Songs of Surrender Review – By Talku2 Forum Member “Soloyan”

This review has been written by Talku2 Forum member “Soloyan” – We are very grateful for him sharing it with us and we hope you enjoy it. It is a very thoughtful and interesting review.


I wanted to share my point of view on what U2 and more specifically Bono & Edge released recently. To be honest, I can hardly listen to anything else right now. I find it fascinating. I should have known it right from the start.

Rather than a “I like/I dislike” thing I wanted to try and expand on the topic of musicality and how Songs of Surrender blends in with U2’s body of work.

Before that I want to highlight something that, to me, seems important. This record targets intimacy and is way better enjoyed with headphones at high volume. It’s the first time I have noticed this about a record. It’s a very, very different experience when you just play it through speakers, which, in itself, is interesting.

Globally, Edge stripped down the songs to their core. Meaning – chord sequence + melody. Then he and/or Bono came in to sing in a rather low register. It’s a rather bold move for a band known for its anthems (screams and high notes) and gimmicks (effects and repetitive patterns). In that sense they did what made them famous – they went where we, the audience, didn’t necessarily expect them to. But the difference is that, this time, they went naked. No ornaments. No fancy tricks. They’re clearly out of their comfort zone. I respect that. As for the fanbase… it seems not everyone is happy getting out of his/her comfort zone.


Interestingly One starts with a piano and guitar strumming in the background. That guitar also serves as tempo. It sounds a lot like Running to Stand Still from that perspective. The difference is that Edge singled out a piano melody that is using notes that you might not have expected from these chords. I guess Rick Beato would explain it better, but it’s not the most conventional move. One might be the most covered U2 song and I don’t remember any of those covers highlighting those notes.

After the first minute, Adam Clayton comes in and really owns the song. It’s a brand new bass line that truly fits this version and adds rhythm. Even more so than the soft percussions in the background.

The David Letterman version of this song adds strings where it matters for great effect. It’s interesting to notice that it’s not the Michael Kamen written strings arrangement that has been used more than once over the years. It’s a brand new arrangement. Bono does a great job on this version. Possibly better than on the record.


This version expands on the intro of the song. It’s more familiar territory, Bono singing over synth chords. He’s been doing this since MLK and, more recently, Love is All We Have Left. Not really uncharted territory.

The mistake on this version might be that they kept a tempo close to the original version. It worked well for Bono’s book tour but not as well, here. Maybe we’re missing Jacknife Lee’s input? The Killers did a cover at a slower pace that actually made a lot of sense.

There’s a beautiful unexpected moment, when falsetto voices take over a brand new melody during the break. Other than that, nothing much to add, other than it’s clear that U2 were not aiming at the charts recording this and that is refreshing in itself.


This is a stripped down version, basically chord sequence + vocal melody. I have to say that “Stories” is one of the songs that grew on me over the past few years, making it one of my favourites from Boy. It’s not a surprise that the first few times I listened to SOS, it’s the song that haunted me. It kept spinning around in my head.

It’s kind of intimidating to contemplate that those guys were still in their teens when they wrote this and that the song structure suits teenagers as well as men in their 60’s. I think this song illustrates why we shouldn’t even debate wether these new versions stand up to their previous incarnations. It’s a whole different song. I choose to love them both.

Nice Jumper, Adam!


Here comes Larry. I kind of like the dry tones he’s using on the album. I have no doubt that most of the drums are electronics, which leaves the question – Did Larry play the drum patterns or program them ? Not that it matters, really. Maybe I’m kidding myself but I really feel like I recognise Larry’s style in a lot of these songs. He approached the whole project with a soft touch and humility but it’s definitely him, at least that’s what my ears tell me. It saddens me that many fans seem to not hear him at all. Larry is credited as providing the drums for the album and to me, there’s no reason to think he didn’t. The few examples of Edge programming drums (take the goofy song for David Letterman, for example) are crude and not nearly as subtle. Anyway…

I find it a bit disappointing that Edge remains so close to the original version in terms of guitars. He’s using an acoustic guitar rather than an electric one, but plays basically the same thing. Except…that solo. There are not too many acoustic guitar solos in U2’s discography other than Drowning Man and Party Girl, so there’s that.

I’m not sure the « Say So » portion of the song fulfils its potential and I blame Adam for that. He came up with an interesting 4 note groove but repeats it rather than expands on it. Frustrating.


