Songs Of Surrender is the new ‘reimagined’ collection from U2 featuring 40 songs from their back catalogue with new arrangements and lyrics.
Released: 17th March 2023
Label: Island / Interscope
Format: 4LP / 2LP / 4CD / 2CD / Cassette / Digital
U2 have always had an alternate version in them. They rebooted The Fly for their 2001 Elevation tour, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight was turned into a club anthem on the 360° tour and Staring At The Sun was a pivotal acoustic number on 1997’s Popmart Tour. They have also been prominent in letting others remix their music. Lemon, Even Better Than The Real Thing and Discothèque have all been enhanced with remixes from some of the worlds best DJ’s.
This collection sees the four lads from the north side of Dublin rework 40 of their songs in a more stripped back fashion and produced by The Edge. Whilst they are stripped back, there are still a whole lot of parts to each composition to enjoy including plenty of synths and strings. Several of the songs have also been given a dusting off on the lyrical front to update, rework and reclaim the songs.
With Or Without You similarly follows the reserved but affecting form that many will have seen on Bono’s tour in support of his Surrender memoir. There are plenty of big hitters in play here. One opens the collection in serene fashion. Bono’s vocals are emotional as ever. Where The Streets Have No Name is given a really cinematic edge through the warm synths and keys. It is an interesting take on such a huge song in the U2 canon; one that is truly affecting in the live arena.
Beautiful Day has slightly reworked lyrics in the middle of the song with the piano taking on the ‘riff’ from the original. Vertigo is still a tough song in its acoustic and string form and Desire (U2’s first UK #1) is a brilliantly twisted reworking with deep synths, pulsing beats and Bono in ‘Lemon’ form with his brilliant falsetto. It is arguably the best reimaging on the whole collection.
Whilst there are plenty of big songs on the collection, for the U2 fan, it will be a treat to hear songs that have perhaps been consigned forever to the back catalogue.
Stories For Boys sees The Edge take the lead on vocals and piano and the bluster of Dirty Day is stripped away for a menacingly whispered and conversational vocal from Bono backed by pizzicato cello. There is a touch of Nick Cave in the delivery of If God Will Send His Angels from 1997’s Pop. This is a song that is vastly underrated in U2’s back catalogue; it is fantastic to hear it resurrected here.
Faith, philanthropy and good will are always omnipresent with U2. Miracle Drug has a raw Bono vocal and Peace On Earth is re-imagined to great effect with The Edge leading. Walk On (Ukraine) is given a facelift to strip away the previous dedication of the song.
Originally written for Aung San Suu Kyi, Walk On was used prominently to campaign for her release from house arrest however the band had to condemn and distance themselves when evidence of horrific atrocities came to the fore.
Now, the song fights for those of Ukraine.
All that you reckon
All that you dare
All that you fought for
When it wasn’t there
All that you summit
The hills that you climb
ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND
Bono and The Edge travelled to Ukraine when fighting broke out to perform a set for Ukrainian soldiers at Khreschatyk Metro Station. It feels like U2 are reclaiming this song for themselves; and so they should. It is one of their best.
Tucked away on the collection are plenty of singles that didn’t grace U2 albums. Invisible, Electrical Storm, Ordinary Love and 11 O’clock Tick Tock all sound wonderful with Invisible standing out. This was also a highlight of U2’s Innocence & Experience Tour in 2015.
The Fly still sounds as fresh as it did in 1991 with a lounge take on the song and the acoustic led Bad still sends shivers down the spine with Bono’s ‘I’m not sleeping‘ refrain sounding as epic as ever around reworked lyrics claiming Bad as a song of surrender. All I Want Is You is sublime and the incredibly emotive Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own feels more like a lament than it ever was. Sunday Bloody Sunday, a slightly reworded Out Of Control and I Will Follow use arrangements that buskers might like to borrow! There is definitely a folk band in there somewhere!
Of U2’s most recent output, Lights Of Home, Cedarwood Road, Song For Someone and The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) make an appearance. The latter is a little folk ditty that really reimagines the sound, words and timbre of the song. Elsewhere, the quite brilliant The Little Things That Give You Away is still as rousing as ever and takes its place as one of U2’s finest numbers of recent years alongside Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way (which isn’t included here).
Aptly, ’40’ rounds out the reimagined collection. It’s a song that has always felt epic, especially when performed live with Adam and The Edge swapping instruments and the band leaving one by one.
Songs Of Surrender is very much a band content with where they are; four hearts beating as one to enjoy their life’s work. If Achtung Baby was the sound of U2 chopping down the Joshua Tree, Songs Of Surrender is the sound of U2 tearing down the walls and reassembling the pieces gently.
If you like U2, you will really enjoy this collection. Some parts will sound odd due to familiarity with the originals but give these versions time to breathe and you will enjoy them for what they are. If you don’t like U2, you can probably carry on moaning about U2 with the same old cliché takes on the band. I’ll get the bingo card ready.
After this, Las Vegas, and Larry returning, hopefully the band will plug back in and unleash another new record. Apparently, that’s what’s next!
Check out the trailer for the album below; you can pre-order the album in an array of formats here.
If you would like to read more from our U2 archive, check out our look at some of the bands deepest cuts (read here).
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Excellent review, really looking forward to hearing it!! Still love U2!
Thanks Julie! You won’t be disappointed!
This isn’t a review. It’s a sales pitch for the album.
Hi Scott. Thank you for your comment. We’re happy you’ve read the review.
This is a review of the album after hearing it, listening to it, digesting it and enjoying it. Granted, it’s an opinion, and a positive one. There is nothing wrong with that. In my opinion the collection is very good, and enjoyable.
There is a lot of negativity in the world so when an album comes along that brings a smile, it’s a good thing as a writer.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment. If you get chance, check out our article on U2’s Deep Cuts. You might like it.
Isn’t every good review kind of a sales pitch??
Loved the review. Nothing wrong with liking an album and then saying good things about it. To reference an earlier reply, you could consider every good review a sales pitch?? Isn’t that what reviews kind of are anyway? If you read a good review about something, you might be more inclined to check it out, right?
Hi David. Many thanks for your comment. We’re glad you loved the review! We hope you enjoy the album when it is released. Cheers again. Dom.
Lifelong (& I don’t mean since Achtung Baby) fan. Thanks for a swift & practical review. Looking forward to the release which I’ve preordered. Love to hear different takes on songs, even if they don’t match up to originals. A bit of fun in some ways, but a great collection filler too. ✌️😎
Great review Dom. As a fellow U2 fan, it gave me even more anticipation for this release tomorrow. I think you’re right – one for the long term fans like me maybe, but that will probably only enhance my appreciation of it. Really enjoyed reading this – thanks.
Lee, thank you so much for the kind words. We hope that you enjoy the album. Dom.