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U2, Interpol, and Pere Ubu 

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U2

Songs of Innocence

Universal

File next to: Peter Gabriel, INXS

Given charges of insincerity that have dogged Bono for 25 years, it's odd that U2 decided to distribute the new album free as part of an Apple product introduction. As a result, U2 is suspected of making an unspecified deal with the Evil Empire of Apple. The worst result would have been an anthemic album of angst that tried to remake The Joshua Tree. Instead, Song of Innocence has a giddiness and informality similar to Zooropa. The playful "Miracle of Joey Ramone," rocks uncharacteristically hard, while "California" opens with a dissonant Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" chant. Unfortunately, the spirit flags by mid-album, but Innocence may still be the band's best work in a decade, despite all those subliminal messages to buy iPhone 6. — Loring Wirbel

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Interpol

El Pintor

Matador

File next to: Foals, White Lies

El Pintor means "the painter," and is also an anagram for Interpol: Fitting, because the album is self-produced, with sounds strangely reminiscent of the band's last three albums. Since the glory days of their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol have seen a slow and steady descent into sameness. Since losing their bassist Carlo Dengler in 2010, the band has become a trio, with frontman Paul Banks playing bass when called for. The single "All the Rage Back Home" is perhaps the most redeemable track. The lyrics denote themes of "denying love," while the drums and cascading vocals set the bar too high for the rest of the album. "Desire," even with its funky opening, falls flat. The band lives on by regurgitating its past, albeit using slightly different notes in their guitar riffs.— Hannah Fleming

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Pere Ubu

Carnival of Souls

Fire Records

File next to: Rocket from the Tombs, The Red Krayola, Antennas Erupt

Two Pere Ubu albums in 18 months is a track record not seen since the band's late-'70s heyday. Where 2013's Lady from Shanghai offered dance music from another dimension, Carnival of Souls has guitars as heavy as the early singles, leavened with clarinet and cello interludes that suggest Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun." David Thomas offers meandering and strange storytelling in tracks like "Dr. Faustus" and "Brother Ray." Maybe it's Darryl Boon's woodwinds or Gagarin's Croatian electronic touches, but something here sizzles like no Ubu of recent vintage. Carnival of Souls approaches Ubu's legendary The Modern Dance when it comes to innovation. — Loring Wirbel

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