First listen: U2’s Songs of Innocence

‘A Dublin Album, all about teenagers on the Northside,’ says Bono at Apple launch


"It's a Dublin album, all about being teenagers on the northside and how our city shaped us both as men and musicians," Bono told this reporter yesterday just seconds after U2's new album, Songs of Innocence went up free on iTunes to Apple's 500 million customers — the biggest album release of all time.

In the hot, hot, heat of a glorious Californian morning, U2 debuted a work which is firmly rooted in Cedarwood Road, Finglas.

Opening track The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) sets out their stall — a rockin' affair that explains how seeing The Ramones play in Dublin in the 1970's compelled Bono to make his own music. It's a glam rock stomp which will most likely open the shows on their tour next year.

The Dublin theme continues with the raw and poignant Iris — named after Bono's mother who died tragically when he was just a teenager. Layered and intimately confessional, it is one of their most affecting pieces of music.

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To reinforce the Dublin message, the song Cedarwood Road (on which Bono grew up) messes with the mood with its dark chugging feel. The musical potency of Raised By Wolves treats of domestic violence and street gang scraps in 1970s Dublin.

An album firmly rooted in their past has to acknowledge the massive debt the band owe to The Clash and on This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now they essay a love song to the great Joe Strummer.

Every Breaking Wave and California sound made for radio — shiny, shimmering tracks and punchy choruses.

The standout here is Volcano, a statement song which will most likely be a single when the album gets a physical release in October.

This is not a Joshua Tree or an Achtung Baby — that was not the intent. This is the sound of a band looking to relocate their mojo. These songs tells us they went back to the SFX, the Dandelion Market and McGonagles to ask "why are we still doing this" and "do we still matter".

"It is incredibly Dubln-centric" the Edge said, with Bono adding "this album is my answer to something hard Jimmy Iovine said to me. He looked me in the eye and said 'You're a long way from where you live'. This is my reply". Lyrically reminiscent of the superb Ghostown album by their one time peers The Radiators From Space, this is a curious beast.

Their most personal work ever, now in their early 50s, U2 asked themselves hard, mid-life crisis style questions and went back home to find the answers.

When asked about the forthcoming tour, Bono said: “It’s a beautiful day here in Cupertino, don’t be wrecking my head.”