When U2 conspired with Apple to force their last album ‘Songs Of Innocence’ uninvited onto every phone on the planet in 2014, it was a sign of a band shoulder-deep in their own self-important backsides. Thankfully the backlash has deflated Bono’s messianic ego to the point where only people showing a modicum of interest in owning the follow-up album ‘Songs Of Experience’ will be given it, and mostly for cash.
Yes, U2 have made the ‘adult’ sequel to their semi-autobiographical ‘childhood’ album, full of platitudes about the comfort of home and the power of love. It’s just as anodyne as their previous iPhone clogger. They’re old masters at pomping up whatever the kids are buying, so hefty swathes of the album could be Bastille (‘Red Flag Day’, ‘Get Out Of Your Own Way’), and there are bits of Kanye autotune tacked onto amorphous opener ‘Love Is All We Have Left’.
Otherwise ‘…Experience’ resembles a pastiche of other bands’ tame U2 pastiches. When by-rote big ballads ‘The Little Things That Give You Away’ and ‘Landlady’ autopilot along, the untutored ear might think they’re ripping off Coldplay’s ‘Up&Up’ or The Killers’ ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’.
There are brief flashes of ‘Vertigo’ vitality, notably when they bemoan the current political s**tstorms on ‘The Blackout’. But overall, U2 have built a stadium rock cruise liner they’ve zero interest in rocking, and ‘…Experience’ is 50 minutes of very plain sailing indeed. Mark Beaumont