Monday, September 15, 2014

The sights and sounds of 'Songs of Innocence' - top 10 locations that influenced the evolution of U2

by Ed Power

U2's latest album, Songs Of Innocence, may be their most personal yet. The record is suffused with the sights and sounds of seventies Dublin – to an unprecedented degree, Bono bares his soul as he sings about growing up on the northside of the city, losing his mother at age 14 and the traumas he experienced at a time when Ireland was still a depressive and sometimes violent place.

To mark the LP's release here are some of the locations name-checked on the record as they exist today, alongside several other landmarks that have played a part in U2's story.

Casa de Bono en Dublin cuando era joven en Cedarwood Road

Cedarwood Road, Glasnevin

Internet searches for 'Cedarwood Road' are estimated to have increased one gazillion percent since the release of U2's 13th album. "You can't return to where you never left," croons Bono on the brittle dirge of the same name, "It was a war-zone in my teens/I'm still standing on that street."

The singer grew up at number 10 Cedarwood Road, several houses down from life-long friends Gavin Friday and Guggi Rowan (to whom the tune is dedicated). The street hasn't changed much since Bono's adolescence. On radio this week, old neighbours recalled the future global star as a polite young man with a considerate disposition. “I grew up just a few doors literally from the Hewsons," neighbor Bob Conway said. "On Cederwood road we started hearing Bono and the three boys practicing in the garage.”

A memorial to the victims of the Talbot Street bombings

Talbot Street, Parnell Street, South Leinster Street

On May 17 1974, three UVF bombs ripped through central Dublin (a fourth detonated in Monaghan an hour and a half late). Thirty three people were killed, including the mother of an unborn child at term. The atrocity is addressed on the new LP on the track Raised By Wolves.

"On any other Friday I would have been at this record shop, but I cycled to school that day," said Bono in an interview. "The bomb tore apart the street. I escaped but one of my mates was around the corner with his father, and it was a very hard thing for him to witness and I'm not sure he really got over it."

Des Kelly Interiors

The State Cinema, Phibsborough

A cutting edge movie house when it opened in 1954– replacing the beloved Phibsborough Cinema – The State today endures an afterlife as Des Kelley Interiors show-room. In the seventies cinemas often doubled as live music venues. On September 1978 The State hosted a gig by New York punks The Ramones. In the audience, Bono was deeply moved by their passion and work ethic (they toured practically all year). He reflects on the concert, its impact on him as an artist, on The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone), the opening number on Songs Of Innocence.

Mount Temple Comprehensive, Malahide Road, Clontarf

In September 1976, 14-year- old Larry Mullen Jr posted a missive on the notice board at Mount Temple Comprehensive School seeking band-members. Several fellow pupils responded, among them Paul Hewson, Dave Evans and Adam Clayton. U2 were up and running. A rare example of a socially progressive school in an era when Irish education was still in many respects in the dark ages, at Mount Temple students were encouraged to explore their creativity. It remains open today – other past pupils include former Miss Ireland Amanda Brunker and comedian Andrew Maxwell.

60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane

Rosemount Avenue, Dublin

Larry Mullen Jr's family home, it was here the proto-U2 (then without a name) held their first band meeting. In fact it was more 'audition' than meeting. A skilled drummer, it fell to Mullen to decide who was in and who was out. Several neighbourhood friends were politely rejected. Dave Evans and Adam Clayton made the cut (everyone was impressed by Clayton's Afghan coat). Then a slight-looking young man turned up – he couldn't play an instrument and yet everyone was struck by his charisma. "I was in charge for the first five minutes,' Mullen remembered. "As soon as Bono got there, I was out of a job."

The site of the old Dandelion Market in Dublin's city centre

Dandelion Market

In an era when much of Dublin resembled a mouldering bomb-site, the Dandelion Market offered a whiff of cosmopolitan glamour. Opened in 1970, it became a haven for counter culture in the city. You could buy dyed t-shirts, flares, studded leather watch-straps – most anything , in fact, so long as it was legal. In the twilight of its existence the Market became synonymous with U2. Through May and June 1979, the band delivered a six week Saturday afternoon residency. The admission was 50 pence and the shows were all ages, giving many teenagers their first experience of rock and roll. "People talk about these gigs as being legendary," Mullen later recalled. "They were. The Dandelion was where we really hit our stride."The Market had shuttered by end of year, to make way for St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre.

