U2

Songs of Innocence (Island)

PHASES & STAGES

U2

Songs of Innocence (Island)

No Line on the Horizon becomes the demarcation point in U2's catalog given its equally undercooked successor, Songs of Innocence. Another five years in the studio didn't prove long enough, obviously, for Bono to cobble together any cohesion from his lyric notebooks. Ireland's conquering quartet thus moves from contemporary rock band to classic oldies act in search of final LP glories over its remaining lifetime. Where the singer's awkward earnestness yielded rock & roll poetry through the band's storied odyssey – Emerald Isle exodus (Boy) full circle to paterfamilias (All That You Can't Leave Behind) – his world leader pretend profile here matches Horizon by yielding only self-conscious gobbledygook. The (Adam) Antmusic tribalism of opener "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" fastens a personal revolution to one of global magnitude, but "a song that makes some sense in the world" it isn't. Other parentheticals fare slightly better, "California (There Is No End to Love)" breaking a sleek surf swell, and "Iris (Hold Me Close)" ringing Edge's trademark Echoplex and matched by Adam Clayton's bass intro to follow-up "Volcano." "Song for Someone" telegraphs its lyrical vacuity titularly, "I stole a kiss from your mouth" bypassing sensual for silly. Highlight "Every Breaking Wave" lifts its melody from "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" and "Raised by Wolves" snaps the album's best refrain even if the junkie lament plays out as poor cousin to The Joshua Tree's powerful "Running to Stand Still." Songs of Innocence rallies at close with the XX minimalism of "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight," its electro pulse finally matched to an affecting lyric and Bono's goose-bump falsetto. If Bob Dylan himself can employ Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter as a collaborator, time U2 calls him in for a rewrite.

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