Kind of a transcript of the original song until the part leading to the guitar solo. Edge is credited as playing additional bass and yes, there is an interesting bass sound floating around but I’m not sure what it is. The break works really well, with references to the U2-3 original recording – Bono singing Out Of Control using the same notes he used when singing lalala-la back then.


The organ sound is reminiscent of the Electical Storm intro recorded with William Orbit all those years ago. I think it’s one of the highlights of this version, along with Larry’s hi-hat. I have to say that I have never heard such a soft sound for the hi hat and I find it wonderful.

I’ve been bored with Beautiful Day for a long time, so a little novelty doesn’t hurt. That said, I remember Edge once saying it’s the backing vocals during the chorus that made the song what it is. It’s no surprise, then that special attention was brought to them, but to be honest I think the Tiny Desk version might work even better.


Nice to hear strings back in Bad, since the original recording had some. The new bridge « have it all/ give it all » works well, especially within Bono’s current limitations.

Bono does his best « voix blanche » which means he never screams but rather holds the note without pushing it. I remember a journalist totally losing it when he went to see U2 in 2015 because Bono was doing this for Sunday Bloody Sunday. I guess many of us expect Bono to scream especially since he was so strong at it, but it’s not his forte anymore. At least on this record he has the courage to own it, even if many people will be disappointed as a result.


This is yet another take at the piano version heard on the expanded version of SOI, as a single, then live. My favourite version remains the one recorded by the BBC which might be the most epic.

So, it’s a bit predictable to find this version yet again. What’s less predictable is that this time Bono decides not to go for the Adele territory. There’s a restrained quality to his singing that is quite rare. I truly enjoy this.

Bono holds the last note for a while in the end. I don’t think that was necessary, I find it a bit cheesy to be honest, but I like the reverb effect that follows.


There already was an acoustic version released for Burma (I think?) a few years ago which was more straightforward. I was wondering if U2 would have considered recording this if it wasn’t for the Ukraine oriented lyrics when Edge answered this very question in Rick Rubin’s podcast. It’s precisely why they recorded it. It also explains why the lyrics were altered so much and why this sounds, to me at least, as one of the less interesting tracks on the album. It’s there for political reasons, not musical reasons.

There is a nice introduction of congas at the very end. We first saw Larry using his « own conga » in a Harlem church back in 1987 in Rattle & Hum, then on the Night & Day video in 1990. You can hear congas here and there on Achtung Baby (Mysterious Ways, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Until The End Of The World…) but Larry is more famous for roaming the 360 stage with a set of those during Crazy Tonight.


I have got to say that I’ve never been a fan of the live version, especially Bono’s chant paling versus the studio version. Playing the song in a lower tone fixes this issue. It’s not about delivering the horsepower as it once was. It’s about « clear thought » as Bono puts it. His voice is firm. Over the years I’ve been strumming the main chords on an acoustic guitar and although nothing revolutionary happens I’ve always thought there was potential there. It’s not what I had in mind but it works. The most interesting thing in this version appears just after « they took your life, they could not take your pride » There’s a suspension in time. The same chord keeps coming up, as a moment of disbelief. I can’t help thinking about this black and white pic of MLK’s hotel, shortly after he was killed, with people pointing the finger at his room. It’s that moment right there, within the song. It just makes sense thenthat the chorus comes back first as a quiet eulogy before exploding with new melodies intertwined.

Edge is joined by 1984’s Bono and it takes off. I think it’s the only time in the whole album that they used a past recording.

I’m not a fan of the slide guitar, here, I’ve always thought it was a lazy way out for Edge most of the time he uses it. Also heard here and there in the song is a drum which to me sounds like an Irish folk drum. I like that. Maybe pipes would have suited the song more than slide guitar.


This song is a perfect example of how hard U2’s creative process can sometimes be. In 1990, DAT tapes from U2’s recording sessions for what would become « Achtung Baby » got stolen and sold as bootleg LPs and CD’s. It’s called « The Salomé tapes » because there might be a billion different mixes of that song in there, not to mention Edge’s everlasting studies to find the perfect riff for the tune.

There were 3 versions of what would become WGRYWH on those tapes. Each one had good moments and less convincing propositions. But what’s fascinating is that they were very different from one another, at least as far as Bono’s concerned. Saying that the final product was very different from the working tapes is an understatement. The demo tapes had Edge playing with acoustic guitar and typical, although 12 string Edge electric guitar riffs. And that’s precisely why they didn’t keep this stuff in the end. It sounded too much like the old U2. So Edge went for a distorted sound instead for the album mix.

