U2, Quicksand Offer Glimpses (Via Video) Of Their Upcoming Albums

So I'm sitting here, listening to "The Blackout" - a live performance video from the monolith known as U2, and two things immediately spring to mind: one, U2 still knows how to bring it in a concert setting (which should be surprising, given the Dublin foursome have been at this for nearly 40 years), and two, (and this part is gonna infuriate many) this new tune from the forthcoming Songs Of Experience wouldn't seem the least bit out of place on All You Need Is Now, the Mark Ronson-produced album by Duran Duran. You heard me.....I said Duran Duran. And I don't mean that as the pejorative you might think I'm suggesting.

When I reviewed DD's 2010 release, I subtitled it, How To Dismantle A Pop Myth. The U2 comparison then was also deliberate, as I was pointing out that both bands have a viscously loyal following - that is, so long as they adhere to the 'formula' their fans expect; as it turns out, both bands released a couple of daring, experimental albums that didn't go over so well commercially. So what can a poor boy do, except to sing for rock'n'roll band? I was considerably disappointed when U2 dropped the blatantly commercial and calculatedly-of-the-moment disc, Songs Of Innocence in 2014 - an album whose credence was subsumed by a complete lack of genuine ambition. It was as if all Bono thought all he had to do was name-check Joey Ramone and ape The Black Keys to have critics screaming, COMEBACK! And even as a "free download" the connection (or should I say collusion) with Apple Music, coupled with the group's mercenary cross-promotion was enough to have even their stalwart supporters feeling both let down and sold out.

The debut single from Songs Of Experience, "You're The Best Thing About Me" bears a strange resemblance to "All Because Of You" (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb), right down to the cheeky, egocentric rejoinder, "Shooting off my mouth/That's another great thing about me." Before All That You Can't Leave Behind, the last thing one could (or would) accuse U2 of being was 'boilerplate', but apparently once that ship left the harbor, it became a permanent part of the manifest. Frankly guys, it's not enough to rely on the workman-like guitar riffs of Dave "The Edge" Evans, or art director-savvy packaging (the cover image sports a stark pic of Evans's daughter sporting a combat helmet) to remain relevant, at least in my book. I will suspend final judgment until the new album officially lands, but with considerably lowered expectations.

By contrast, my initial reaction to the news that NYC-based alt-rockers Quicksand would be releasing their first new album in twenty-two years was met with a lukewarm skepticism - after all, two decades plus of no new output is the kiss of death in a music business whose only interest in comebacks are from artists who've gained enough notoriety and critical acclaim in their heyday to be considered even remotely newsworthy. Granted, Quicksand's music was sturdy, well-constructed, and always contained a subtext of anxiety and social unrest amongst their amalgamation of grunge, head-banger metal and prog-rock. But when, out of curiosity, I came across the video for the album's single "Illuminant", I was not prepared for what I heard. Like the U2 song, "Illuminant" realizes the riff's the thing, but this tune comes barging out of the gate with a thrashing, minimalist guitar riff accompanied by a rhythmic bombast worthy of Tool or vintage Jane's Addiction.

Whereas U2 attempt political analysis on "The Blackout" by referencing dinosaurs and Democracy (not to mention a subtle jab at President Trump), Quicksand points out the 'problem' goes much deeper than whoever inhabits the Oval Office - I mean, the title alone suggests a power (or conglomerate) much more sinister is pulling the strings, "In our term, we never really know for sure/Why do they make you feel small?/Shine a light of broken sounds/Between language and thought." The tune then quietly dissolves into a trenchant middle-eight that decries "And when it's gone, it's gone for you like all of us/Like all of us wants to belong, to belong here....anyway" lulling us into it's mid-tempo trance before gut-punching us with that blistering, minimalist riff married to a searing guitar solo and that bombastic backbeat.

Interiors is not only Quicksand's new music in over two decades, it is album No.3 in the Quicksand canon. And considering how both the societal and political landscape has shape-shifted over that period of time, perhaps the real songs of experience will reveal themselves not on the new U2, but on what might be Quicksand's "comeback album." Only time will tell.

Interiors, the third release by NYC's Quicksand will be released on November 10th on Epitaph Records; 
Songs Of Experience, the fourteenth release by Irish rockers U2, is scheduled for release on Interscope Records December 1st.


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