U2’s modus operandi lately has been to get small. It seems that they’re fully committing to the approach, too: Songs of Surrender, their latest release, looks back at 40 songs from the U2 catalog with new stripped-back arrangements and acoustic instrumentation. The record pares the band’s arena-sized grandeur back to something more like pub-backroom closeness. Bono described the approach in a recent interview on BBC by saying, “Edge and I had this phrase that we were throwing around — ‘Intimacy is the new punk rock.’”
Beyond excavating their own material for its small and radical heart, Bono and The Edge took a similarly incisive tact with a catalog favorite from another globally-minded pop quartet: ABBA. For BBC Radio 2’s The Piano Room, the pair offered an in-studio acoustic cover of ABBA‘s “S.O.S.,” featuring some extra pointed orchestration for good measure.
Speaking on the choice to get unexpectedly intimate with ABBA—and generally letting down their guard lately—Bono recounts:
“I was saying to one of the cellists today that I didn’t have the courage to own up to this next band when I was 16 in the middle of punk rock… I did get into the Bee Gees and I was ready to own up to ‘Massachusetts’ and ‘Tragedy’ – I mean, these are just crazy good. John Lennon owned up to loving the Bee Gees. … There’s a bit of a macho, ‘I don’t want to own up to ABBA.’ But I’ll tell you what, they’re just better songs. You can’t be empirical about everything in art.”
Watch the pair take on ABBA’s “S.O.S.” below.
Check out more U2 covers here.
Check out more ABBA covers here.