I have got to say I was never a fan of this album version. I find the verses too raw…and the chorus too sugar coated. And to my ears the mix of the two simply doesn’t add up.

When the song was released as a single they tried to correct that by replacing the distorted guitars with acoustic guitars. It was more balanced but I wasn’t sold.

There was yet another mix offered For the 20th anniversary of Achtung baby. I find the guitar part more interesting (and closer to the Salomé tapes versions) but somehow there’s still something missing. I’ll never get over the perfect riffs the demo tapes had that were never exploited.

How does this version stand among all this? There are elements of the single version (the acoustic guitars) which are expanded and augmented with a piano. The chorus sounds really good and the whole song is really well balanced. I’m less convinced by the break but the « don’t turn around » part still stands out.

And no, I’m not gonna get the Salomé tapes versions riffs, it seems. They’re now in U2’s chest of golden ideas that never came to fruition.

U2 1992


This is a brand new take on the song. When it was originally released, it was yet another attempt from U2 to nail a hit song for the 2010’s. It had some ingredients of U2’s past glory as well as a singalong quality, but it didn’t really hit the mark. Not a fan favorite nor a trend for social media, there’s a good chance most of the people listening to SOS won’t even remember where it came from.

It’s kind of refreshing then to hear U2 loosen up a bit rerecording it. Even a lot. Larry made a drum pattern proposition that didn’t make the cut at the time. Here it serves as a canvas for Bono and Edge to be playful. Edge sounds really unconcerned as to whether the song will get some airplay, Bono sounds like he doesn’t care if window cleaners will whistle it, going out of the melody tracks. What was once a kind of lecturing song, and an ironic one since U2 seemed unwilling to get out of their own way at the time now sounds like a true throwaway song that they could totally sing at the end of a show to say goodbye to their most loyal followers. Well done, lads. Glad to see you have still got this in you.


Mick Jagger described this as his favorite U2 song. And rightly so, it always had a Motown vibe. I often dream about Bob Marley tackling the song, I believe it would suit him so well too. But as a U2 song, how does it rank? It’s one of these songs that totally fit Bono’s post 2000 voice, in my opinion. And he doesn’t disappoint. B-Man sounds really inspired on this take and allows the song to flow. In terms of arrangement, it’s basically the live acoustic version we’ve heard many times, with Larry and Adam showing up to close the song. I especially enjoyed that pause to conclude the song with Adam repeating just two notes. It’s just a moment… It’s just a moment… What is indeed a song if not « just a moment »? This too shall pass.


It’s weird to realise that, for 30 years, there was just one version of this song, then we finally got a new studio version mixing 2017 & 1987 Bonos, then a live version, then this. The intro is promising; the juxtaposition of Bono & Edge’s guitar works well but then the brass section comes in. From that point on, it’s mostly the live version with the rolling snare drum, and a new bass line. It’s not a train wreck but it’s never entirely convincing. At least the brass section is human, not synths, which is rare these days.


Ordinary Love starts like the live version we heard on TV shows and played in Paris in 2015. We know that U2 struggled to find the right version for this song, as they were targeting an Oscar for it. This could be the most consistent version to date, as a soft ballad. Again, Adam very elegantly lifts the song for the last part.


I’m gonna say it just once – I’m not a fan of Edge’s piano playing. I think it’s very efficient when it’s a single note riff (New Year’s Day for example) but to my ears he lacks dynamics on a keyboard. It works super well when he just plays chords (Running to Stand Still) but every time he’s adding melodies it sounds a bit rough. This is the case here. I’m pretty sure a true keyboardist would have done it much more elegantly (and God knows Edge is an elegant guitar player). There’s too many notes in there for me. I think a much simpler approach would have been better. There’s one moment in the song where he plays exactly what should be played – it’s when Bono sings the song title « Sometimes you can’t make it on your own ». But it’s short. For the rest of the song I keep wishing Edge would just rest his fingers and let Bono occupy the space. The « opera » part features a percussionist and organ player. It’s not a bad idea but maybe a bit too Nana Mouskouri singing Little Drummer Boy on a Christmas TV special for me. For a second Bono holds that note and it’s beautifully produced, unexpected.


