U2 are like the Ron Howard of rock music. They're progressive, dependable and insightful. When they first started out, they had more of a revolutionary edge, but they haven't lost their socially conscious heart. Their latest release, Songs of Experience, stays true to their narrative, while providing a more evolved perspective than their companion-piece album from 2014, Songs of Innocence, which explored their days growing up in Ireland in the ‘70s. Songs of Experience is just that: songs that provide an adult interpretation of life, including lead singer Bono's brush with mortality.
At this point in their illustrious career, the band's music lends itself to being anthem rock because their songs are so massive and globally relevant. "You're the Best Thing About Me," the third track of the seventeen on the album, was the first single released and it's not so much anthem rock as it is their traditional optimistic paean to hope and love. The track reinforces U2’s distinctive sound, ensconced in its interior by David Evans, better known as The Edge. He emits a kind of vibrant rainbow of sound that sizzles like rock & roll and purrs like a steady engine.
"Lights of Home" and "American Soul" are rollicking, a tide of sinewy rhythms reinforced by a solid bassline. "The Blackout" is reminiscent of the hard-edged groove of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," with lyrics just as incendiary, tackling the topic of what defines democracy. Though U2’s songwriting is perennially underrated, they remain brilliant lyricists, which could be why they've managed to stay in the game so long. They also consistently manage to possess a nostalgic sound while still staying contemporary, which isn't easy. For instance, "Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way" has an ‘80s vibe to it, but it’s still hip and of the times.
Every song on the album is noteworthy, each following the other like a solid footstep. The messages of love, hope and peace that U2 have always conveyed haven't dimmed, but shine brighter than ever on this nod to adulthood and a sanguine mentality. It’s a welcome soundtrack for our troubled times, which arrives just in time for the holidays.
Notable Tracks: “The Blackout” | “Lights of Home” | “Red Flag Day”