“Like fish in a barrel.” I feel like that could be said for what you’re about to read. My very first attempt at writing for a publication is a take on a band that has more than enough chatter with their “new” album, which would make it an easy, slow-moving target to report on.
But a better question might be, “Why would a person, at 58 sketchy years of age and a visual art background, suddenly decide to contribute to all the noise and the cacophony that permeates the internet?” Maybe for the same reason that Bono and The Edge (with the blessings of both Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton) have released “Songs of Surrender.” Forty classic (with some deep cut) U2 songs, reimagined by their authors. Maybe I still, even at this chapter of MY life, have something more to offer.
Now, I’m not here to breakdown and regurgitate the recent releases of the album or the current Disney+ special “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With Dave Letterman,” but I am here to share something that may not be reported anywhere else. When it comes to U2, I must admit to you that their music certainly holds a personal place in my heart. As music should with anyone who loves the art form or a band that speaks to them, it must be a “personal thing.”
U2 Photo by Olaf Heine
So what do you need to hear from me? Maybe while the world is still not where and what you’d like it to be, there’s a message here from this new release of old tunes. A message that reminds us that we cannot go back to that idealized world of our youth, but we may be able to bring the parts that matter with us to rekindle those emotions that made us feel united and less alone. While listening to these 40 stripped down and lovingly crafted songs, I am reminded of what the power of songs from our youth can do. If you try to keep in mind what it is that songs are supposed to do in the first place; great songs are supposed to breathe and live with us “from the cradle to the grave.” They evolve from our past as soundtracks to our youth, then to find new meaning as we get older. Well, that’s what Bono and his friend The Edge are trying to tell us.
When you listen to these “Songs of Surrender,” keep in mind the question “Why?” Why do artists such as Bono and The Edge feel the need to revisit their past? Well, I am an artist and from my own perspective, I can answer at least a small part of that. It’s because there are still unanswered questions in the past. Just like reading a book in high school and then trying it again as an adult (when you’re not threatened with writing a book report over the weekend), your perspective has to have undergone changes. Will that story still be relevant to you? When you create a painting or a song, you are making a statement from that particular point in time, and maybe what you created is amazing and your mom loved it, but will it still have the same impact 20 years later? Like I said, questions.
This is not a new concept, of course, and probably only a part of why U2 would resurrect the songs that are still out there living their best lives. This might be why they would bring them home (to Dublin) and sit with them… have a pint with them… and find out if the love has endured with them. Do their messages withstand all the fame and fortune that four mates set out to find so many years ago? They do.
Bono portrait by The Broken Art
There are and will always be naysayers and detractors when it comes to a band like U2 and that’s expected for any band that has lasted as long and seen the success that they have. But for me at least, if any of the original renditions of these songs ever meant anything to you, then these more intimate and soulful versions will resonate… they will remind you of the power of the lyrics and melodies with a deeper respect in spite (or maybe because of the lack) of their original arrangements and production.
And to all the naysayers… I challenge you to listen to these stripped-down songs. Use your imagination and realize that the new versions are songs that can (if you let them) make you feel that you’re sitting next to your best mates in a pub and just singing along. A couple of guys with a guitar and a belief that in this simple act of human connection, songs can bring hope and if given enough time, bittersweet memories.
I have my favorites, but if you can imagine what it would be like to have written and created songs like “Every Breaking Wave,” “Out of Control,” or “Beautiful Day,” then yes, I challenge you to feel closer to the artists and that time when they were teenagers set out with these words and melodies against a world very much like our world is today. A cynical, divided, and soul-weary one. Use these tried and new songs to find ways to navigate our current ocean tides. And maybe these fish in a barrel may yet find freedom to swim in newly open waters.
What is next for U2? Well, it’s kind of a big deal as they will christen the new MSG Sphere at The Venetian in Sin City.
The announcement was made on Super Bowl Sunday, ending months of speculation. The Irish icons will dedicate their performances to the 1991 uber-LP, “Achtung Baby.”
You can see them live, or check out their music; either way U2 is a sonic journey that is highly recommended you take.