Rapid Reax: U2’s Songs of Innocence

The commercial and cultural partnership between Apple and U2 is a codependent relationship unique in its scale, banality, and, increasingly, its mutual destructiveness. Like the high school power couple aging into white trash adulthood, the best days of both parties are long since past, and the formerly symbiotic aspects of the relationship have fast turned parasitic. The last gasp of U2’s artistic relevancy was two decades ago. Since Steve Jobs’s death, Apple has consistently underwhelmed in terms of hardware and software. Last week, the cloud-based rape that was the release of U2’s Songs of Innocence was too depressingly predictable to inspire anger in any earnest way. It was like running into that high school power couple in Target, ten years after graduation. She’s got a black eye, he’s got bruised knuckles. For both, weight gain has made sweatpants a necessity, not an option. “We’re moving in together,” they moan, announcing their terminal diagnosis. Across the Target aisle, you’re too demoralized to bring yourself care. That’s Apple and U2 in 2014.

I say all this as a person who has never listened to an entire U2 album before. My personal music tastes developed when U2 was at its most preponderant, commercially, and I took exquisite pleasure in shitting on the stadium-sized target they provided my aspiring rockist disdain. Had I been born ten years earlier, I’m sure I’d defend U2 with the same qualified parry with which I defend Coldplay. (Meaning that I would acknowledge them as unabashed schlock peddlers, freeing myself to enjoy their schlock guilt-free.) But I was born when I was born; U2 has occupied the absolute minimum of my mind space in the twenty-seven years since. To be honest, I still get major kicks out of shitting on U2, even though I’ve never heard any of their albums in their entirety.

Taking all that into account, I cannot imagine a better album “to get me into” U2 than Songs of Innocence, a presumably middling collection of iPod ad muzak whose value, from its makers’ mouths to your ears, is nothing. It’s everything I’ve always hated U2 for when I had nothing to hate U2 for. Now I’ll have a reason to hate. To the iCloud!

Songs of Innocence: Track-by-Track Rapid Reax

Track 1: “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”

Sounds Like: If you put a condenser mic in Joey Ramone’s grave and recorded the sound of his rotting flesh spinning. Previously, the death of creativity was tracked to the titling of the song “Ho Hey!” by The Lumineers, a band so uninspired by their own music they couldn’t muster the energy to classify it beyond onomatopoeia. “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” proves that the coroners of creativity were mistaken. This is the death knell of punk rock.

Rating: 2/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 2: “Every Breaking Wave”

Sounds Like: Coldplay. Bad Coldplay. Except Coldplay wouldn’t release schlock as unabashedly schlocky as this. They’d have the artistic integrity to title the song “Every Breaking Wave is a Waterfall,” or “Every Waterfall is a Breaking Wave,” or “Every Breaking Waterfall is a Tearful Wave.” The vocal harmonies in the chorus could be worse, though. My favorite song on the album so far.

Rating: 5/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 3: “California (There is No End to Love)”

Sounds Like: A return to form for the band who wrote “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” Had this been the theme song for The OC, Seth Cohen would have slit his throat in scene one. The Edge’s guitar solo is positively arthritic.

Rating: 3/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Bono Zooropa Leeds 14 August 1993_0004

Track 4: “Song for Someone”

Sounds Like: The most lyrically nondescript song ever written. Not sure if Bono wrote this about a stranger or his wife, but both of them should be offended. It’s actually inspiring to see a 55-year-old rockstar channel the Moleskine poetry of a middle school xenophobe this accurately. Feast your eyes: “There is a light/you can’t always see/and there is a world/we can’t always be. And there is a dark/that we shouldn’t doubt/and there is a light/don’t let it go out. And this is a song for someone.”

Rating: 2.5/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 5: “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

Sounds (Nothing) Like: The masterpiece of the same name. A sigh of a song, devoid of dynamics. Too dull to write another word about.

Rating: 3/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 6: “Volcano”

Sounds Like: Signs of sentience from the autopilot system. Digging the shades of surf rock guitar, Edge’s falsetto in the chorus. The words “relatively jaunty” come to mind. Could do without the choral moaning and vocal effects toward the anticlimactic end.

Rating: 5/10 Wraparound Sunglasses


Track 7: “Raised by Wolves”

Sounds Like: A twelve-year-old shouting “RAISED BY WOLVES” as he guides his World of Warcraft avatar into battle. Not bad instrumentally. Awful lyrically. Strong pre-chorus, melodically. Raised by wolves.

Rating: 6/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 8: “Cedarwood Road”

Sounds Like: Bono pestered the rest of the band until they let him play guitar. Lyrics too passable to belong on this album. Same goes for the bridge. Makes for a killer “one-two punch” with “Raised by Wolves.” Continues the tradition of saying the title of the song in the song.

Rating: 6/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Track 9: “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”

Sounds Like: Bono improvising over Kraftwerk, which works better than you’d think. Lessened by another lethargic guitar solo and a shrug of a conclusion. Nice textures sullied by some serious phoning-in.

Rating: 6.5/10 Wraparound Sunglasses


Track 10: “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now”

Sounds Like: U2 scoring a Ed Wood movie based on “The Monster Mash,” which doesn’t work in the least. The Edge tries his best by using his Johnny Greenwood effect pedal, but his guitar moans like a POW during the chorus. Utter nonsense.

Rating: 3.5/10

Track 11: “The Troubles”

Sounds Like: A song I could potentially use the word “vamp” to describe. Gets a 2 point boost for the inclusion of Lykke Li. Impressively forgettable for how repetitive it is. A fittingly unmoving finale. Farewell, my innocence.

Rating: 5/10 Wraparound Sunglasses

Final Rating for Songs of Innocence: 4/10 Wraparound Sunglasses