For twenty five years I have had my own U2 playlist called Chilled. I made it up from non album tracks, CD single b-sides, tracks from compilations, songs from Passengers and the Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack. It’s a favourite. If any of these forty Songs Of Surrender had been released on such albums I would have snapped them all up for a revisioning of Chilled.
Yet, I am still not sure about Songs Of Surrender.
If I go back to November in the Olympia as Bono did his one man show, a mix of theatre, memoir reading and song, I was so excited at the possibility of hearing the songs Bono sang just gently accompanied by Irish musicians Kate Ellis on cello, Gemma Doherty on harp and keys and voice, all orchestrated by Jacknife Lee.
But… Songs Of Surrender is not that album.
Instead word broke that we were getting 40 U2 songs, cleverly starting with One and ending with 40, stripped back to what matters, as Covid taught us, and re-fashioned by Edge. I have not been sure what to make of Songs Of Surrender since it was talked about, through a few single releases and even in the days after arrival. It is a lovely packaged thing (I got 4 black vinyl).
Don’t get me wrong. I am fascinated by it, intrigued by why they did what to what song.
I am loving Whose Gonna Ride Your White Horses, If God Will Send His Angels and the Edge lead vocal Peace on Earth and a little bowie-like quiver in his voice. The fragile piano intro of Stories For Boys and the looking back rather than forward of Out Of Control. The operatic drama of Sometimes We Can’t Make It On Our Own makes sense.
I am not convinced by the new lyrics, even more they add theological nuance. That’s what I normally love. The newer songs seem the most successful on first listens which might be obvious as even Bono would say that they have learned to write actual songs as they have matured.
So my jury is still out. Indeed, I am not sure what the jury is deciding.
Maybe I just wanted Songs Of Ascent that we’ve been waiting for for too long instead.
Maybe I preferred the Bono Book Tour versions.
Maybe having heard their BBC Radio 2 Piano Room version of Abba's SOS (get why that song?!?!? - clever!) I thought a Bono & Edge covers record would be more fascinating. Imagine their Life On Mars?
Maybe 40 re-imagined songs are just too much all at once.
Maybe with months to listen here and there, to let songs marinate, let them contrast and compare, and then go back to what was originally there. Maybe this will be a treasure trove of wonder.