Veteran arena rockers U2 take a look back at their past while contemplating their future on “Songs of Experience,” their fourteenth studio album. The record is a sequel to 2014’s “Songs of Innocence” with thirteen new tracks and utilizes nine different producers including Jacknife Lee and longtime collaborator Steve Lillywhite.
Things start out rather subdued with Bono’s restrained vocals carrying the poignant “Love Is all We Have Left” over soft guitar and bass. Overall “Songs of Experience” has a classic U2 sound pushed by an exigency as the Irish rockers approach the end of middle age. “Lights of Home” has a grooving blues beat while “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is a radio friendly rocker with plenty of pop flourishes. As always, the musicianship of the band is excellent and Bono’s vocals are both soaring and subtle depending on the song. The choral touch on “Get Out of Your Own Way” ends with a cameo from Kendrick Lamar which continues into the opening notes of the funky rocker “American Soul.” The Edge’s guitar work is some of his best to date from the psychedelic vibes of “Summer of Love” to the jangly guitars of “Red Flag Day” all the way to “The Joshua Tree” feel of “The Little Things That Give You Away” as he comes in light building to perfection the whole way. U2 has always had a way of sounding stripped down while immersing the listener and surrounding them with sound and this record is no exception. The album closes out as it begins with the softer “13(There Is A Light)” which is impassioned perfection before fading out to nothingness.
“Songs of Experience” is the best thing U2 has done in over a decade. As the band looms on the precipice of a new chapter in their lives, the record proves that their best is still to come.