Like its 2014 predecessor, U2’s “Songs of Experience” is the product of a difficult and drawn-out recording process.
Much more so than “Songs of Innocence,” however, U2 has made an exciting, stage-ready album that doesn’t blush or blink in its use of the band’s signature sounds — The Edge’s chiming guitar, Adam Clayton’s trebly, adhesive bass, Larry Mullen Jr.’s sharp and responsive drums and Bono’s heart-on-his-vocal-cords singing.
“Songs of Experience” was supposed to be completed soon after “Songs of Innocence,” but things kept getting in its way.
From the automatic iTunes download fiasco of “Innocence,” Bono’s debilitating bicycle accident in New York three years ago and another, more recent, yet-to-be-described health scare, plus the changing political landscape and the wildly successful 30th anniversary tour of “The Joshua Tree,” which is barely over, sometimes the pause button was getting pressed.
As the band’s unavoidable frontman, Bono has worn the ensemble’s colors most brightly — the Christian zeal, the obsession with technology and its excesses, the penchant for big statements, his full immersion in the politics of the moment and his commitment to humanitarian and philanthropic causes. Some of those themes appear on “Experience.”
The new record is a thrilling listen because U2 sounds fully integrated again, a band with everyone on the same page and, just as importantly, in the same groove.
Nearly every song has a different producer or combination thereof but they all seem to have been peeking at each other’s notes. The result is the best U2 album since “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” It’s not so much a return to their roots as a modern expedition across their vast reservoir of sounds and themes.
But when it comes to Bono’s offshore financial dealings and The Edge’s controversial plan for homes in Malibu, there may still be some ‘splainin’ to do.