On the 17th March 2023 legendary rock band U2 released "Songs Of Surrender", a sprawling 4CD, 40 track, re-imagining of songs from their vast back catalogue.
I am a huge U2 fan, and consider their body of work to be almost beyond reproach, excepting the puzzling misstep that was 1997's "Pop".
The habit of re-hashing old material is not something that happens often in popular music. Bryan Ferry (with mixed results) sprinkled his early solo singles with re-workings of Roxy Music songs on the b-sides, but it was Joni Mitchell's incredible "Travelogue" from 2002 that raised the bar for such endeavours.
So I was a little nervous before listening. Was it a self-indulgent vanity project? Was it a sign that U2's creative well had run dry?
Well, they haven't let us down. The 40 songs are a cornucopia of delights, with no discernable filler to my ears. We are presented mostly with stripped down acoustic arrangements, with piano and sampled percussion to the fore. There are brass sections, new lyrics, new chords, new keys (presumably to assist with Bono's older voice), and new sentiments, with updated lyrics sometimes reflecting the ever-changing political landscape that is often the subject of Bono's words.
There's enough meat on the bones here to keep this set high on my playlist for some time to come, and if you are a U2 fan that might be considering passing on this, I urge you to check it out.
John Hodgson - April 2023