in so much, it’s almost like a Johnny Cash country song.

Our first album is really an ode to innocence, whereas if you’re in a band, you’re usually trying to deface your innocence. It’s sex in the back seat of a Cadillac. Here’s these Irish teenagers saying, no, we want to hold on to our innocence. I’m amazed at how audacious that was.

We have all quietly quit U2 over the years. After the article appeared, Larry texted me and said, “You probably won’t be asking me to do many interviews after this.” (laughs) He has a funny side, despite being caricatured as a surly fella. When I’m mouthing off about some disaster in the world and how we might be able to help, he’s looking at his watch and saying, “Hurry up. I want to see my kids, Bono.” That’s partly humor.

In the interview, he said the band had turned into a dictatorship, to which Edge replied, “There are four dictators in U2.”

It takes a lot of good luck [to last as long as we have]. In our case, the origins of the band were based on friendship. As we got older, there was a sense of group purpose. We took on a band ego and left our own egos checked at the door because if the collective wins, we all win. That makes it so much easier to deal with each other’s idiosyncrasies. Most bands break up because one or more members decides they’d be better off being solo. It’s more every man for himself.

There’s a Gore Vidal quote: “It’s not enough to succeed, what you really want is for your friends to fail.” That’s not the case for us.

“Songs of Ascent” is a reflective, lyrical album, very different from the unreasonable guitar record, which is not to say they might not end up mating. We didn’t want to put either album out before we could play live, so we were waiting for our drummer to heal.

Even before U2 had a record deal, we played an anti-apartheid show. We were insufferable from a very early age. (laughs) This is the arrogance of great songwriting. John Fogerty had it. Bob Dylan, Kendrick Lamar, John Lennon, Bob Marley … If U2 communicated anything, outside of the personal conversations of our songs, I hope it was: The world is more malleable than you think. These immovable objects are not immovable.

10 songs to listen to: Where The Streets Have No Name, Beautiful Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love), Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone), Vertigo, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Song For Someone, With Or Without You, 40

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Coldplay, Bon Jovi, John Farnham, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Jimmy Barnes, The Corrs, Ronan Keating

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