The Evolution of Innocence; as Songs of Innocence Gets Its Physical Release, a Look at How U2 Have Successfully Transformed Themselves into Global Superstars over the Past Four Decades, Progressing Their Sound without Ever Losing Sight of the Band's Punk-Rock Roots

Daily Mail (London), October 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Evolution of Innocence; as Songs of Innocence Gets Its Physical Release, a Look at How U2 Have Successfully Transformed Themselves into Global Superstars over the Past Four Decades, Progressing Their Sound without Ever Losing Sight of the Band's Punk-Rock Roots


Byline: Dave Fanning

THE extra stuff you get with the physical release of Songs Of Innocence is not the same as much of the stuff that fills up your average box-set collection. Usually, amongst the bells, whistles and kitchen sink, you get previously unreleased live concert footage, individually numbered replica concert tickets, press photos, fan club folders, badges, documentary films, B-sides, rarities, hardback books, art prints, sticker sheets or even a magnetic puzzle tiled box.

Jimmy Page is currently overseeing the re-release of all the Led Zeppelin albums where each one is accompanied by outby takes from each album's sessions.

This is not the way of U2 in 2014. No, Songs of Innocence is a case of business as usual for U2; they're still as passionate about their art as they were on day one.

It's a band believing that this collection of songs is just that songs. Songs unencumbered by studio trickery, abrasive production, experimental approaches to soundscapes or any sort of exploration of the latest musical subgenres.

It's not even about atmospheres or a dynamic, visceral approach to playing. It's not about dissonance, swagger or attitude. It's about songs, and if you don't quite get it with the official album, you will when you hear the raw, strippeddown versions on the accompanying acoustic collection.

With their first few albums they cut a swathe through the early Eighties building up a huge fanbase and ending part one of their career with four well-received studio albums and a clear statement of just how incendiary they'd become with a live tour-de-force in Under A Blood Red Sky.

With the all-pervasive and usually sickly synths devouring the music world and eating into pop from every corner, U2 juxtaposed The Edge's flamboyant guitar textures and propulsive driving rhythms from the engine room with their frontman's instinctive showmanship. We got a hint of part two with their Wide Awake in America EP, particularly with the groundbreaking statement-of-intent, the live version of Bad.

By now U2 were ready to be embraced by a global audience, so they took the challenge and moved up to a whole new level of stadiumfilling magnificence and, thanks to The Joshua Tree, they became the biggest band in the world.

In the Nineties they were so big and so confident they segued into a post-modernist groove with the greatest of ease, opening the door to techno and ambient sounds, reinventing and reimagining while still fuelled by the ideals of punk and the zeal of their beliefs. They were always going to be serious but this new idea of poking fun at themselves was far more successful than anyone could have imagined.

The journey from ultra-sincere rock zealots (who many felt adhered steadfastly to the past) to ultra post-modern rock group with a fullydeveloped trash aesthetic probably guaranteed that some kind of future was assured for a new century.

That future resulted in three diverse albums, which ended with a typically stylistic flourish. Their two-year, three-legged, sold-out 360deg Tour finished in July 2011. Selling over seven million tickets, the tour grossed [euro]580 million, officially the highest-grossing tour in history.

One of the Songs Of Innocence is called California (There Is No End To Love). It tells of the effect the Golden State had on four wide-eyed young Dubliners when they first set foot on the ground at LAX.

Their lyrical preoccupation with the US started back on The Unforgettable Fire with the likes of Pride and 4th Of July.

This latest collection of songs boasts subtle shifts in tone but the textures are always clean as whistle, a little too clean in places.

There are soundscapes but they're corralled. It's as though they're not singing about America so they're not panoramic. When a song boasts a more charged than easy-going atmosphere, a little more soaring even abrasive guitar attack from The Edge wouldn't have gone astray. …

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