New Songs of Experience
Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-09-10)
Bono, Adam Clayton and The Edge did at least two dozen interviews to promote the single “You’re The Best Thing About Me” over the last week. We’ve taken a look at these interviews throughout the last couple of days. First up we looked at the discussion of the release date of the new album, Songs of Experience. Then we looked at The Edge’s comments about the last minute finishes on the song “You’re The Best Thing About Me.” But that’s not all the band have spoken about. This time out we wanted to take a closer look at what they’ve said about other songs on the album. “The Blackout,” “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way,” “A Showman” and “American Soul” have all been mentioned in these interviews.
Bono did an interview with Netherlands station KRO, where he talks about several health frights over the years and how they lead to some of the lyrics that shape this new record “I kind of had a couple of frights over the last few years, some of them comedic and unimportant.” and the host asks “like injuries?” and Bono gives a much longer reply:
Yeah yeah, I got a few thumps by my mortality. One of them you’ve probably heard about, I came off a bike in Central Park. There’s nothing cool about coming off a bicycle. It’s not a motorcycle. There’s nothing good about it. It was actually pretty bad. I damaged my hands. Since then I’ve had another couple. So i said what is happening here? I wrote this honestly, like if this was our last album this better be good. And I want to say whatever I have to say to my loved ones, to our audience, to my wife, to my daughters, to my sons.
The host Ruud de Wild, asks again about this idea, asking “all the songs are saying goodbye letters?” to which Bono discusses “The Blackout” and “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way”:
It’s just where I got to. There’s another song called “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way” which is one of the really really powerful U2 songs. There’s one called “The Blackout” which is up on Facebook at the moment, which is about a shock to the system. In this case I’ve made it about politics. The lyric goes…“Statues fall, democracy is flat on its back, We had it all, and what we had is not coming back, A big mouth says the people they don’t want to be free, for free, A blackout, is this an extinction event, we see?” In the opening lines it’s “A dinosaur wonders why it still walks the earth, A meteor promises it’s not gonna hurt” So I’ve written about democracy and the moment we’re in. But the positive thing is when the lights go out you get to see who you are, it’s in the dark you discover who you are. It is when things go wrong for us, or when we have a shock to the system, get your lights punched out, that sometimes, is where you discover who you are.
Bono of course has had a number of scares recently, including the bicycle accident in Central Park at the end of 2014, the band being in Paris during terrorist attacks there in late 2015, and Bono himself being in Nice, and took shelter inside a restaurant during the July 2016 terrorist attack there. In one of these current interviews he also mentions waking up with panic attacks, and it is possible there have been other stories not yet revealed about other issues.
We believe this is the first time that “Love is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way” has been mentioned as a song on this new album, Songs of Experience, but it is not the first time the band has shared that title. In a post on Instagram in July 2017 showing Edge in front of a Coexist logo just days after the terrorist attack in Nice, included the message “Love is bigger than anything in its way – Bono, Edge, Adam, Larry”.
The Edge also talked about “The Blackout” with BBC Radio 2 host Simon Mayo, and why they chose to release it as they did.
One of our biggest problems was actually deciding what songs we were going to showcase, what were going to be the singles, because every single song was a contender. It’s a very diverse record which also presented some problems. Depending on what songs you hear it gives you a very different impression on what the album is like. Its one of the reasons we put “The Blackout” live version out there is to give people a little sense that there is some hard hitting full bore songs on this record. It’s out. It seems to be going over great. It’s not a single. In fact the version people will hear is not the album version, its a live version.
The Edge spoke a bit further with Canadian radio station The Edge about the idea of putting two songs out:
One of our problems if you like, and it’s a good problem to have, with so many diverse tunes on the album we really set about making an album that was wall to wall classic songs. That was our vision. But they are very diverse. So we wanted people to get some sort of flavor of the range of the album, so “The Blackout” was a taster, just to give people that sense that there’s a serious body of work coming out. Actually it will be towards the end of the year that the album will be out. “You’re the Best Thing About Me” was the first official single that’s going to radio. It’s very different again. We like this idea – two contrasting pieces out, so people really understand this new U2 album is very diverse and got a lot of different things going on.
Bono also took the opportunity to discuss a few other songs in an interview with WXRT:
There is a letter to our audience called “A Showman,” about how not to trust performers. “American Soul” is a letter to America that deals with this, it’s not a place, this country is to me a sound of drum and bass, you close your eyes to look around. That’s the line Kendrick Lamar sampled for his song “XXX” but it’s about how we came to America, there was something of America in rock and roll, but what was it, it was a beautiful racial mix, that was what rock and roll was, gospel and the blues had a bastard child called rock and roll.
Bono previously discussed the song “A Showman” (and called it “The Showman”) back in February in an article published in MOJO Magazine:
“It’s like something from Rubber Soul,” he enthuses. “It’s about singers. It’s not me.” To illustrate his point he quotes the song’s lyrics to MOJO: “The showman gives you front row to his heart/The shaman prays that his heartache will chart/Making a spectacle of falling apart/Is the heart of the show.”
“XXX” is a song on Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn. which is credited to Kendrick Lamar featuring U2. At the time of release that seemed to be an odd credit as the track just features Bono singing, but as it is a sample from a U2 album it makes more sense. On that track Bono sings, “It’s not a place, This country is to be a sound of drum and bass, You close your eyes to look around.” These are the only lines Bono sings on the Lamar track, and as mentioned above they are taken directly from “American Soul”, a song one participant in a listening session for the new album described as a real rocker of a tune.
Although not dealing with new tracks themselves, Adam Clayton did reveal a little bit about the recording of the new songs, and that they started much of the work on the album in a big house in Dublin, after initial work had been done on the road during the Innocence and Experience tour:
There was this big house, quite close to where we all live in Dublin, since the property crash it had bee sitting vacant. so we went in there, and we set up the equipment. and it just sounded really good, good sounding place, and everyone was really comfortable there. it was going back to a technique that was used on The Unforgettable Fire and the early The Joshua Tree takes. So we wanted to get much more of a band sound, we wanted it to be much more organic, and aggressive, we wanted to hit people over the head. these are serious times, we need to stand up to things.
These radio sessions are a wealth of information about other topics, including a lot of discussion about The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, Edge’s diet, the release of Songs of Innocence, and the changes in world politics that caused the album delay. We’ve just added another five interviews to our archive, with links so you can listen for yourself. Many thanks to Cloverground for some of the more recent links, and to everyone who has sent some our way.