U2 just announced their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour, so they’ll spend much of 2017 looking back. But what about the future? For years they’ve been promising a new album called Songs Of Experience, the sequel to 2014 iPhone virus Songs Of Experience. In a new Rolling Stone interview to promote the Joshua Tree tour, guitarist the Edge gives an update on that project, suggesting that it’s been finished for a while but the band — who have vocally condemned US President-Elect Donald Trump — want to revise it in light of Trump’s election among other tumultuous world events last year:
Well, when we came off the last tour, the Innocence And Experience indoor tour, we headed straight into finishing the second album of that set, Songs Of Experience, which we were pretty much complete with after a couple of weeks of the final touches leading up to the end of the year. And then the election [happened] and suddenly the world changed. We just went, “Hold on a second — we’ve got to give ourselves a moment to think about this record and about how it relates to what’s going on in the world.” That’s because it was written mostly, I mean, 80 percent of it was started before 2016, but most of it was written in the early part of 2016, and now, as I think you’d agree, the world is a different place.
The Edge goes on to explain that because The Joshua Tree was recorded and released during Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s conservative regimes of the ’80s, the songs seem newly resonant given the recent rise of conservatism in the West. So the band decided to give themselves time to adjust the new album while revisiting the old one:
So, anyway, we then were looking at the anniversary of The Joshua Tree, and another thing started to dawn on us, which is that weirdly enough, things have kind of come full circle, if you want. That record was written in the mid-’80s, during the Reagan-Thatcher era of British and US politics. It was a period when there was a lot of unrest. Thatcher was in the throes of trying to put down the miners’ strike; there was all kinds of shenanigans going on in Central America. It feels like we’re right back there in a way. I don’t think any of our work has ever come full circle to that extent. It just felt like, “Wow, these songs have a new meaning and a new resonance today that they didn’t have three years ago, four years ago.” And so it was kind of serendipitous, really, just the realization that we needed to put the album on ice for a minute just to really think about it one more time before putting it out, just to make sure that it really was what we wanted to say.
So we said look, “Look, let’s do both. We can really celebrate this album, which is really born again in this context, and we can also really get a chance to think about these songs and make sure they’re really what we want to put out.” So the two sort of coincided and we decided we were gonna do some shows. And we’ve never given ourselves the opportunity to celebrate our past because we’ve always as a band looked forward, but I think we felt that this was a special moment, and this was a very special record. So we’re happy to take this moment to regroup and think about an album that’s so many years old, but still seems relevant.
He also clarifies that they’re not scrapping Songs Of Experience and starting over:
No, I think it’s Songs Of Experience. When I say it’s almost done, we definitely want to take this opportunity to think about it, make sure it’s really what we want to put out given the changes that have occurred in the world. And maybe a little will change, but we absolutely wanted to take that chance just to reconsider everything. And who knows? We may even write a couple of new songs because that’s the very position we’re in. We’ve given ourselves a little bit of breathing space for creativity.
Thus, it sounds like the world will be waiting a while longer for Songs Of Experience. I imagine it will be out halfway between now and the inevitable 2021 tour celebrating 30 years of Achtung Baby (which, as we all know, is way better than The Joshua Tree).