Throughout the tenure of any given artist’s career there often comes a time when they ask themselves the question, “What if we’d done it differently? What if we changed this lyric? That melody?” It’s a natural occurrence. Over time people change. They grow, mature and experience life. All of which are things that change you and/or your outlook on life. What was your driving force when you began career may not be the exact same 40 years later.
U2 is a prime example of this. They always have been. Their basic construct and views have remained fairly constant for the longevity of their storied career. However, their artistic evolution is a prime example in how change is an ever evolving constant. From Boy to The Joshua Tree to POP to How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb to Songs of Innocence & Songs of Experience U2 have remained constant in approaching their craft with new perspectives. With the release or their latest album, Songs of Surrender, the ideology of new perspective is ever more present as the band looks back over their 40+ year career and pulls 40 tracks and completely strips them to the bare bone construct and reimagines them completely. For some, it is merely putting them in a very stripped down acoustic version. For others, the lyrics take a new turn as so much life has happened since their initial conception that it gives them a bit of fresh life.
The timing of Songs of Surrender seems almost impeccable as the industry has seen more and more artists revisiting their early material for various reasons. Taylor Swift rerecorded her entire back catalog as a very profound and blatant “middle finger” to the record executives who sold the rights to her original masters for a ridiculous amount of money. Her response by rerecording it all not only gave her the artistic freedom to do what she wanted with her own songs, but also made those original masters nowhere near as valuable as the price they were purchased for. More recently, Thrice rerecorded their seminal album The Artist in the Ambulance for its 20th anniversary as they were never truly happy with the production of the original. However, U2 falls in some neutral ground outside the ring of what some may consider the new “fad” in the industry.
The idea came to light during the pandemic/lockdown as the band was unable to tour and they all had other life circumstances or projects that they were working on independently. Bono was writing a book, Adam was making a film and Larry was injured. The timing just seemed perfect as collectively we all looked at life through a new scope. Bone and The Edge took that time to be reflective and/or introspective of so many of their biggest hits as well as some of their deepest cuts that never garnered the attention that they could or should have. Thus, Songs of Surrender was birthed in to creation.
When it comes to U2 there are a couple of schools of thought. On one hand you have people who are true fans and are encapsulated by anything and everything the band puts out. On the other hand you have the people who complained because U2 gave us all their latest album for free in out iTunes accounts (which is ironic as majority of those complaining about getting a free album were the same one who prolifically used Napster and/or LimeWire to download “free” music). Whichever side of the line you end up on there is no denying that you have most likely heard at least one U2 song in your lifetime whether you know it or not.
For me, U2 is at the very root of my love of music. At a young age I remember watching MTV and seeing videos for “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” U2 stirred something in me, yet U2 didn’t stay in my foresight. It wasn’t until I was much older in middle school that U2 would become something far more relatable. I had steered away from music for the most part and was heavy in to comic books and film. When Batman Forever was released in the summer of 1995 I was excited for the film (despite Michael Keaton being replaced by Val Kilmer). Then I saw the music video for “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” This was when it all shifter for me. The band I had heard so many years before was now the band with a song on the soundtrack for the new Batman movie. My love of art collided as comics met film and film met music. From there their music became a sort of biography for me. “Beautiful Day” and “With or Without You” were both played at my wedding. “Walk On” resonated with me at the unexpected news of the death of my younger brother and now my daughter sings “Mysterious Ways” at random moments and can identify it from the opening riff when it comes on.
Songs of Surrender is a remarkable collection of songs that fans have come to know and love over the past four decades. Touching on some of their biggest hits like “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “One” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” while delving in to some of the deepest cuts like “Cedarwood Road” and “Miracle Drug.” From start to finish it is almost 3 hours of classics with a twist. While they may sound drastically different than what we have grown accustomed to the new life that has been breathed in to each intricately woven note and/or lyric gives perspective where perspective is due. Even if you just choose to pick out the songs you already know for the sake of comparison or are looking for something different there is something to be found within Songs of Surrender.
Whether you love them or hate them, there is no denying that U2 is one of the biggest and greatest bands to ever grace the stage. The impact that they have made not just in music, but in their involvement with multiple causes of activism are truly remarkable. As a band they continue to pave the way for generations to come and as people they are doing their part to help make the world a better place.
Songs of Surrender is available now on all major streaming and digital platforms or can be purchased in various physical formats via the bands webstore. In addition to the release of Songs of Surrender check out A Sort of Homecoming which is streaming now on Disney+.