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The Freedom of Music: You Too?

September 14th, 2014


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

So did you get screwed over last week? Turn on your iPhone, iPod, iPad and discover somebody put free music there? Granted, it had the little cloud symbol beside it, requiring an actual download (or, you turned on automatic download and therefore, got what you asked for), but really, who wants a free U2 album, brand new to boot? Who would accept it as a gift when it could otherwise be bought for just $9.99? sidebar-3

When U2 released their new album as a free giveaway to all iTunes users last week, the level of complaint was astounding. People who didn’t want it complained that it was automatically put in their account, even though a)you still had to actively download it and b)if you didn’t download it by Saturday, it disappeared off your account. This week will sure to be filled with complaints iTunes took away their U2. Except they didn’t: they made it available, then they made it unavailable.

The complaints didn’t just stem from the manner of the giveaway, but a fair complaint against U2 could also be heard. Haven’t had a good album since the 80’s/90’s/ever, complained some. Giving away their music is proof they are a has-been band/corporate band/no good. All, more or less false.

I’m not a U2 fan, haven’t bought an album by them since The Joshua Tree and have never seen them in concert. Not my band, although I don’t automatically switch off the radio just because it’s U2. I really can take them or leave them, and am not sure I’ve even heard anything off their previous couple of albums, although I suppose I must have. But what the hell, Songs of Innocence was being given away, why not give it a listen.

If you didn’t download it because it pissed you off that they gave it to you, or you think U2 is a has been band, then you should know you missed out on something good. This “not a U2 fan” has listened to it a number of times, and like Songs of Innocence very much.

It opens with The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) a complete rocker that U2 doesn’t do enough of, and doesn’t get credit for doing then they do. Credit or no, The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) is an excellent song, maybe their best since 2000’s Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of or even 1998’s Sweetest Thing.

But Songs of Innocence is not a song song album, and there’s a lot more good stuff than just The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone). California (There is No End To Love), Iris (Hold Me Close), Raised By Wolves and The Troubles are all excellent, while This is Where You Can Reach Me Now intros like a great, unheard 70’s era Stones song.

Oh sure, a band that has been recording and touring together for 35-years with the same four guys, without a single lineup change, are going to have “a sound.” Bono will always sing like Bono, and The Edge has a definitive guitar style. So yes, Volcano or Sleep Like a Baby Tonight may suffer from being U2-ish, and a Cederwood Road is probably about Aids in Africa or Ghandi or some other important topic that can’t be discerned by merely listening to the lyrics, and yes, Bono still hasn’t found a rhyme for Nicaragua. All excellent reasons, I suppose, to not listen to a free album. But if you let your distaste for the way it was distributed stop you from getting Songs of Innocence, then you let yourself miss a great album.


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