Christmas is a time for giving so I’ve given myself three recently released albums from bands/artists I’ve followed over the years but not so much recently.
First up U2 and their new album Songs of Experience how good is it ?
U2’s last album, 2014’s Songs of Innocence, was overshadowed by the PR stunt that accompanied the record’s release. Seems a lot of people weren’t so happy about finding a free U2 album in their iTunes accounts.
Lesson learned, but the controversy pretty much steamrolled over everything else about the album. Like, if you actually bothered to listen to it, Songs of Innocence wasn’t as lousy as all the negative press let on. A proposed companion LP, Songs of Experience, was to quickly follow, but plans were scuttled and the album was retooled in light of the iTunes debacle and singer Bono‘s subsequent health issues.
There’s no telling how the restructured Songs of Experience, U2’s 14th album, compares to the original vision, but as it stands, it’s pretty much a sequel. In other words, it sounds an awful lot like other U2 albums from this century.
“Shooting off my mouth, that’s another great thing about me,” Bono sings on the anthem-sized “You’re the Best Thing About Me.” Maybe so, but he keeps the politics and moralizing to a minimum on Songs of Experience, instead keeping the focus on issues of mortality and matters of the heart. It’s more All That You Can’t Leave Behind than The Unforgettable Fire, and U2 know it, opting for general uplift over deep purpose. That leads to some broad emotional checkpoints throughout.
The thing is, All That You Can’t Leave Behind found purpose following Sept. 11; the sentiments here are so blah that a personal connection almost seems unreachable. “The Showman (Little More Better)” isn’t too far removed from the deadwood Imagine Dragons produce, and the revisiting of old standbys – big choruses, shimmering guitars, musical flourishes designed to fill stadiums – does little to distinguish the album from the last one or the one before that. Songs of Experience, like the past few U2 records, is another U2 album that U2 think their fans want.
So, it’s little surprise that the best songs are the most familiar sounding: “Lights of Home,” “You’re the Best Thing About Me,” “The Blackout, “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way” and even “Get Out of Your Own Way,” which features rapper Kendrick Lamar repaying a favor to U2, who appeared on his album from earlier this year – the way better Damn.
Still, the opening (“Love Is All We Have Left”) and closing (“13 [There Is a Light”]) tracks attempt to elevate Songs of Experience into something grander than it is, and offer a hint at what the album might have been if it didn’t take the expected route so often. Both songs go deeper, lyrically and musically, than almost everything they bookend.
That doesn’t mean Songs of Experience is a terrible or even a bad record. It just isn’t very memorable. Besides a couple songs, chances are none of these will go on your playlist alongside band classics like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “One.”
The emotional reach and payoff, key elements to U2’s success, aren’t there for the most part – even though everyone, including the album’s long list of producers, works overtime to polish the 13 songs to modern-day specifications while still nodding to the band’s past. After all these years, there’s simply too much baggage for U2 and any new music they make, and lightening the load seems moot at this point.
Next Up :
Stop everything guys, because it’s finally here. Liam Gallagher’s album might be the most eagerly awaited solo debut of the year, but is it any good? The answer, thankfully, is a big, fat ‘hell yes’.
This is in no small part down to the fact that the brother-bothering Britpop hero and wise-cracking lad about town has done the sensible thing and roped in a hit list of Los Angeles music industry heavyweights to avoid a Beady Eye situation. Steering clear of weak Oasis imitations, producers Greg Kurstin (Adele, Lily Allen and the most recent Foo Fighters album) and Florence + The Machine collaborator Andrew Wyatt have bought pop gloss and slickness to Liam’s serious swagger, diluting his rough and ready rasp but never diminishing what makes him so great – his beautifully ballsy attitude.
‘As You Were’ is an album that has more in common with Primal Scream at their most flamboyantly fun and Spiritualized at their most dreamily epic rather than a dodgy rehash of ‘Definitely Maybe’; it’s plugging into the 1990s, for sure, but not the bits you’d expect. “I didn’t want to be reinventing anything or going off on a space-jazz odyssey,” says the man himself of the album’s influences. “It’s the Lennon “Cold Turkey” vibe, The Stones, the classics. But done my way, now.”
Certainly there’s a lot of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones here too, but the glammy, foot-stomping country bounce of tracks like ‘Greedy Soul’ make sure this isn’t a hoary dad-rock indulgence, but a totally 2017 rock record with its sights set high.
Big, beefy tunes like gospel groover ‘Wall Of Glass’ and sassy Primrose Hill hoedown ‘You Better Run’ are more than capable of blowing the roof off your local arena and slaying next summer’s festival season. The record shines a light on Liam’s softer side too, with lilting love songs ‘When I’m In Need’ and ‘I’ve All I Need’ as fragile and open as they are bold. Welcome back Liam – never leave us again.
