U2 frontman Bono has revealed that the Irish stadium-rock institution wants to strip their sound back to record a full-on electric guitar album inspired by AC/DC’s pared down rock approach – and he suggests Mutt Lange as a producer.
Speaking to the New York Times, Bono said that a “progressive rock virus” had crept into the band’s sound with the experimental No Line On The Horizon, so much so that he saw albums such as 2014’s Songs Of Innocence and its follow-up, Songs Of Experience, released in 2017, as correctives that restored U2’s songwriting equilibrium.
“We all make mistakes,” he said. “The progressive-rock virus gets in, and we needed a vaccine. The discipline of our songwriting, the thing that made U2 – top-line melody, clear thoughts – had gone.
“With the band, I was like, this is not what we do, and we can only do that experimental stuff if we have the songwriting chops. So we went to songwriting school, and we’re back and we’re good! Over those two albums, Songs Of Innocence and Experience, our songwriting returned.”
Songs Of Innocence and …Experience were a change of pace for U2. Regular collaborator Brian Eno was out, and in came a cast of high-profile producers including Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Andy Barlow and Steve Lilywhite. But Bono believes U2’s rehabilitation is still some way short. What’s needed now is a rock ’n’ roll album – “a fuck-off rock ’n’ roll album”.
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“Now we need to put the firepower of rock ’n’ roll back,” Bono said. “I don’t know who is going to make our fuck-off rock ’n’ roll album. You almost want an AC/DC, you want Mutt Lange. The approach. The discipline. The songwriting discipline. That’s what we want.”
The idea of U2 making an AC/DC-inspired album is a tantalising prospect. It would be unlikely that the Edge would decommission his battery of delay pedals for the occasion, but a stripped-down rock album would be quite the palate cleanser for a band who has often pursued sonic maximalism in its sound. With Mutt Lange onboard, you can bet there will be plenty of occasions in which Larry Mullen Jr’s snare drum has the mix to itself as it punctuates the beat.
While Lange has been out of rotation as AC/DC’s go-to producer since 1986’s Who Made Who – with Brendan O’Brien an ever-present in the control room since 2008’s Black Ice – he has kept himself busy, most recently working with Bryan Adams on So Happy It Hurts. Would Lange be available? Would Lange be up for it?
He might need to be ready, because Bono says he wants to put this “noisy, uncompromising, unreasonable guitar album” out before the long-mooted Songs Of Ascent gets an airing. And Songs Of Ascent, he insists, is nearly finished, with 20 songs ready to go.