In unusual step, U2 reinterprets 40 of its best-known songs

Streaming HUBMarch 14, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) – In re-imagining 40 of their most famous songs, U2 reckons many fans will experience them through earphones connected to a device in their pocket rather than being belted on stage.

That was the idea behind this week’s “Song of Surrender.” The four men of U2, now either 61 or 62 years old, revisit material written in some cases when they were little more than kids outside Dublin.

Especially in those days, U2 songs were primarily written with concerts in mind. The Edge told The Associated Press in an interview that U2 wanted to attract the attention of people seeing the band for the first time, perhaps at a festival or as an opening act.

“There’s a kind of gladiatorial aspect to a live performance when you’re in that position,” he said. “At times the content has become too bold and even harsh. With this reimagining, we thought it would be fun to take a new approach to intimacy, that intimacy would be the new punk rock, as it were.

The Edge was the driving force behind “Songs of Surrender”, using the time of the pandemic to record most of the music at home.

Given that their electric guitar and Bono’s voice are U2’s musical signatures, there is a certain irony in the absence of that guitar being the most immediately noticeable feature of the new album. He mainly sticks to keyboards, acoustic guitar and dulcimer.

The process began without a roadmap or commitment to see if it wasn’t working.

“As we got into it and got into a groove, we started to really enjoy what was happening,” he said. “There was a lot of freedom in the process, it was enjoyable and fun taking these songs and re-imagining them and I think that comes through. It didn’t sound like there was a lot of hard work involved because it wasn’t.

Much of the intimacy comes from Bono’s voice. There’s no need to shout, so he sometimes uses the lower registers or slips into falsetto.

The lyrics are often rewritten, sometimes extensively as in a recent song such as “The Miracle of Joey Ramone”. Some changes are more subtle but still noticeable: the line “a man betrayed with a kiss” was replaced with “a boy will never be kissed” to Jesus from “pride (in the name of love)”. takes out.

At the same time, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is rearranged to end with a question: “Where has Jesus conquered?”

Cellos replace the driving guitars of “Vertigo”. Keyboards give “Where the Streets Have No Name” an ambient sound. “Two Hearts Beat As One,” the original is a high-octane rock dance song that now has a slinkier, sexy vibe and is one of four songs where The Edge takes lead vocals.

The band is fairly democratic in choosing songs from their entire catalogue, although the albums 1981’s “October” and 2009’s “No Line on the Horizon” are not represented. “New Year’s Day,” “Angel of Harlem” and “Even Better Than the Real Thing” are among the songs left alone.

The Edge said, “We are one of the only acts that have this body of work where a project like this would be feasible, with the time and distance of experience where it would be interesting to revisit the early songs.”

Throughout music history, bands have occasionally re-recorded material for contractual reasons. Taylor Swift is the most famous example, controlling the use of her older songs to exclude newer versions of them. Squeeze’s “Spot the Difference” makes a play of how he tried to make the new recording look indistinguishable from the original.

Live recordings and archive-cleaning projects like Bob Dylan’s “bootleg” series give fans a chance to hear familiar songs differently.

Many older artists don’t see the point in making new music, because there’s little opportunity to be heard and fans are partial to familiar material anyway, said Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony D. Curtis.

“Reviewing your body of work in a constructive way is one means of maintaining interest in your career,” DeCartis said. “Older fans may not be interested in yet another collection of your hits, but reworking them in a meaningful way can prove appealing. Younger fans don’t have the same investment in your classics, so these new versions will be a great addition to your catalog.” provide a way in.

The Edge encourages fans to try out the new versions, suggesting that they may even grow to like some of them.

“I don’t think there is any competition between these and the original versions,” he said. “It’s more of an additive thing than a replacement. If you like the new arrangement, great. If you like the original, keep listening.”

“It’s not a problem either way,” he said. “They’re both valid.”

The Edge said that he is working on new music for U2, “and we have some great stuff in the pipeline.”

The quartet that met in drummer Larry Mullen Jr.’s kitchen when he answered an ad placed on a high school bulletin board is a remarkable story in longevity. A passage towards the end of Bono’s book “Surrender”, where he talks about looking around on stage at the end of their most recent tour in 2019 and wondering if this was the end, how much longer U2 would continue, Raised natural questions about this.

The Age said, “There are many reasons why U2 have stayed together for so long, but one of the main reasons is that it has worked so well for us as individuals.” “I think we all shine the most as part of this collective. I certainly wouldn’t want to leave the guitar hanging.

This year will provide a test for a band that can count on one hand the number of times it has performed without all four members. U2 committed to several shows in Las Vegas without Mullen, who is recuperating from surgery.

Will U2 continue if one of the original quartet decides it’s time to hang it up?

“I would not rule out the possibility that we could go ahead with separate members,” The Edge said. “But at the same time, equally, I could imagine us deciding not to do that. It would be a huge challenge. But I think at that point we’ll know what felt right.”

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