Bonavox Hearing Specialists, North Earl Street

Bonavox, Dublin City Centre

Still in business, this hearing aid store played an unwitting part in the transformation of shy, awkward Paul Hewson into global rock star Bono. In his teens, Bono and friends had a habit of bequeathing absurd nicknames on each other. Early monikers applied to the young Hewson are said to have included 'Steinhegvanhuysenolegbangbangbang' and 'Houseman'. It was Gavin Friday who came up with "Bonovox", inspired by the store the teenagers regularly tramped past on their excursions to town. At first Bono rejected the moniker – upon learning Bonavox was latin for 'good voice', he changed his mind.

McGonagle's, South Anne Street, Dublin

The old indie-rock dive off Grafton Street is today a Hackett men's clothing store. U2 played the venue in 1978 and received one of their earliest reviews, from Hot Press journalist Bill Graham. In his write-up, Graham seemed cautiously smitten: "U2 are impressive contenders with the appetite and talent to improve beyond their already creditable status".

Project Arts Centre, East Essex Street

Project Arts Centre, East Essex Street, Temple Bar

In May 1978, Paul McGuinness, a well-heeled Trinity College graduate, was persuaded to attend a Project Arts Centre gig by U2. He wasn't sure about the songs – the band were very much in their 'embryonic' phase. However, he was struck by their enthusiasm and dedication. Accompanying him was Hot Press journalist Graham, who had campaigned for McGuinness to oversee the group's affairs. Last November, after 30 years, McGuinness stepped down as U2 manager.

Sandymount Strand

One of U2's early, iconic photoshoots was on Sandymount Strand, with the 'twin towers' of the Poolbeg Generating Station in the background. Clearly the chimneys meant something to U2 – they would subsequently feature in the video to Pride (In The Name Of Love).

Chris Martin features on ‘Iris’, from U2′s new album

Chris Martin features on 'Iris', from U2's new album

Chris Martin features on U2′s fifth track from their new album, which caused a shockwave after the iPhone 6 conference on Tuesday when it was added to the library of 500 million iTunes users, for free!

Chris was present at Apple’s conference and applauded Bono and co as the Irish band played live and announced their unique album strategy for ‘Songs of Innocence’.

’Iris (Hold Me Close)’ is the U2 track which features Chris Martin on the backing vocals. The song itself was raising questions from Coldplayers who picked up the similar vibe from the start and ending of ‘Iris’, reminiscent of ‘Ghost Stories’ and more particularly the opening track from it, ‘Always In My Head’.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bono’s Dublin: ‘A long way from where I live’

When U2 struggled with their new album they sought inspiration in 1970s Dublin, a place of hidden violence, home to a new-wave music scene and a group of friends who were not yet U2. ‘A lot of sh*t got dragged up,’ says Bono
Sandymount Strand, 1978

Article by Brian Boyd

Bono leans in to my face so our noses are almost touching, and he sings, unaccompanied, “Life begins with the first glance, the first kiss at the first dance, all of us are wondering why we’re here, in the Crystal Ballroom underneath the chandelier . . . We are the ghosts of love and we haunt this place, in the ballroom of crystal lights, everyone is here with me tonight, everyone but you.” It is sean-nós in shades.

“I need to tell you something really weird about this song,” he says. “It’s called The Crystal Ballroom, which used to be the name of McGonagles in South Anne Street [now knocked down]. A whole generation of Dubliners would go to the Crystal Ballroom for dances, and many couples first met there. My mother and father used to dance together in the Crystal Ballroom, so that song I just sang you, which hasn’t been released yet, is me imagining I’m on the stage of McGonagles with this new band I’m in called U2 – and we did play a lot of our important early gigs there. And I look out into the audience and I see my mother and father dancing romantically together to U2 on the stage.”

Bono takes a deep breath and, speaking slowly, says, “I have just realised that my mother died 40 years ago yesterday, and here we are today playing our new album about Dublin, which is about my family and what happened to me as a teenager.
“My mother died when she was at her father’s funeral. She had a cerebral aneurysm. I was only 14. And in this song I am singing, “Everyone is here tonight, everyone but you.” And it’s me wanting to see my mother dance again in the Crystal Ballroom and for her to see what happened to her son.”

All about my mother

We are in a windowless room at Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, in the California town of Cupertino. U2 have just helped launch a range of Apple products, and it has been announced that their new album, Songs of Innocence, is being given to iTunes customers.

