“Love of Donald Trump (“American Soul”). “American Soul” has

 

“Love is All We Have Left” is followed by “Lights of
Home” which is driven by jangling warped guitars and nice melodies and ends with a gospel choir-like
vocals. The storytelling in his lyrics jumpcuts
into something darker. Probably the lyrics were inspired by that “brush with
mortality” which many celebrities in the past two years have certainly faced
with. It’s an interlude song and is one of the weakest moments on this
record.  The deluxe issue has another
version of this song (St. Peter’s String Version) which is actually the way
this song should be arranged and performed. This version is much stronger and
more at home than on the album’s regular edition.  With a few exceptions, most of the music on
this record throughout is cheerful and joyous, sweeping up with its melodies
and lulling into singing along. “Get Out Of Your Own Way” sounds like it has
arrived somewhere and with its singalong chorus it goes straight into the
heart. It’s a fast-paced track with the
same kind of rhythm and urgency as an older song in the band’s oeuvre,
“Invisible.” Bono’s voice, hushed in one moment and soaring in the next, lends
itself to the wide range of emotions that exist on this song. The song’s
lyrics elaborate on life’s ability to throw curves and the importance of
resilience and understanding.

This song is followed by the upbeat and playful little
rocker “You’re The Best Thing About Me” and is one of those songs that usually
get a heavy rotation in car stereos. It’s ignited by Stones-like riffs but its propelled
by bumpy yet playful and shuffling beats. This cheerful song has a recitation
by rapper Kendrick Lamar on the outro and it serves as an ironic antidote to
people’s perception of superstars. This speech soon morphs into the start of
“American Soul.”

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Much of the album overall feel pleasant and
inoffensive one. It’s largely thrilling, fun and intimate affair with only
a few songs creating much-needed disturbances in its flow and
delivery. In addition to flashing off some much-needed cheer, Bono also sings
about the pressing issues of the day like the issue with the floods of refugees
(“Red Flag Day”), the post-truth world of Donald Trump (“American Soul”). “American
Soul” has that much needed biting edge and fierceness. Based on heavily
processed and hammered out riffs this song borrows plenty from two songs –
“Volcano” (from SOI) and “Get on Your Boots.” (from No Line on the Horizon)The energy is almost
jarring, especially when Bono reaches the song’s chorus.

“The Showman” is one of the most Beatles-esque songs the band has ever written. It’s a
cheerful and bouncy song much in the manner of “Wild Honey.” (from All That You Can’t
Leave Behind
). That song has a bounce and swing, and it shows the band at
its most poised. “Landlady” has that same shimmer and cheer. These songs
benefit from a brighter production and the singer/songwriter who feels invested
in sculpting his melodies with the same care that he gives his lyrics. Edge’s
guitars on most of these songs have been put into a subordinate role and his
guitars serve to add textures and accent, but nothing more. Another song that
disrupts the nice flow is the glam rock stomper “The Blackout.” Ever since HTDAB, U2 has been having songs
that accentuate the glam rock moments– on songs like “Peace and Love or Else,” or
“The Miracle.” With its pumping drums and juicy bass lines, it just barrels forward while Bono sings about modern dark
ages that the post-truth era really is: “Statues fall, democracy is flat on its
back/ We had it all and what we had is not coming back.”

 

The very quiet yet emotionally very strong and loud “13 (there is a
light)” is what closes the album. The first part of the song closely resembles
the melody of Paul Simon’s classic “Mother and Child Reunion” that U2 often
played snippets of during the I+E Tour in 2015. The second part is a rendition
of “Song for Someone” from SOI and with these reflective, nearly spoken words
Bono manages to shift the subject of this song which was about his wife to
their four children. The deluxe version of the album has also a beautiful remix
of “Ordinary Love” that adds something
else to the original song, a remix of “You’re The Best Thing About Me” (U2vs
Kygo) and a gem of a song “Book of Your Heart” which evokes a different U2 era
with Edge’s chiming guitars.

 

Songs of Experience
is musically meticulous and closer listening reveals a strong and deeper album.
Sometimes it feels beautifully warped, and at others minimal. The songs are a
result of smart songwriting that is full of memorable hooks, top musicianship, and warm, organic sounds. With
each new spin, there is always a detail you have overlooked before. It hooks
you and it won’t let go. It will be interesting to see how these songs will
further develop in a live setting. The songs on this record are searching for
humanity in these largely inhumane times. Like any other art form, the music
should always aspire to do that. 

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