I've played through this album end-to-end only once so far, and I find that it takes multiple listens to really form a proper opinion, but so far, I'd say it's probably in the bottom rung for U2 albums for me.
I had an endlessly long review that I deleted to avoid any TLDR issues, but, at least after my initial play-through, this album is so-so, possibly even duking it out for the position of my least-favorite U2 album with its predecessor (October would be in contention as well because when it's bad, it's bad, but Gloria, ITABTAW and especially I Fall Down cover a multitude of sins). I think that SOE benefits from many strong lyrics in a lot of areas, and the occasional references to songs on the predecessor (American Soul drawing much of its chorus from a snippet in Volcano and 13 appropriating the chorus of Song for Someone and turning it on its head to suit the theme of this album), but when it's using names like Fred, Ned, Jack, and Zack to preserve rhyme scheme, well, come on, even at their silliest, U2 is better than that. I also don't like the flip-flopping between political and personal. At times, the lyrical themes make it feel like two albums stitched together. I have no problem with albums having multiple lyrical themes from song to song, but when there's a disproportionate level of lyrical strength between one theme (the personal being very powerful) and another (the political not so much), it creates a rough contrast.
My biggest issue, though, is the sound of the album. It suffers from the same problem as SOI, which is that it sounds like generic top 40 radio. Gone is U2's usual brand of either creating their own sound or modifying an existing sound with their own flavor (i.e. the 90s material), and instead we're stuck with a Coldplay or OneRepublic album that just happens to have Bono on vocals. I think that when SOE succeeds on the sonic front, it does so far better than SOI, but when it flops, it falls hard. I also think that even some of the highlights (The Blackout, for example), have a structure that seems like it's building to something that never materializes. To expand on that, in the chorus of The Blackout, you get this bass drum beat that sounds almost club-ish, but you have the guitar and the bass in full-on rock mode. I feel like a drum beat that's not so focused on the bass drum alone would have made that song more explosive. YTBTAM suffers even more from an energy drop-off, where you have these amazing guitar-driven verses only to bleed off that energy into the softer chorus.
I'd say that The Little Things is probably the album's strongest overall performance, and YTBTAM, American Soul, and The Blackout are all strong in their own rights. I also think that the album reaches the point of being a tear-jerker in several spots (13 is one of those songs where, were it accompanied by glass of wine, the listener would likely be reduced to a blubbering mess), and I can admire the vulnerability it takes to go there. In an overall sense, though, I'd probably put the album near the bottom of the U2 catalogue based on my first impression. I don't rule out it being a grower, even if I've played the living daylights out of a few songs, but I don't see it climbing high in my rankings.
Oh, and one last highlight: Adam Clayton's bass. Good grief, does that man bring the thunder on this thing.
On a side note, I really hope it's not a goodbye album, but it sure as heck comes off as one in some areas.