The Edge is here too. He flicks through his phone, finds The Crystal Ballroom and presses play. There is silence in the room as it plays. After a long pause a clearly upset Bono whispers, “Her spirit was with us today.”
This new U2 album could be read as Bono’s All About My Mother. The song Iris (Hold Me Close) – Iris is his mother’s name – finds him singing about her untimely death. “The ache in my heart is so much a part of who I am . . . Hold me close and don’t let me go . . . I’ve got your life inside of me . . . We’re meeting up again.”
Standing up and walking around the room, he highlights a lyric in the song. “I sing this verse which has ‘Iris standing in the hall, she tells me I can do it all,’ and then there’s a typical mother’s line when she says to me, ‘You’ll be the death of me.’ But it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the death of her. I was not the death of her.”

“The mother is so, so important in rock music. Show me a great singer and I’ll show you someone who lost their mother early on. There’s Paul McCartney, there’s John Lennon. Look at Bob Geldof and what happened to his mother.
“In hip hop, by contrast, it’s all about the father – being abandoned by the father and being brought up by a single mother. But for me it’s all about the mother. I had rage and grief for my mother. I still have rage and grief for my mother. I channelled those emotions in music, and I still do. I have very few memories of my mother, but all of them are in the song Iris.”

Bono’s mother saw him sing on stage only once, before U2, but Bono has said that if he could relive just one moment in his life he would go back to singing in front of his mother for the first time.

As a 14-year-old, Bono – then just plain Paul Hewson – had strained relationships with his brother, Norman (eight years his senior), and his father, growing up on Cedarwood Road, in Glasnevin, in north Dublin, after his mother’s death.
With no mother, Bono would find himself knocking on the doors of his neighbours: the Rowens at lunchtime, the Hanveys at teatime. Derek Rowen would become the artist Guggi. Fionán Hanvey would become the musician Gavin Friday, of the Virgin Prunes.
In the new song Cedarwood Road Bono talks about the cherry blossom tree in the Rowens’ garden. “I was looking for a soul that’s real. Then I ran into you, and that cherry blossom tree was a gateway to the sun.” In the Dublin suburbs of the 1970s, Bono says, the cherry blossom tree “seemed to be the most luxurious thing”.
The Edge then pitches in, talking in some detail about Dublin City Council’s policy on cherry blossom trees. How he knows this I can’t imagine.

Finglas, Cabra, the SFX

Songs of Innocence sees U2 trying to reconnect with the teenage kicks of late-1970s Dublin and its new-wave musical scene, which centred around McGonagles, the Dandelion Market and odd forays to the SFX or out to the Top Hat, in Dún Laoghaire.

“It’s us trying to figure out why we wanted to be in a band in the first place, the relationships around the band and our first journeys – geographically, spiritually and sexually. It was tough and it took years. Put it this way: a lot of sh*t got dragged up,” says Bono.

With songs about Finglas, going to see the Ramones play at the Cabra Grand and taking the bus into College Green to see The Clash play at Trinity College, this album seems decades apart from their last one. And in a way it is.

When Bono talked to The Irish Times around the release of No Line on the Horizon, in 2009, he took this reporter into the study of his Dalkey home, opened the windows and showed off his view of the Irish Sea, a vista in which no line was visible on the horizon – that day anyway. Ireland’s recession was going from bad to brutal, and a multimillionaire rock star was calling an album after the sumptuous view he enjoyed every day.

But the image that went around the world this week from the Cupertino launch party was very different: a paper-clad vinyl album done up to mimic the look of the band’s first release, in 1979, the U2 Three EP.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Songs of Innocence: the biggest album launch of all time.

Guy Oseary and Bono, 2003.
Guy Oseary and Bono during The 45th GRAMMY Awards - MusiCares 2003 Person of the Year - Bono - After-Party at Hudson Hotel in New York City.

It has been a whirlwind nine months for Guy Oseary since he took the reins of U2’s management after longtime manager Paul McGuinness announced his retirement last fall. That includes a Golden Globe, an Oscar nomination, a big Super Bowl campaign and the premiere of The Tonight Show in support of two songs that ultimately didn't make the final cut on Songs of Innocence, the history-making album that debuted to 500 million iTunes customers on Sept. 9.

With lead single "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" set to be featured in a massive media campaign from Apple, valued at $100 million by multiple sources, U2 has already scored arguably the biggest launch in music history. And it's one that's already fraught with a little controversy, from angry retailers to Grammy and SoundScan guidelines. Oseary, 41, rang Billboard on Sept. 11 to address the many questions about the launch, and what’s next (another album?) from this landmark deal with Apple.

