If you’ve been excited to listen to U2’s new album “Songs of Surrender,” you’re in good company. As a longtime fan of the band, I was excited to listen to the original four band members play updated versions of the classics. And while, the album did deliver on that expectation, I have to admit that when I discovered that most of the 40 re-imagined remakes of some of the band’s biggest hits only included frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge.
Bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. contributed to only a couple of the reworked tunes. Upon further investigation in the form of Disney+’s recent program, “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming with David Letterman,” I found that Clayton and Mullen didn’t contribute much to the album due to other commitments (Clayton) and health issues (Mullen).
The album is more of a Bono and Edge collaboration than it is a full-fledged U2 effort, which left me feeling a little empty inside.
Missing people aside, it really is about the music, which brings me to what you might be asking: How does this affect the quality of the re-imagined songs? Here’s what I think:
It’s best to classify “Songs of Surrender” as an easy-listening collection, as the vast majority of the songs are slower versions of their original forms, even the ones that were originally slow. Upbeat anthems like “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Beautiful Day,” and “Until the End of the World” are now mellow songs of contemplation.
In many of the new album’s songs, an orchestral string section accompanies Bono and Edge to put a new spin on the songs. In “Vertigo,” for instance, a cello brings an interesting spin to the tune.
“Songs of Surrender” is a four-disc album that contains 10 re-imagined tunes per disc. Each disc is named after each of the band’s members, and each of the album’s discs contains reworked songs chosen by the respective band member. With a playtime of 2 hours and 46 minutes, the album is much longer than U2’s previous releases.
I’ve been a U2 fan for many years and love the original versions of the songs on the new album, which dropped on March 17 of this year. I had big hopes for “Songs of Surrender,” but I’m sad to say that I found the overall product lacking,
Bono once said that U2’s weakness was covering other bands’ music. Having heard some of the band’s covers, I would have to agree with his assessment. Imagine my surprise when, while listening to the new album’s songs, I came to realize Bono’s assessment applied to U2 covering its own songs, too.
While “Songs of Surrender” is entertaining in some ways, it’s eye-rolling and head-scratching in others. For me, what’s missing from the reworked tunes are the hunger and passion that made the originals so memorable and impactful. Bono’s and Edge’s talents are impressive and on display in the album, but without Clayton and Mullen, the excellence of U2 in its entirety is missing.
Bottom line, “Songs of Surrender” is a decent listening experience, but is far from being a gem and treasure like many of the band’s previous releases. Diehard U2 fans should give the album a listen in its entirety, but if you’re a casual fan of the band, here are the five best of the re-imagined tunes: “Vertigo,” “I Will Follow,” “The Fly,” “Until the End of the World,” and “Two Hearts Beat as One.”
“Songs of Surrender” is available through streaming music services and in hard-copy forms from online and brick-and-mortar retailers.