Oh, Songs Of Innocence, how have I misjudged thee? Let me count the ways. I will start by telling you that this is obviously the album that has changed rating the most this year, going up and up as the year has progressed. At the start of the year, believe it or not, I had the album as the second or third worst of all U2 albums, and if you were to go back through the ratings I have given songs this year you would see they do not add up to the rating I have it at now. Far from familiarity breeding contempt, this album has proven an ongoing theme of the year that for me familiarity with U2 songs has bred love for them.
It surprises me that I have Songs Of Innocence rated where it is, essentially even with How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb at around the top third mark, slightly above average but not into really good territory. That seems way too high given where it was at the start of the year, but somehow I feel that it might be too low even now. Maybe the end of the year, and this review, have come too soon for the album. Maybe by the end of next year, when I’ve seen them live a few more times (I hope!) it will have climbed even higher, I could definitely see it pass a couple of albums to sit in fourth place, and it might even have an outside shot at All That You Can’t Leave Behind for third. That’s how impressed I have been with it this year.
I told the story earlier in the year that I sat and listened to the Apple conference where they released Songs Of Innocence. I had heard rumors that U2 would perform, and even rumors that they would release a new album, and I was astounded and delighted when they were actually true. I was the person sitting there trying to get it to download, not one of the many who complained that they got a free album. I listened to it a number of times over the next couple of weeks, and liked some of the songs, but it wasn’t really impressing me. I had a conversation with a family member a few weeks after it was released where I said that I thought it was fairly weak, that it reminded me of the early stuff (how right I was!) but overall wasn’t that good (how wrong I was!).
Like all the other reviews I’ve talked about during the year, it took a while for Songs Of Innocence to warm up to, and indeed it took seeing several of the songs live to really get to liking them. Getting into the shows, seeing the theme of the shows and the album, really added to it for me, and changed my opinion so much. As U2 have said themselves, they are a live band first and foremost, and that’s where they get the songs to shine.
I’m not going to go through the album song by song, it really has good points everywhere. Take a look at my reviews through the year, and add a couple of points to many of the reviews, and you’ll see their relative good and bad. I will tell you that my top songs are Cedarwood Road and Iris, along with The Troubles, which hasn’t been played live enough for my liking, it was my favorite on first listen. I will also tell you that my least favorite is Volcano, I just never really got into it, and again maybe it hasn’t been played live enough. And oddly enough the two extra songs that only showed up on the deluxe version, Lucifer’s Hands and Crystal Ballroom, have gone from initial dislike to really liked as well. Like I said, I need to hear songs live to really like them.
My rating for Songs Of Innocence: 5.6 / 10