The Sun's verdict on Songs of Innocence by Simon Cosyns.
(10 September 2014)
The Miracle (of Joey Ramone): This is U2 back with a bang. Joyful chorus joined by bone-crushing guitar followed by the first line of their first album in five years. "I was chasing down the days of fear, chasing down a dream before it disappeared." And the late Joey Ramone would have afforded himself a smile for making the "most beautiful sound" Bono, Edge and Co ever heard. A taut, fast-paced rocker infused with punk spirit.
Every Breaking Wave (4.12): Typical measured U2 start before a bursting into synth-drenched euphoria after a minute or so. Immediately striking is a voice in great shape, including transitions to falsetto. Just like relentless waves in the song, U2 go rolling towards 40 years of making music.
California (There Is No End To Love) (4.00): Track three heads to the West Coast of America and the home of Bono's beloved Beach Boys. An insistent chant "Barbara" is heard as the U2 singer summons the spirit of Brian Wilson. The song has a universal theme though. All Bono knows and all he needs to know is that ""there is no end to love."
Song For Someone (3.37): If, by chance, U2 were to play Glastonbury next year, this is the anthem for phones in the air and singing along. It has some of Bono's most poised, tender singing... "There is a light you can't always see and there is a world we can't always be." The feeling here might be personal but I defy anyone not to identify with this song.
Iris (Hold Me Close) (5.20): Bono's beloved mother Iris died in 1974 but this tribute shows how much her memory sustains him. "I've got your life inside of me," he intones with real emotion. The tightness of the band, complete with Edge's insistent guitar lines, carry this track home.
Volcano (3.14): Listen to this explosive three minutes and you won't "Vol-ca-no, you don't wanna, you don't wanna" out of your heads. The album's shortest song begins with dirty bass line ushering a pop groove that we haven't heard from U2 in a good while.
Raised By Wolves (4.06): Can't help thinking of Duran Duran in their Eighties pomp. Well, they did write Hungry Like A Wolf. In order to revisit their past, I guess U2 also need to sound like that fabulous bygone era. This is the song about the 1974 Dublin bombings and name checks a blue Ford Escort, registration 1385WZ.
Cedarwood Road (4.25): Equal doses of menace and cherry blossom. Another great, grungy intro to a song set in Bono's childhood street. It brilliantly captures what he describes in his notes as a "nice street full of nice families" but a lot of "violence nearby... skinheads and boot boys, blades and knuckledusters."
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight (5.02): Staccato synths take you into another song with a heavy theme... the internal conflicts created by the imposition of religion and attendant cruelty and abuse. Even dreams, affirms Bono, are not always safe places. Still there's a lightness of touch to this arrangement it doesn't take a sledgehammer to get the message across.
This Where You Can Reach Me Now (5.05): A handsome "Soldier, soldier, we signed our lives away. Complete surrender the only weapon we know." This is U2's tribute to the late, great Clash singer Joe Strummer, another huge influence on the band. "Strummer was some soldier," writes bono. "His guitar his weapon, his mouth almighty."
The Troubles (4.46): A provocative name for what is actually a lovely, soulful duet with breakthrough Swedish singer Lykke Li. U2 have shown how adept at they are at sultry, blue-eyed soul before and maybe this exquisite track complete with fluid Edge soul points to a future project. "I have a will for survival," croons Bono and we're left feeling that this singer and this band will survive a good while yet.