Lately we’ve been hearing rumors indicating that U2 is getting ready to release a new album next year. Bassist Adam Clayton has said that he’d like recording to be completed before the holidays. There are also whispers that the band will announce album number thirteen with an ad during the Super Bowl on February 2, with a supposed release sometime in April. Whether any of these rumors turn out to be true remains to be seen, but it does pose the question: Do we really need a new U2 album? Would the fans prefer to see the band hit the road and play some deep album cuts that haven’t seen the light of day in the past twenty years? Lets look at the pros and cons of a new album from one of the most influential bands of all time. Be sure to comment with your own take on the subject.
Until about a month ago I felt that it would be so much more fun if U2 would go out on tour simply based on past glories, maybe playing an entire album or two in full each night. Then I heard “Ordinary Love.” The lead single for the Nelson Mandela biopic is the first release from U2’s collaboration with producer Danger Mouse. If it is any indication of how the new U2 album will sound I am very intrigued. It has the sound of classic U2, but with modern production techniques courtesy of Danger Mouse. I would like to compare it to when the band released “Beautiful Day” back in 2000. At the time U2 were seemingly down for the count after a lackluster album and subsequent tour (although I feel they got a bit short-changed with the whole Popmart concept). So the band went back to basics with All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The album and the following Elevation Tour was a massive success that pretty much propelled the band through the entire decade.
With their last release No Line On The Horizon the band hit a bit of a snag again. Sure, the album had a few gems (“Magnificent” and the title track), but it was nowhere near what U2 has released in the past. I felt that the subsequent U2360 Tour suffered because of the band’s stubbornness to build the show around the new music for the entire tour, even though it got quite a cold reception from audiences who came to hear the hits.
In recent years it has become very popular for artists to play entire albums during their live shows. Bruce Springsteen has done so with great success, as has Roger Waters. It’s a great concept because the die-hard fans get to hear deep cuts that might not even have been performed live before, and the more casual listener still gets to hear the hits from that album. If U2 would do something similar with The Joshua Tree for example I think it would be a huge success, and I’m sure that many fans with me feel the same. But something like that seems very far off, since all members of the band have stated in interviews that they will never tour as a greatest hits act, and will only hit the road when they have new material to play.
With that in mind it feels like a step in the right direction when I hear “Ordinary Love.” Maybe going back to basics and working with a new producer is exactly what the band need. If they can put together an album with tracks of the same caliber as “Ordinary Love” I will be very excited to go buy it, and to go see them a couple of times on tour. What I like best about “Ordinary Love” is the fact that The Edge’s classic guitar sound is back. You can hear what appears to be his “wall-of-sound”-like shimmer effect in the intro and throughout various parts of the song. But most importantly, the music is once again built around The Edge’s delay-ridden arpeggios that instantly bring classics like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “Where The Streets Have No Name” to mind.
So in short, I do think we need a new U2 album. It’s the only way we will get another tour, and it does sound as if the four Irishmen are on to something really special this time around. It would be nice with a simple stage setup with no gimmicks, where the focus is back on the music. It would definitely make it easier for the band to change up the set list and add some deep album cuts if they don’t have to worry about predetermined stage choreography and unnecessary effects. Maybe then the band could even consider playing The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby mid-set with the beginning and end of the show being made up of greatest hits and new cuts. Wishful thinking, I know, but those are my two cents on the matter. So, do you think we need a new U2 album? Give us your opinion on the subject in the comments.