This song always frustrated me. Every time I heard it, it was like « I know what you mean, but… » there was something that didn’t quite work. I wasn’t sure what. In general, I don’t like when post 2000 U2 tries too hard to highlight a melody to make sure your brain prints it -Invisible, City of Blinding Lights, Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way, Crumbs From Your Table… But I think the combination of the acoustic guitar and the piano works really well here. Adam comes and goes in the song in a very Claytonesque way. The dynamics work really well on this song and maybe that’s what the original version lacked. My only frustration comes from the fact that the Letterman documentary added an incredible Irish choir to the song and I wish it was here.


It’s not the first time there is cello in Dirty Day. The Bitter Kiss remix already had cello in it. Of course it had fancy drums too. Here Bono is heard having a kind of scary conversation. Is he MacPhistoian? I’d say so. Again great use of the reverb coming and going, adding an edge (pun not intended).

A cool rather discreet drum loop in the end. This mix would not sound to out of place on Passengers, in my opinion.


I’m puzzled. For the first few verses, I thought U2 had found the perfect approach for the song. But then the new chorus comes in and… it’s as if we are in another song and not a particularly inspired one. We’ll call that an experiment. Too bad. I really thought for a moment that U2 had found their Trying to Throw Your Arms… for the 21st century.


A live warhorse for so many years, I really didn’t expect anything from that version. But I find it very well balanced. Piano and bass hold each other really well and Bono’s restrained vocals work really well too, here. All the stuff I’ve been critical of in « Sometimes… » just clicks here.


The intro sounds very Fez-esque. It’s the only nod to NLOTH in the entire album. It’s basically a folk version. Cello adds a fun twist, though, Hauser doing his thing.

Unos, Dos, Tres, Cator……or something!


Bono sounds tired. I mean he’s climbed, run, crawled, scaled… Give the man a break! Joking aside, I like the fact that for a moment it totally changes the mood of the song. Instead of the joyful optimistic chant of his younger self, it’s the kind of grown up man realisation that things were not quite as he thought previously.

Very clever move from Edge to let the guitar sing the first line of the chorus, as the singer, here, is so tired and hopeless that he can’t. Then the song morphs as the singer remembers how his journey went. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

What was once a two note guitar solo now sounds like an eerie elevation. As the song progresses, acceptance and contentment take over. This version has Eno and Lanois’s fingerprints on it and it works beautifully.


The intro sounds a lot like the William Orbit mix. I’ve always thought the single mix was a bit superior due to that acoustic guitar. Hence I’m not surprised that this version works. It alternates a sober piano (thanks Edge, that’s the way to do it) and said acoustic guitar. The dynamic works well. The lower register works for Bono too, he sounds very confident here. Edge takes over the vocals for the break. At first I wasn’t sure he was going to hit the high note but he does it beautifully.


We’re in Miracle territory again. I would qualify it as « reggae-ish ». U2 was never a reggae band, although Adam is on record for claiming his love for the Wailers bass lines. I’m not sure why but I always thought U2 sounded good in these waters. They never played actual reggae but in my mind Stuck in a Moment always sounded like a Bob Marley song covered by U2. I might be the only fan of U2’s cover of « Don’t Take Your Guns to Town » too with the let’s say white Jamaican vibe. I really think they can pull that vibe. This version really sounds like an alternate take, not an unplugged version. Edge starts the songs with his usual riff but using the high register with no effects. Then he uses the acoustic guitar for a funkier approach. It’s one of the songs with the most drums. Larry alternates different tones, keeping the groove going. I was surprised that they stayed so close to the original guitar solo but again, it works. Why fix it when it isn’t broke? Bono introduces the solo in a kind of shamanic way. It might be the most 4 piece U2 moment of the whole album. A few of the tunes on this record end abruptly but The Fly does it right.


« Nobody else here, baby » Bono whispers in your ear from the start. That could have been the title of the whole albums as it’s the level of intimacy that’s suggested all throughout the record. And maybe that’s why people react so violently to it. It’s not just U2 going unplugged. It’s U2 at their most vulnerable, without the usual decorum. I remember watching U2-3D in a cinema. The irony was that the most impressive effect had nothing to do with the 3D technology. The most impressive effect came from that moment (I believe it was during Sunday Bloody Sunday) where the camera came close to Bono, and the sound of his voice was altered as if you were right next to him and he was whispering in your ear. No stadium anymore, no crowd, no effects. Just Bono speaking to your soul via your ear canal. The goal is soul.

