Much like the rest of their albums, Songs of Experience features U2 doing U2 things.
At this point, you know their shtick, and you’re either a fan or you’re not; this album will not change anyone’s mind. Since I’m of the former persuasion, it’s impressive that U2 is STILL releasing such high quality music, especially when compared to contemporaries like Billy Joel, who hasn’t churned out anything new in decades. Even so, I do wish they would try to push their own envelope; Songs of Experience fits consistently yet a bit too comfortably in their past oeuvre.
This is all the more noticeable because the album does in fact contain traces of something more, largely stemming from U2’s collaborations with unlikely guests. Unfortunately, these strands are merely on the periphery, almost as if the group wasn’t willing to radically alter their customary – and, unavoidably, increasingly tired – sound. Kendrick Lamar, one of the most vital artists working today, is basically used as an insignificant filler between two songs; allowing his distinct musical presence to profoundly influence the proceedings could’ve really taken the album to another level.
For some reason, U2 reserve their most inventive sonic landscapes for the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition; St. Peter’s String Version of “Lights of Home” transforms a forgettable song into a must-listen, and Kygo’s involvement on the remix-cum-mashup of “You’re the Best Thing About Me” introduces a novel element to U2’s canvass: electronic music.
Their diehard fans may prefer the original single – which is probably the most popular track on the album – but there’s no question which could’ve brought new fans into the fold. Does anyone really want their favorite bands to keep doing the same old shit, even if it’s anything but shit?