U2’s Songs Of Ascent Is Almost Finished, But Bono Wants To Release An AC/DC-Style Rock Album First

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U2’s Songs Of Ascent Is Almost Finished, But Bono Wants To Release An AC/DC-Style Rock Album First

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bono is currently promoting his memoir — it’s more of a WE-moir, really — which has led to a fresh round of press for the U2 frontman. In an excerpt published by The Guardian, Bono apologized for forcing U2’s 2014 album Songs Of Innocence onto everyone’s iPhones without their consent. And now, in an interview with The New York Times, he’s given an update on U2’s upcoming recording projects.

Speaking with ace rock-star interviewer David Marchese, who was quite unsparing in his questions despite an obvious affection for U2, Bono discussed his failed attempt to return to the pop charts via Songs Of Innocence and its 2017 sister album Songs Of Experience:

I know now that with youth culture I am kind of tolerated hanging out at the back of the birthday party but the magic show’s going on down here for the kids. I wished to connect with the pop charts over the last two albums and failed. But the songwriting got really good. “Songs of Experience” is great songwriting even if you don’t like the sound of it. Or “Every Breaking Wave” or “The Troubles” on “Songs of Innocence.” I would have loved to have a pop song on the radio. Probably we’ve run a road on that. So right now I want to write the most unforgiving, obnoxious, defiant, fuck-off-to-the-pop-charts rock ‘n’ roll song that we’ve ever made. I spoke to Edge about it this week. He’s going, “Is it that call again?” “What call?” “The one about we’re going to write the big fuck-off rock song?” And I say, “Yeah, it’s our job!” We can make songs famous now, but I don’t think U2 can make them hits.

Bono later excitedly played Marchese a couple completed U2 songs off his phone, beaming with pride over their alleged songwriting acumen. The tracks are from Songs Of Ascent, an album they’ve been teasing since 2009. (It was originally billed as a sister release for that year’s No Line On The Horizon.) Bono explained that Songs Of Ascent is nearly complete but shelved for the meantime because he wants to release “a noisy, uncompromising, unreasonable guitar album” first:

In among that unreasonableness, it is likely that I will put the part of me, the anger that hasn’t been managed, to good use. While I am, with this book, trying to make peace with myself and my maker, I have no intentions of making peace with the world. That’s not on the agenda. I like to think I have the freedom to be whatever I want. My anger at inequality became focused on a community far away from home. You know, you have to pick your fights.

This thread picked back up near the end as Bono addressed the back-to-basics retrenchment of 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and the return to experimentalism on No Line On The Horizon. He said the band got caught up in heady ideas and arty concepts and once again lost itself, but he firmly believes they regained it on the Innocence and Experience albums. That led into further talk of the rock album he wants to make:

We all make mistakes. The progressive-rock virus gets in, and we needed a vaccine. The discipline of our songwriting, the thing that made U2 — top-line melody, clear thoughts — had gone. With the band, I was like, this is not what we do, and we can only do that experimental stuff if we have the songwriting chops. So we went to songwriting school, and we’re back and we’re good! Over those two albums, Songs Of Innocence and Experience, our songwriting returned. Now we need to put the firepower of rock ‘n’ roll back. I don’t know who is going to make our fuck-off rock ‘n’ roll album. You almost want an AC/DC, you want Mutt Lange. The approach. The discipline. The songwriting discipline. That’s what we want.

It’s a great interview, with lots of talk about Bono’s activism, his friendships with world leaders, the time he met Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit, and much more. Read it here.

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