So what happens when U2 take a song from Pop, the album that’s often labelled as their « arty », « hip » « dance » record and strips the song of all its make up?  The angels actually do show up. Bono’s voice isn’t what it used to be? – But it’s a perfect fit for this song. Edge’s piano playing is sometimes too much effort? Well the bridge at 2:46 will make you change your mind. What about the embarrassing quest for relevancy that plagued U2’s outings from the last two decades?  Well…If God Will Send His Angels is quite the songwriting feat. It’s highlighted by the use of silence and pause. I also like the fact that, in terms of notes, Edge uses the piano not only to replicate what he was doing on guitar for the original recording but also the quiet sirens that ended the song on Pop. That song was perfect from the get go. The elements were there. It was all there in its inception, and we failed to hear it.


Not everyone is a fan of falsetto. It’s « radical » as Rick Rubin puts it. As a devotee of Lemon, I don’t mind a little high notes on the vocal side. Honestly, I think that’s the kind of bold move that was required for a new version of the song. Originally written as a Bo Diddley tribute, it’s now a space cowboy tune that wouldn’t sound out of place next to The Wanderer on Zooropa. We knew Desire had that kind of potential since the ZooTV tour but it’s nice to see this idea realized on a record.


Until the End of the World was always a testimony of how great Bono could sound in the lower register. And it’s a return to the source as the version on Achtung Baby was recording in E but the live version was always in G. We’re back to E for this version. The juxtaposition of the piano and the acoustic guitar reminds me of the cover Patti Smith made of the song but she didn’t have Adam Clayton or Edge by her side.

It is yet another moment of the 4 members  of U2 together in the second part of the song. The drums are likely programmed more than they are played but to me they sound like a Larry Mullen Jr pattern all right. Not sure what the additional bass parts by Edge are but I’m betting on the simple notes emulating the piano part.

Another thing I find interesting is that the intro and the outro of this version highlight the major chords Edge has always used on the live version. It makes the whole song less dramatic and allows the new « lalala » melody at the end. Wether it’s a success or not is up to you.

Bono’s falsetto on Songs of Surrender is mostly good (certainly better than his live falsetto for the last few decades) but I personally wouldn’t have kept it in the bridge after Edge’s solo. Personal taste.

I’ve always been a fan of the many, many guitar parts that blend together on the original mix for UTEOTW, some of them being on a 12 string guitar. It’s a bit disappointing that the guitar here is mostly what Edge’s been doing for 30 years on stage. I would have liked more layers.


I’m in the minority of people who always loved that song. I find the lyrics very touching and to me it’s a U2 classic, for better or worse. This version basically uses piano instead of guitars. It’s during the chorus that it really clicks. It takes the song yet to another level. Lifts it up. The last few bars are amazing. There. I just love the song even more.


Am I the only one to hear this track as a Lou Reed tribute? The bass line from the first half comes directly from Walk on the Wild Side. The second half of the song has all the rhythmic elements of a classic U2 version -Larry sweeps the snare drum, Adam grooves around. An additional ride cymbal makes it slightly eerie. Maybe the most predictable version on this record but that is not an insult.


There are very, very few U2 songs that I physically hate. I mean to the point of wanting to throw the stereo out the window when I hear them. Peace on Earth is one of them. I blame the guitar effects on the album version. I believe it’s a whammy pedal mixing different tones at the same time. God knows I admire Edge for his ability to create new landscapes with guitar tones but I’ve alway found this one way off. I guess there’s also the naivety of the lyrics (or what I’m hearing as naivety).

This version simply shows that Peace on Earth isn’t a bad song at all. I don’t expect it to conquer the crowds but it’ll give them a chance to appreciate it under a new light. The campfire/evening prayer mood works really well for this and it’s probably how it should have been put together all these years ago.

And for those who don’t see the difference between Edge programming drums and Larry programming drums… there you go.

Now I just wish they will give the same treatment to « When I Look at the World » one day. Bono & Edge played it as a snippet at the end of Bad during the Elevation tour and it sounded wonderful.

Now that I think about it… Many people seem to be critical of the fact that this album is mostly Bono & Edge. But that’s the way it’s been live since the Zoo TV Tour : Bono & Edge always have their moment during the acoustic set. It allows Adam and Larry to chill and change their wardrobe. Maybe this moment in U2’s career is just that – Adam and Larry taking time to chill and, in Larry’s case, especially, to change his wardrobe.


