“This is good rock n’ roll, uhh…music.”

Without any intention in the moment, this hilariously simplistic statement about U2 from Adam Scott on the U2-centered podcast he co-hosts with Comedy Bang Bang’s Scott Aukerman, U Talkin’ U2 To Me? is a surprisingly solid summation of what discussing U2 in 2017 is like.

No conversation about U2, regardless of scale (whether it be the wide meta pop culture discussion, or one had with your friend at a bar), are solely about the band's music. Instead, they tend to be about perceptions of the band and their public persona. They’re about the sincerity of public philanthropic proclamations, the morality of automatic album downloads, and how to properly count in Spanish.

Of course, this is not entirely unwarranted, nor is it something U2 would object to. You don’t build a career on polarizing statements of nearly messianic self-importance without wanting people to talk about it. At once, this is what has brought both the best and worst of U2 since their early days. They routinely take swings for the fences that result in their greatest successes and worst failures.

With their fourteenth studio album, Songs of Experience, U2 continues to take these swings, and the album pays the price for it, despite it being otherwise full of, in the words of Adam Scott, “good rock n’ roll, uhh…music.”

Ultimately, the album suffers greatly at the hands of Bono’s lyrics—especially when he shoots for importance and global reach. At no point is this worse than on “Get Out Of Your Own Way” which goes above and beyond Bono’s typically predictable Jesus-laden metaphors (don’t worry, he still gets those in on the album, more on that later). Instead, he veers all the way to obscenely white privilege-filled utter nonsense that is well past naïve attempts at being uplifting and lands instead as offensive white male savior rhetoric.

Fight back /
Don't take it lyin' down, you got to bite back /
The face of liberty's starting to crack /
She had a plan up until she got smacked in the mouth /
And it all went south /
Like freedom /
The slaves are lookin' for someone to lead them /
The master's lookin' for someone to need him /
The promised land is there for those who need it most /
And Lincoln's ghost said... /

Get out of your own way, oh, I /
Get out of your own way, oh, I

Unfortunately, “Get Out Of Your Own Way” is immediately followed by the other very big miss on the album in “American Soul.” More unfortunate, though, was the choice of these two songs as the final singles released before Songs of Experience after the very solid showing of “The Blackout” as the album's initial offering.

Somehow even more unfortunate, is that Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on the album is connecting two songs that do not live up to his presence. This is especially clear when contrasted against how greatly Lamar utilized U2 on the track “XXX.” on his 2017 album, DAMN., with Bono singing lyrics from “American Soul” as the track’s chorus.

Most unfortunate of all, though, is Bono’s outdoing himself in hackneyed, shoehorned, and self-important religious metaphor usage and Hallmark sentimentality at the final lines of the song’s bridge, concluding in the eye-roll worthy phrase, “refu-Jesus.”

It is in these rough moments that it is clear Bono's reach immensely exceeds his grasp at this point in his career. When he shoots for global importance it instead lands as a parody of himself, especially when compared to legitimately inspiring moments in U2’s long career like their performance at the Live Aid Concert in 1985 or during the 2002 Super Bowl halftime.

Instead, Bono is at his best when he follows his own advice and simply gets out of his own way (and therefore the rest of the band’s way as well). He is by far the most effective on this album when his lyrics remain simple if not also quite personal to his life specifically, such as on “You’re The Best Thing About Me” and “Landlady.”

Musically, Songs of Experience's greatest successes and failures both draw from the same source of U2 attempts to recall their past work. “Red Flag Day” and “The Blackout” are refreshing throwbacks to the band’s early The Clash and Joy Division inspired post-punk days. “American Soul,” on the other hand, is an utterly failed attempt to recapture the straightforward guitar-driven rock hits of “Elevation” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind or “Vertigo” off How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (and more notably those iPod commercials).

This calling back to the sounds of U2’s yesteryear are interesting touches for someone well-versed in the band’s collective work, and how they infuse these songs with 2017-ready production truly is commendable. There is no reason a band over 40 years into their career should still be able to create worthwhile and interesting music, and while U2 is not entirely successful in this endeavor on Songs of Experience, it is not a failure, either.

In fact, it is difficult to think of other artists that have maintained such a high level of success for as long as U2 has without becoming simply a legacy act. After all, consider the fact their 1980 debut album, Boy, was released the same year as Pink Floyd’s The Wall or John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy.

As a continuation of U2’s work at this point in their career, Songs of Experience is a decent addition to their legacy that longtime fans should be generally pleased by. However, it still suffers from the same issues that have made U2 so polarizing in recent years, and is unlikely to change anyone’s mind about the band one way or another.