U2: Stuck in a moment

It has been five years since U2’s last album, and their new one still isn’t quite ready. That hasn’t stopped Bono playing it to passing holidaymakers. What’s going on?

Last time round: U2 when ‘No Line on the Horizon’ was released, in 2009

Last time round: U2 when ‘No Line on the Horizon’ was released, in 2009

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

Poor Bono. There he is in his home in southern France last month, playing U2’s unreleased new album at full volume on his stereo while, quite possibly, singing along into a hairbrush in front of the mirror. On the beach in front of the home someone just happens to be standing with an audio recorder. The overheard songs get put on a U2 fan site, the band’s label instructs lawyers to remove them, and the kerfuffle gets splashed across the music press.

The dreadful bad luck is that just before U2 released their last album, No Line on the Horizon, five years ago, someone else just happened to be standing on the same beach in front of the same home with an audio recorder while Bono was blasting out that as-then-unreleased album on his stereo. The overheard songs got put up on a U2 fan site, the band’s label instructed lawyers to remove them, and the kerfuffle got splashed across the music press.

The fan-site link to last month’s leaked music says the track recorded on the beach was Song for Someone (which Bono has already confirmed will be on the new album). It goes on to say that the beach was full of people at the time and that Bono was playing the song “really loud . . . It seems like he’s trying to tell us something – that the new album is coming soon.”

Goodness.

The person who recorded the No Line on the Horizon tracks said at the time, “Every evening he starts playing these new songs really loud. The whole beach was listening, and he knew that. I sometimes think that Bono deliberately turns up the music just to stir up the fan base a little.”

Going by U2 precedent, when leaked beach songs hit the internet, a new album is imminent. Just two weeks ago the band’s label, Universal, tweeted on one of its South American accounts, “The new U2 album will be called ‘Sirens’ and will be released in September.” Universal has since deleted the tweet.

The album seems to have been coming forever. In June 2012, talking on The Late Late Show, Bono said that “the new album is going incredibly quickly. We’ve got great stuff. We’ve just had the best three weeks in the studio. Three weeks is all it should take.” Since then a “definite” release date of September 2013 has come and gone, as have many subsequent dates.

Single scramble

But a music industry source now predicts that there’ll be a “single in September, album September-October, tour announced December, first date April next year.

“The album has been actually been finished for a few months, but a decision was taken not to release during the summer months because of holidays etc. There was one last, frantic scramble earlier this year to get a big single, so they got Adele’s writer-producer, Paul Epworth, into the studio.”

The band are understood to have signed off on the album and tour schedule, but they have had last-minute changes of mind before.

One person who has heard the new album is Paul McGuinness, U2’s former manager. “It’s great. It’s very different from what they have done so far but still sounds like U2. Bono sings better than ever. As he gets older his voice is even more interesting,” he said at a music conference in May.

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