Let’s cut right to the chase here. “Songs of Experience” is U2’s best record in 20 years, a dramatic rebound from the disaster, both musically and p.r.-wise of “Songs of Innocence,” the incoherent album that was jammed into everyone’s iTunes, whether they wanted it or not.
Rather than simply being a response to Trump’s America/Brexit Britain, etc., “Songs of Experience” was written, Bono has said, as a series of letters to his wife, Ali, his children and the band’s audience.
The latter comes via the self-deprecating “The Showman” -- key line: “I got just enough low self esteem/To get me where I want to go” -- the funniest song on a joyful record.
There’s some age of Trump social commentary from Bono, but thankfully not enough to bog things down and he’s not trying to save the world much either. Rather, the personal approach makes the songs universal, exploring sentiments like “You’re the Best Thing About Me” and the coded apology to Ali of “Landlady.”
Even “American Soul,” the most political song on the album on which Kendrick Lamar’s raps battle with Bono’s singing, is so uplifting and rocking that its message goes down easy and its hook of “You are rock and roll/Came here looking for American Soul” sticks in the mind.
“Songs of Experience” was put together by a passel of producers and engineers, evidence that during its three years of production, U2 worried over every single sound that would come out on the record.
But, despite a few missteps, like the Auto-Tune vocals on the otherwise lovely opener “Love Is All We Have Left,” the record has the coherence of a band doing what it is supposed to do -- The Edge’s chiming, ringing guitar all over the place; Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums driving the songs and Adam Clayton’s bass bringing it all together. Grade: A