ALBUM REVIEWS — U2, Lenny Kravitz and Billy Idol
U2 – Songs of Innocence
I was a huge fan of U2 when I was a youngster. All the way through high school I enjoyed their music. I didn’t rock out to it in the car every day, but I wasn’t changing the channel either. This all ended with the release of All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The only song worth a damn on the whole album was the first on the album, “Beautiful Day.” “Elevation,” is worthless… annoying even. Don’t even get me started on how much I hate that “Stuck in a Moment…” crap. I detest that song.
After this debacle of an album, came How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Another lousy compilation of a wealthy band’s musical masturbatory efforts. The “hit” from this album was “Vertigo.” It wasn’t anything special. It’s one of those songs that is fun, but there is nothing unique or even terribly interesting about it. When this thing came out I began to change the channel on U2. I felt like they relied on The Edge’s guitar and Bono’s oddly wailing vocals to keep people interested. It was a good formula for a couple
So… why even bother continuing to listen to U2 if they suck now? Simply because they aren’t all bad. In reality, they changed their sound and focus and it wasn’t what I was into at the time. Listening to these “flops” again now, I’m able to find good in them. They’ll never be favorites, however.
This newest album, Songs of Innocence, is really not too bad. There is enough of their old sound for long time fans to enjoy, and there is enough of their new-ness in there. They blend nicely. The songs are well mastered, each has a really even balance of sound; just enough bass, the highs don’t hurt my ears, and there is a nice range in the middle as well. As far as content goes, I didn’t hear any lyrics that really made me stop in my tracks. To me, that is the measure of good song writing. I love a good jam, but if you want to impress me, add meaningful, clever, or even funny lyrics. If there isn’t any content, what’s the fucking point? Just go make techno. My biggest complaint though is that while it sounds good, and it really does, it just doesn’t feel original. It doesn’t feel unique enough to even consider it a separate album. It’s like a B-Side to No Line on the Horizon.
Overall, I say it sounds good. If you’re already a big fan of more recent U2, then you will probably enjoy this album a great deal. Similarly, if you never really listened to them, this might be a good album to break into them. So I’m giving this album 3 stars. It doesn’t deserve a “D”. It’s too good for that, but definitely not “B” material in my opinion.
My Standout Tracks: “Raised By Wolves,” “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight,” & “This is Where You Can Reach Me Now.” By far, “Raised by Wolves,” is my favorite on the album. It sounds good, and the implied story within the lyric is well delivered. An Honorable mention is “The Troubles,” on which Lykke Li contributes. Very Cool. There is a video of “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” at the bottom of this review, along with a couple from the other two artists mentioned today.
Billy Idol – Kings and Queens of the Underground
I would say that I like Billy Idol. I grew up with his music. My parents were both fans. He was like the Iggy Pop of MTV, a socially acceptable rebel. Arguably, Rebel Yell is his best work. Kings and Queens of the Underground is his first release since 2005’s, In the Devil’s Playground. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t exactly amazing either. It felt like he was trying too hard to break back into the public eye. His appearance on VH1 Storytellers was really entertaining, acoustic jam versions of his best songs. I enjoyed the shit out of that show.
All in all this new piece is darn decent. There’s enough of that new-wave-punk sound that made his music so cool and enough inclusion of modern sounds (from synthesizers) to give it a fresh feeling. I’m glad to say it doesn’t sound “tired.” It starts off heavy and fast with, “Bitter Pill,” and “Can’t Break Me Down.” It slows right down to that sexy vocal-groove-ballad-style that made “Flesh for Fantasy,” so entertaining back in the day. It stays pretty mellow right up to the end. “Whiskey and Pills,” is a manic, guitar driven club song.
I’m giving Kings and Queens of the Underground 3 stars.
My Standout Songs: “Can’t Break Me Down,” “One Breath Away,” & “Nothing to Fear.”
Lenny Kravitz – Strut
I’m not sure what Lenny Kravtiz was going for with this album. Each one of his records that came before this has all had their individual sound and vibe. “Strut,” is no exception. I’m just not sure what it was he was trying to do. I get a little glam rock, a little funk. Songs like “Dirty White Boots,” and “Ooo Baby Baby,” leave me with a “WTF did I just listen to?” feeling. But then I heard, “Strut,” and I forgot about the “meh” songs. “Strut,” actually made me want to peacock around in my living room a bit. “I Never Want to Let You Down,” did. Maybe I’m just not in the mood the absorb this one at present. Lenny’s mellow lovey-dovey stuff has always bordered on sappy in my opinion. I liked it on Mama Said. “Flowers for Zoe,” Stand By My Woman,” and “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,” were excellent touching pieces of music. After that though, it felt … I dunno, lounge-lizard sleazy almost. Perhaps that’s due to all the disco sized lapels and elevator boots he wears. See what happens when you cut off your dreadlocks, Lenny?
I’m giving Strut 2 stars. Frankly, it bored me to death.
My Standout Songs: “The Chamber,” & “Strut.”
U2 – “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”
Billy Idol – “Can’t Break Me Down”
Lenny Kravitz – “The Chamber”
(Slider image: RollingStone.com.)
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