U2 Songs of Surrender Album Review

Album Review: U2 – Songs of Surrender

More than five years have passed since U2 released a new album and hardly a prolific band in terms of new music, the Dublin based quartet silently passed their 40th anniversary as the longest stretch between new albums continues.

And, with all the political turmoil happening around the world and especially in the United States these last few years surely Bono has something to say. Nary a peep. Perhaps now we know why.

Not a new, new album but U2 unloaded Songs of Surrender today, on St. Patrick’s Day no less, a nearly three hour, 40 song record of the band revisiting their catalog and re-recording new versions of some of their popular cuts and them some in what mostly amounts to a stripped down acoustic version of songs with some tracks getting minor lyrical adjustments. Songs of Surrender continues with the “Songs of” album title theme the band started in 2014 with Songs of Innocence followed by Songs of Experience in 2017.

You don’t need to listen to the whole thing to decide whether or not the reinterpretations work (for you). Sometimes wildly different than the original releases, Songs of Surrender include tracks from every U2 studio album except October and No Line on the Horizon. Though you can hear the melodic gist of the new interpretations most songs off Songs of Surrender have lost their spirit, at least in terms of listening at home.

If U2 were to tour this album in small intimate theaters not only would the Songs of Surrender Tour break records I’d gladly shell out a sizable amount of my hard-earned cash for a seat, any seat in the theater. It would be epic. Therein lies the problem. A few songs indeed stand out but most you’d probably not realize started or ended until a subtle hook stood out or you noticed the time changed on the wall clock. I failed to grasp the necessity of this album other than A) It’s a cash grab B) U2 remains stuck in a writer’s block moment that they can’t get out of C) They desire to stay relevant D) All of the above.

I got bored pretty quickly, however, what stood out, quite prominently was Bono’s vocals. Sometimes AMAZING. Crisp, clear and the driving force behind the album. However, I reject that previous statement for “Desire.” Horrific. Not even borderline embarrassing. Not sure why Bono and guitarist The Edge (both spearheaded the Songs of Surrender effort) green lit that one. Bono sounds more like a goofball singing karaoke to the roar of his friends. (Update: It took some digging to verify, but The Edge provides lead vocals on “Desire.” Doesn’t make it any better.)

“With or Without You” and “Every Breaking Wave” make the case for why U2 released the album as both, far and away, rise above everything else. The mesmeric piano  to “Every Breaking Wave” will soften the hardest of souls. Beautifully done.  I forgot how much I love that song.

“Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” “City of Blinding Lights” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” were quite good. As such, the slower more emotional bent songs worked better than those with driving rock chords. I did notice the lyric change in “Pride (In the Name of Love)” from “one man betrayed with a kiss” to “one boy will never be kissed.” For a band that supposedly walked around with Bibles in-hand backstage they sure seem intent on erasing that part of their history.

“Vertigo,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Get Out of Your Own Way” just some examples of why this album doesn’t succeed.  Mostly because either the reinterpretation wasn’t effective and/or, like the rest of the tracks, the songs lost the rhythms, melodies and riffs that propelled U2 to the top of the charts and stadium filling tours.

Grade: C+

U2 Songs of Surrender Track List:

  1. One
  2. Where the Streets Have No Name
  3. Stories for Boys
  4. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock
  5. Out of Control
  6. Beautiful Day
  7. Bad
  8. Every Breaking Wave
  9. Walk On (Ukraine)
  10. Pride (In the Name of Love)
  11. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
  12. Get Out of Your Own Way
  13. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
  14. Red Hill Mining Town
  15. Ordinary Love
  16. Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own
  17. Invisible
  18. Dirty Day
  19. The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
  20. City of Blinding Lights
  21. Vertigo
  22. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  23. Electrical Storm
  24. The Fly
  25. If God Will Send His Angels
  26. Desire
  27. Until the End of the World
  28. Song for Someone
  29. All I Want Is You
  30. Peace on Earth
  31. With or Without You
  32. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
  33. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  34. Lights of Home
  35. Cedarwood Road
  36. I Will Follow
  37. Two Hearts Beat As One
  38. Miracle Drug
  39. The Little Things That Give You Away
  40. “40”

15 thoughts on “Album Review: U2 – Songs of Surrender

  1. I streamed a bit of this today but I could never get through it all in one shot thats for sure. Interesting concept and not just a straight rehash of the hits which I will give em credit for. I will toss on Achtung Baby and remember the good ol days lol.
    Great writeup dude with this one being my favourite line from it…..”Bono sounds more like a goofball singing karaoke to the roar of his friends.” hahaha

  2. It’s like a U2’s Greatest Hits Unplugged album. I listened to a fair amount of it, and I tend to agree with many of your assessments, especially Bono’s WTF? vocals on “Desire”. That said, some of the tracks, like “One”, “Every Breaking Wave” and “With or Without You” are sublime. One of my favorite U2 songs, “Angel of Harlem”, is conspicuously absent.

    1. glad I’m not the only one about Desire. I listened again later to be sure I really heard what I heard. thanks for reading!

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