Finally it’s the turn of the other Gallagher brother Noel
Noel Gallagher’s latest is the most ambitious of his solo releases, internalizing the heyday of late ’90s Britpop while sounding both urgent and absurd to mostly great effect.
They were hard-pressed to top last year’s Potato Wars showdown, but on this season of every Britpop enthusiast’s favorite reality show, The Gallaghers, we’ve been treated to the most dramatic story arc yet. For the first time in their post-Oasis careers, Liam and Noel have each released albums within weeks of each other, setting up the proverbial WrestleMania of rock’s greatest sibling rivalry. Alas, it remains to be seen whether Noel’s latest record with current backing band the High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?, will match the chart performance of Liam’s recent solo effort, As You Were, which debuted at No. 1 in the UK. But in the real arena where winners are made and losers are shamed in 2017—i.e., Twitter—Liam has been putting on a clinic, delivering some his best material ever in the wake of what will go down in Gallaghers lore as Scissorsgate.
For his part, Noel seems to be heeding the lesson learned from Oasis’ rivalry with Blur throughout the ’90s. Only, in this case, he’s decided it’s better to be Blur—to brush off the nasty insults, disengage from the war of words, and just focus on making far more interesting records. Where Liam’s As You Were is essentially the perfunctory Fauxasis album that his old band would’ve churned out this year had they slogged it out this far, Who Built the Moon? feels like an attempt to rewrite their post-Morning Glory history.
The album imagines an alternate late-’90s where, instead of trying to make a cocaine-clouded update ofMagical Mystery Tour, Noel deeply internalized the adventurous music being made by his peers in Primal Scream, Spiritualized, Death in Vegas, the Beta Band, and David Holmes (whom he wisely taps to be his producer this time out). The new album’s opening track, “Fort Knox” presents an immediate study in contrasts. Like the kick-off to 2000’sStanding on the Shoulder of Giants, it’s more of a crowd-rousing entrance theme than a proper song—but instead of bluesy guitar riffage, we hear screeching cello drones, clanging percussion, gospel chants, a hip-hop-scuffed backbeat, the relentless drill of a jackhammer, and a female backing singer’s ecstatic wordless wails. Call it “Kama Sutra in the Bushes.”
Sure, there are few prizes for being on the cutting edge of circa-1997 British rock in 2017, but Who Built the Moon? abounds with urgency and absurdity—qualities that were sorely lacking on the Birds’ previous albums. For the first time in a long while, Noel sounds like he’s genuinely having a blast, adopting a motor-mouthed monotone on the glam-slammed rumble “Holy Mountain” as if he were Plastic Bertrand doing “Diamond Dogs,” and blissfully skating atop the glacial motorik surface of “She Taught Me How to Fly.” And just as the skittering psych-pop of “It’s a Beautiful World” seems like it’s about to dissolve into the ether, he summons guest vocalist Charlotte Marionneau of indie-pop enigmas Le Volume Courbe to deliver a surprise megaphoned address that revives the song as a Francophone answer to “6 A.M. Jullandar Shere” by former Oasis tourmates Cornershop.
Who Built the Moon? feels like the sort of album where Noel spent way more time mapping out the sounds than writing the lyrics. But “Keep on Reaching” whips up enough manic, soul-stomping gusto to forgive its obvious Stevie Wonder swipes (”Keep on reaching out for that higher ground”), while “Be Careful What You Wish For” oozes enough creeping menace to elevate its title from clichéd phrase to prophetic threat. Alas, in the album’s closing stretch, Noel attempts to inject the proceedings with some conceptual gravitas, deploying a pair of moody instrumentals (dubbed “Interlude” and “End Credits”) to bookend the winsome, swashbuckling pop of “If Love Is the Law” and the climactic foreboding ballad “The Man Who Built the Moon.” With no discernible logic holding it all together, the result is a more of an awkwardly fitting framework than a proper song suite, though at the very least, the latter track’s ominous, In the Court of the Crimson King-style grandeur does raise the not-unwelcome notion of Noel going full prog.
But more than any particular musical experiment, the best gauge of Gallagher’s growth on Who Built the Moon? is the song that didn’t make the cut. Included as a bonus track, “Dead in the Water” is a quintessential Noel solo strummer, an unplugged transmission from the same dark night of the soul that yielded acoustic Oasis outliers like “Talk Tonight.” It’s a great song, right up there with Oasis’ best B-sides. But it’s one whose raw emotion and bare-bones simplicity represent low hanging fruit on the High Flying Birds’ current skyward path.
After extended listening time what do I think ? Well I like the U2 Album the most as it sounds well rounded as a good band effort. The Gallagher brothers efforts are good too but lack the punch Oasis albums used to have. In order 1 – U2 2 – Liam Gallagher 3 – Noel Gallagher