Songs of Innocence has already been touted as the biggest album launch of all time. How did you get to this point?

U2 worked five years on this album, they poured blood, sweat, tears into project, and we were really confident with it. The goal was: how do we reach as many as possible? U2 first worked with Apple nearly 10 years to the day when they were sharing a stage with Steve Jobs and launching their iPod with many fewer accounts, and here we are 10 years later with Apple gifting this album to 7 percent of the planet. 

Many people are already calling the announcement “disruptive” in the same way that Jay Z’s deal with Samsung and Beyonce’s surprise album drop were also disruptive to traditional industry rollouts. While this  news was significant for U2, how could other artists potentially benefit? 

Well first of all, when music becomes a piece of the conversation at an Apple event, that’s always a good thing. Two is, the power of music and the fact that it can actually be shared with 7 percent of the planet in one push of a button. That’s a pretty big concept. Any sort of innovation may inspire other people to do things that are innovative. We may see someone sitting with another manager, or another band going, "Hey, what can we do that's interesting maybe with our lyrics or our videos or something interactive with the ticketing to our shows?"

That’s all, I don’t know where it’s headed, I just know that I’m always looking for the answers, for new ways to do things. That’s my job, my job is to try to not follow the lead. And there’s a lot of other people that have a lot of peers and bands that are in the community wanting to lead, and they’ll lead in other ways. And that’s what’s exciting to me. It’s not gonna be the same thing. But who knows where it goes? There’s endless possibilities to do things today with music and performance.

Jimmy Iovine is a figure we didn’t see onstage Tuesday, but someone who has been closely linked to U2 for many years from his days at Interscope and now happens to be an Apple employee. What was his role in making this deal happen?

Jimmy is part of whatever this band does, even in their personal lives. It’s a family. We look to Jimmy for guidance and support no matter what we end up doing, whether its this project or talking about the next single, or whether we’re talking about doing other things down the road. Talk about family, trips, things that we wanted to to do in our personal lives -- we’re really connected, we’re really supportive. Jimmy is near and dear to this band, he’s definitely a source of support and guidance. He’s a big part of the U2 family, and to myself personally -- whether I’m working with U2 or someone else, he’s always been a very supportive and dear friend. We consider him family and there’s been a lot of hand-holding together through this process.

On Tuesday, Bono emphasized the fact that the band was paid by Apple for the album, and there's a reported $100 million ad campaign in the works, which may have ruffled some feathers of longtime fans who admire Bono’s humanitarian work. So, is there an altruistic component to this new Apple partnership?

Apple's very private about their philanthropic work, but they've done a lot for (RED.) They've given $70 to $90 million to saving lives, and while I was at the event I counted two times where two (RED) products were actually promoted at the event.

Bono also mentioned on Facebook that there’s a second album already in the can. What else can we expect from U2 and Apple?

We're working on other things as well with Apple that have to do with how music is heard and innovation, with [iTunes VP of content] Robert Kondrk leading that charge. There’s a lot of things still to come that are really interesting. The band really wants people to engage with albums, they want them to support the art form of artwork and lyrics and video content and just get into their music in a much different way than an MP3 file. This is a long relationship.

Some retailers are already up in arms about a five-week exclusive with iTunes. How will you make sure there’s still value to the commercial release when it arrives Oct. 14?

There’s four brand-new songs, and Gary Kelly [Interscope’s head of retail sales] can tell you there’s a bunch of acoustic versions of songs from the album, too. So it’s probably gonna be anywhere between nine or 11 songs that were not on the standard. Retail is important, too, we’re not trying to alienate anyone. We're just trying to reach our potential, and it happens to be with a company that is very forward-thinking. U2 is part of the Apple story, and Apple has played a big part in U2's life.

It’s been a decade since U2 has had a true mainstream hit, so there’s a whole generation of music listeners who may just be discovering the band’s music. How do you convert them into fans without oversaturating them? 

As you can see from today’s iTunes charts, clearly people are digging back into the catalog to learn more about the band, with 16 albums on the iTunes charts. That’s a statement, that people are going, “Oh, let me learn more about this band.” I’ve seen a lot of tweets from kids who are 14, 15, 16, 18 who are going, “Wow, this is really good.” They didn’t know what to expect. That’s a great feeling, that maybe someone in their collection only has hip-hop, and yet maybe someone only has country artists, or someone in India doesn’t have any Anglo artists, and they discover U2 today. The one thing all these people have in common is U2 now. The one thing everyone on iTunes has in common today is U2 and a U2 album. It’s an amazing opportunity, even at this stage in U2’s career, to make new friends.