I’m having mixed feelings about this version. I don’t believe it’s bad, there’s actually interesting stuff on it. The song starts with acoustic guitars playing the four notes bass line that made Adam Clayton famous. But when the actual bass comes in, it plays different notes in harmony. That’s really cool and rather bold since this riff is so iconic. I guess what’s disturbing is that Bono isn’t trying to be sexy as he did in 1987. Again, he’s targeting vulnerability. Maybe there’s a case to be made about how some men dislike this album because it shakes their idea of masculinity. I’m not joking – Last week someone made a rather homophobic post on a Facebook fan page, using pics of U2 members dressed as women to describe the new version of « Two Hearts Beat as One ». I think it takes a lot of confidence in your own sexuality to accept to appear vulnerable and/or show your feminine side (which isn’t the same thing, being vulnerable not being exclusive to women). But I keep thinking a lot of men are uncomfortable with that. Add to this that Bono once won the « woman of the year » award… Anyway – The song works, but not as much as the version of the book tour. Kudos to Edge for not using any of the guitar parts from the original version. Again, that’s a bold move.


There’s been quite a few versions of Stay already. The album version, the movie soundtrack version, the Craig Armstrong version…Then 3 live versions, the full band ZooTV version, the acoustic version and the 2018 version which was a mix of the former two.

This version is an upgrade of the acoustic live version. It adds piano and backing vocals, mostly. I like the emphasis on « Stay » during the first chorus. It works really well. I wish they’d kept the others that way. That’s when Bono climbs an octave for the reminder of the song and he’s clearly more at ease in this register. Adam comes in very gently, followed by an organ which give this version its true colours. There’s a flanger guitar at the back. Never been a fan of this effect but it isn’t really an issue here.


Recording this, I’m not sure Bono & Edge realized that this song was going to be one of the few that people where going to skip to when considering purchasing the album. It’s a straight acoustic version until the chorus comes in, introduced by a bass drum. I wish they’d kept it for the following verse, there was potential for a full on Irish folk version of the song. Bono is singing it the way he did in Ukraine and during the previous E+I and I+E tours. No alarms and no surprises.

Remember these?


I adore the strings version of Lights of Home. I wasn’t sure new versions were required for the most recent songs, I got to say. But this one works really well. It’s balanced in terms of mix and arrangements. There’s a brand new guitar solo in there too. Not the most heroic but it’s the kind of simple riff repeated twice Edge is very good at.

One thing I don’t get is that the piano and backing vocals worked so well on the original version and yet, they didn’t use them here. Go different is always interesting but in this case it prevents the song from taking off. Shame.


There already was an acoustic version of Cedarwood Road on the deluxe edition of Songs of Innocence. This version is an improvement in the sense that they skipped the cello, that didn’t really work at the time. As a result, we have the predictable campfire version. Not bad but nothing exceptional… Until Adam and Larry enter the song, giving it the gravitas it needed. Yes, U2 is still a 4 piece band.


It was indeed one of the highlights of Bono’s book tour. He altered the lyrics so that they fit his narrative « A boy tries hard to be a man/A mother lets go of his hand/The gift of grief will bring a voice to life ». Heavy.

My belief if that, if you’re comparing those songs to their originals, you’re missing the point. This is not a « best of » record. This is not a « see how much we’ve grown » album.  It’s rather a « see where we’re at » record and a humble realization that those songs still have a deep meaning, although a slightly different one, than they had when they were conceived by/for the band.

I’ve said it elsewhere but I think it’s ridiculous to expect that 60 something fathers with a successful life and loads of money would act like 20 somethings teenagers with everything to prove. Which means comparing the old versions to the new versions, although natural, is a path to disappointment. It can’t be anything else.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon with cinema a lot, with the list of recent sequels of films from the 80’s and the 70’s… Prometheus isn’t a bad movie. It’s very unique. It’s only when you try to link it to Alien that it looks weird and confusing. But as a stand alone film, it kind of holds up, even if it’s not perfect. I believe that’s the case with most of the songs on this album.


We’ve had quite a few remixes for this song. In fact, 1983 is the first time U2 invested in remixes with François Kevorkian, which was quite new at the time. For those familiar with those remixes, the piano intro isn’t new at all. Edge is clearly at the helm for this version, with a little help from Larry. It’s a fun take, although I’m not a fan of the tones that were used, but that’s personal taste. Does it work? I’ll leave that you.


