It’s been four years since U2 released a proper studio album. But the wait might soon be over.
Ever since the worldwide success of No Line On The Horizon in 2009, the band needlessly excited its supporters by announcing plans for an immediate follow-up in 2010, a more acoustic-sounding “companion piece” that would mark a departure from their more regular electric efforts. For whatever reason, though, Songs Of Ascent hasn’t surfaced.
The following year, we were told that the foursome were working on three other projects: a dance record that would presumably go further than the first three songs of Pop, a proper rock album being produced by Danger Mouse and a collection of all the songs written for the problem-plagued Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark re-recorded by the band themselves. None of that material has seen the light of day. (And don’t get me started on the shelved material they recorded with Rick Rubin sometime last decade.)
Back in January of this year (and I don’t know how I missed this), frontman Bono revealed one of the six working titles for the proper rock album I just mentioned: 10 Reasons To Exist, which I doubt will stick (but I’ve been wrong before). And now, thanks to one of their longtime collaborators, we have something of a sense of what that particular album will sound like if it ends up being released in its current state (which is doubtful because the band are notorious perfectionists).
At the bottom of this new interview with The Globe & Mail, producer Daniel Lanois reveals that he’s heard 10 Reasons To Exist, thanks to a recent visit from Bono at his Los Angeles home. Back in Canada to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Governor General, the one-time Hamiltonian had this to say about the new record:
“It sounded amazing. Very, very big and powerful-sounding. Some of it was adventurous. There were shades of Achtung Baby. A couple of songs I was familiar with, because we worked on them before but had not completed them. Now they’re back on the burner. Bono is very excited, and he’s singing beautifully. He makes me jealous. Those barrel-chested Irish tenors. ”
Sadly, regarding the older material, Lanois doesn’t mention any song titles or when these particular tracks were first being assembled under his watch.
When asked if he was disappointed not to be a part of the creative team this time around, Lanois replied thusly:
“I’m actually glad that I’m not making this record with them. I don’t think I’d survive the experiment. It’s hard work. It’s two years, and it will be a character-building experience for Danger Mouse. You really have to be physically fit to make a U2 record. But, really, they’re all hard. All records are hard to make.”
He’s not kidding about the difficulties of working with U2. To cite one example, in his 1999 book, 20th Century Rock And Roll: Alternative Rock, music historian Alan Cross mentions in passing that during the initial German sessions of Achtung Baby in 1990 Bono and Lanois had such creative differences that the “personal tensions” between them “sometimes descended into ugly shouting matches”. It was only when Brian Eno finally arrived in early 1991 (he was too busy to participate at first) that everybody calmed down and the album slowly started to find its focus. (It also helped that they moved back to Ireland to re-start the sessions.)
You know, it’s not unusual for U2 to present to the public brand new full-length offerings after working in the studio at a snail’s pace. Three years separated The Unforgettable Fire (1984) and The Joshua Tree (1987) as well as Rattle & Hum (1988) and Achtung Baby (1991), and Pop (1997) and All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000). How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004) came four years after that and half a decade went by before the unveiling of No Line On The Horizon (2009). If it wasn’t for all these additional reissues, greatest hits packages, books and DVDs they released in between them, the waiting for new music would feel even longer than it already does.
But back to 10 Reasons To Exist (or whatever it will eventually be called). Back in January, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. claimed on Irish radio station, 2FM, that they’re aiming to have it out this coming September with the hope of dropping another album of material next year.
Treat that announcement with the grain of salt it deserves. The band’s history is littered with promised release dates that are cancelled again and again because the music is not quite there yet. Sometimes in the past when a new record was released before they felt it was completely ready (think the much-delayed Pop), that solidifies their conviction in spending the extra time to get it right the next time.
At any event, it doesn’t matter to me how long it takes them to finally finish an album and ship it out to the world. As long as the music makes me sing along repeatedly, I’m happy.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 1, 2013
UPDATE: Rolling Stone reports the new album is being mixed in New York. Furthermore, bassist Adam Clayton told Hot Press Magazine, “We very much want to have a record out by the end of the year, September, October, November…”. Here’s hoping for no more delays.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, June 4, 2013