You just gave away an album to 500 million people worldwide. How do you turn those free customers into album buyers a month from now?

This is all new territory, but we have four brand-new songs and the deluxe is a killer package. And it’s early days. You can't look at the standard as one piece of this puzzle, you have to look at whether we reached as many as possible. Are people buying the catalog all of a sudden? And the answer is yes.

By releasing a free album this week, you’ve missed some of the requirements for the Billboard as well as Grammy deadlines. So what’s the overall statement you wanted to make?

Look, we just went with organic, genuine feelings of “Let’s share this album with as many people as possible” and then we know that there’s a lot of unknowns. And we accept the ups, we accept the downs, it’ll be what it’ll be, but we’re really happy with this week and historical launch.

Music U2 are planning to release TWO more albums before 2016 - after shock free record

U2 - Songs Of Innocence2_photo credit_PAOLO PELLEGRIN
Closest pal Dave Fanning knows they have more material in the bag

U2 are set to release another TWO albums over the next 18 months, their best friend has revealed.
Close confidant Dave Fanning said he believes Songs Of Innocence is the first in a three-part series of albums in which they explore the 70s, 80s and 90s.
It comes after the Dublin rockers released their last record – their first in five years – for free to half a billion iTunes users with Apple paying the bill.
And Dave, who got the first play of the record on 2FM, said: “I think this is the first of three U2 albums.

Dave Fanning signs copies of his book 'The Thing Is...' at Dubray Books
More to come: Dave knows U2 aren’t finished | VIPIRELAND.COM

“I’m guessing that, because every single track on Songs Of Innocence is about the 1970s. “I think there will be more ‘Songs of…’ dealing with later decades, and the life experience of U2, right up to the present day.” Last year Bono said they were “working on three albums”, adding: “We haven’t decided what order to put them out.” And Dave, 58, said that given the length of time between albums there is no reason they won’t have the material.

“I think U2 have loads of songs. There will be more albums. I’d say U2 will drop a few albums in the next eighteen months,” he told the Irish Sun.

“The theme is almost a mid-life crisis for Bono but he hasn’t tried anything ground breaking. What he has done is gone back to the start which is brilliant. The songs are very personal to Bono.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

U2 Talk 'Zen Artists,' Discipline in Behind-the-Scenes Video

"It's coming together in a way that's even surprising to us," Bono says of recording their new album 'Songs of Innocence' in studio video

It's been a busy week for U2: Nearly 48 hours ago, the band surprised half a billion iTunes users when their 13th LP Songs of Innocence suddenly appeared in their music libraries, and on Thursday, Bono and the gang provided a behind-the-scenes look at their new album's studio sessions via Twitter. In the video, we see U2 tuning up and getting ready to "get on the guitar and grab the microphone" at Electric Lady Studios.

These songs were always destined, but rather than it being paint-by-numbers, or very disciplined or described, it's coming together in a way that's even surprising to us," Bono says of the new album. "I always think of the zen artists that spend all their time mixing the ink, and then it's that last few minutes where all the work, all the gestures are actually recorded, and that's the way our albums always go." The studio footage also provides an intimate look at the Innocence track "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight" in its embryonic form.

"We wanted to make a very personal album," Bono told Rolling Stone's Gus Wenner the day before the press conference in an exclusive interview. "Let's try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys — first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that's hard. But we went there.

"Some of the music out there now that people call pop, it's not pop – it's just truly great," Bono added. "And we wanted to have the discipline of the Beatles or the Stones in the Sixties, when you had real songs. There's nowhere to hide in them: clear thoughts, clear melodies."

In an open letter to fans on, Bono discussed the Apple deal and even hinted that another new LP, Songs of Experience, could be on the way. Until that album arrives, read David Fricke's five-star review of Songs of Innocence and discover the behind-the-scenes story on how the band recruited Lykke Li for the album-closing cut "The Troubles."