I remember picking up How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and listening to it with a discman, just walking in Paris. When Edge’s solo for Miracle Drug came up, I remember thinking « he’s still got it ! »….Since then, I’ve come to distance myself from the album. Not that it’s a bad album, I don’t think U2 ever released a bad one, but to me it lacks the U2 DNA. The record is filled with good songs but they lack a true identity. It’s well written, well produced, but it’s much too clean for my taste. It’s like « I get what you guys are doing, but it’s just not clicking. Sorry. ».

I guess I could say the same with this version. The only point of interest I found is that Edge is singing parts that were sung by Bono originally and vice-versa. I think maybe Larry is to blame, this time. The original song has a few clear changes in mood and intensity, mostly driven by drums and vocals. Here, the… I want to say Bossa nova (?) Drum pattern is just inducing consistency and predictability. As a response, the vocals remain quite linear and the song has very little dynamics.

My favourite album of all time is The Joshua Tree and there’s a good reason for it – The album is full of contrast. For years that was also the case with U2’s live shows. Well, this version of Miracle Drug has little to no contrast for me.


Even U2’s worst critics seem to cut them some slack when it comes to this song. It is indeed one of Bono’s vocal highlights from the recent years and… it sounds like nobody else but U2 could pull it off. This new version adds an amazing set of guitar arpeggios. With a running time close to 5 minutes, it’s the longest tune on SOS. It breathes. It’s almost two songs in one as well, as the second half consists of this slow increase in intensity that suits this band so well. There, I told you -Contrast !


How long to sing this song? 40 sounds as if it was coming from a multiverse where Brian Eno produced War. It’s possibly the first and last U2 song to feature a ukulele, but rather than using it as a goofy folkish accessory, Edge finds harp-like tones and drops notes like rain. It’s poetic and very effective. This version is definitely not destined to be sung by a whole stadium but I guess that’s the whole point. In a recent podcast with Rick Rubin, Edge described how Bono used to sing at the top of his range half the time on the first few U2 records. Of course that passion lead the band where they are and defined its singer in the process, but it has a limit.

In the same podcast, Edge confirms something that I’ve been a huge believer in – That limitations boost creativity. In this case, Bono compensated with passion for his lack of technique. And everyone will admit that limitations were probably what made U2 so special, why they wrote songs by jamming, why they went where they weren’t expected to. They were clearly learning their craft. But what happens when those limitations disappear one after the other? I guess this album is the answer to that question. It gives a good view of what U2 have learned on their way to success. The sort of quiet strength they have developed.

My hope for the future is that since Bono wrote his autobiography, he won’t feel the need to speak so much about the past when he’s on stage. That the book tour allowed him to get this out of his system and move on.

I also hope that this record will give U2 a chance to rediscover themselves and redefine their sound, as they did so well before. Who knows? Maybe all the talk about Edge wanting to lead this new surge of guitar driven music is sincere?

Is SOS a true U2 album?

In my opinion it isn’t. It’s an exercise in creativity, using landmarks from the past. As such, I think a confidential release would have suited it way better. It’s been marketed backwards. And it might backfire as a result. I guess we’ll see.

Overall, I really enjoyed the ride. As a U2 fan and as a musician, I find SOS truly fascinating. I don’t find any of these new versions offensive, which is why I don’t get most of the animosity that’s been displayed against it. I guess some of it goes into the « George Lucas raped my childhood » category, which says a lot more about the person who claims it than it says about George Lucas.

I think we’re drawn to artists for certain feelings and emotions. Whatever U2 has brought to you over the years, there’s a good chance it’s not quite there in this record, because they went for something else, as they did in 1991for example… I remember it took me months to accept Achtung Baby.

Edge said « I hope you like our new direction », which means « I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle ». And if you don’t, then it’s ok. But I think it would be a mistake to think that record is bad or lazy because you don’t like it. As Rubin puts it, it’s « radical ». And whether we like it or not, there was a lot of work put into it.

I think Bono’s tour and this record are cousins – They’re a parenthesis in U2’s career. But U2 being U2 it’s been marketed as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is always annoying and gets in the way of the sincerity they put into this work.

There’s a French expression « reculer pour mieux sauter » it means take a step back to jump further. With any luck it might apply to U2 when they release their (true) new record. I guess we’ll see.