Songs of Innocence ,reviewed by Rolling Stone

Songs of Innocence U2 Universal Music Group

No other rock band does rebirth like U2. No other band – certainly of U2's duration, commercial success and creative achievement – believes it needs rebirth more and so often. But even by the standards of transformation on 1987's The Joshua Tree and 1991's Achtung! Baby, Songs of Innocence – U2's first studio album in five years – is a triumph of dynamic, focused renaissance: 11 tracks of straightforward rapture about the life-saving joys of music, drawing on U2's long palette of influences and investigations of post-punk rock, industrial electronics and contemporary dance music. "You and I are rock & roll," Bono shouts in "Volcano," a song about imminent eruption, through a propulsive delirium of throaty, striding bass, alien-choral effects and the Edge's rusted-treble jolts of Gang of Four-vintage guitar. Bono also sings this, earlier in a darker, more challenging tone: "Do you live here or is this a vacation?" For U2, rock & roll was always a life's work – and the work is never done.
Songs of Innocence is aptly named, after William Blake's 1789 collection of poems about man's perpetually great age of discovery – childhood. For the first time, after decades of looking abroad for inspiration – to American frontier spirituality, Euro-dance-party irony and historic figures of protest such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela – Bono, the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. have taken the long way 'round to metamorphosis: turning back and inward, for the first time on a whole record, to their lives and learning as boys on the way to uncertain manhood (and their band) in Dublin.

Bono's lyrics are striking in their specific, personal history. In "Cedarwood Road," named after a street where he lived, the singer remembers the fear and unrequited anger that drove him to music and to be heard – and which won't go away. "I'm still standing on that street/Still need an enemy," he admits against Clayton and Mullen's strident, brooding rhythm and the enraged stutter of the Edge's guitar. "Raised by Wolves" is a tension of metronome-like groove and real-life carnage ("There's a man in a pool of misery . . . a red sea covers the ground") based on a series of car bombs that bloodied Dublin one night in the Seventies.

In "Iris (Hold Me Close)," Bono sings to his mother, who died when he was 14, through a tangle of fondness and still-desperate yearning, in outbreaks of dreamy neo-operatic ascension over a creamy sea of keyboards and Clayton's dignified-disco bass figure. "You took me by the hand/I thought I was leading you," Bono recalls in a kind of embarrassed bliss. "But it was you who made me your man/Machine," he adds – a playful shotgun reference to his youthful poetic conceit in Boy's "Twilight" ("In the shadows boy meets man") and his wife Ali. The teenage Bono once gave her Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine as a gift while they were dating.

For U2 – and Bono in particular – the first step on the road out of Dublin was the sound of a voice, and they name it in the opening track, "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)." U2 have always been open in their gratitude to New York punk and the Ramones in particular, and this homage to unlikely heroism – that kid you least expect to take on the world and win – is suitable honor: a great, chunky guitar riff and a beat like a T. Rex stomp, glazed with galactic-Ronettes vocal sugar. "I woke up," Bono sings, "at the moment when the miracle occurred/Heard a song that made some sense out of the world." U2 also pay due diligence to the Clash in "This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now," dedicated to Joe Strummer, and there is a strong hint of the Beach Boys' allure – their standing invitation to a utopia far from the Dublin grit and rain – in the Smile-style flair of the chanting harmonies in "California (There Is No End to Love)." "Blood orange sunset brings you to your knees," Bono croons in an awed register. "I've seen for myself."

These are the oldest stories in rock & roll – adolescent restlessness; traumatic loss; the revelation of rescue hiding in a great chorus or power chord. But Songs of Innocence is the first time U2 have told their own tales so directly, with the strengths and expression they have accumulated as songwriters and record-makers. This album was famous, long before release, for its broken deadlines and the indecision suggested by its multiple producers: Brian Burton a/k/a Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth of Adele fame and Ryan Tedder of the pop band One Republic. Those credits are misleading. Burton, Epworth and Tedder all co-produced "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" and contributed keyboards; that's Epworth on the additional slide guitar in "Cedarwood Road"; and Burton arranged the chorale in "Volcano." But the extra hands and textures are thoroughly embedded in the memoir. There is no time when the telling sounds like it was more than the work of the four who lived it.

And it is a salvation, U2 believe, that keeps on giving. "Every breaking wave on the shore/Tells the next one that there will be one more," Bono promises in the tidal sun-kissed electronica of "Every Breaking Wave." And "The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)" comes with a pledge to every stranded dreamer who now hears Rocket to Russia, Give 'Em Enough Rope or some U2 for the first time and is somehow, permanently, changed. "We can hear you," Bono swears. "Your voices will be heard."

Just find one of your own. Then shout as hard as you can.