Monday, March 09, 2009

U2's No Line on the Horizon

The new U2 album is not the best they've ever made, but I enjoy it. As far as likability goes, I'd probably place it somewhere between How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (which I was not a huge fan of) and War (which has some favs and some also-rans). Stylistically it actually falls somewhere between All That You Can't Leave Behind and Boy.

It does seem that they wanted the center-piece of this album to be the Edge's guitar riffs more than Bono's crooning. That said, its not like an either-or. However, many of the songs either make it or don't based on what the guitarist brings to the table. In most cases it is classic Edge, often reminiscent of Boy. '

The best tracks are the concert-ready Magnificent, the trademark album-ending prayer Cedars of Lebanon, the unique Fez: Being Born, the meditative gospel-chorus sounding Moment of Surrender, and the should've-been-first-single I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight.

Skip-worthy tracks include the goofy Stand Up Comedy, the mediocre Unknnown Caller, and the (bafflingly chosen) single Get On Your Boots. So far the title track has been enjoyable but I think it will get old. Breathe is an okay track, as is White as Snow, but the former is unremarkable and the latter sounds like a Christmas song (O Come Emmanuel?)

My favourite line on the album so far is from Stand Up Comedy, where Bono says to "stop helping God across the road like a little old lady." Probably the most interesting song is the last one, which begins:

"Yesterday I spent asleep / Woke up in my clothes in a dirty heap / Spent the night trying to make a deadline / Squeezing complicated lives into a simple headline" and ends "Choose your enemies carefully ’cos they will define you /Make them interesting ’cos in some ways they will mind you / They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
/ Gonna last with you longer than your friends

I've realized that though my music tastes have changed over the years, U2 is still a part of me, all going back to a fateful November day in 1994 when I stumbled into a ZooTV concert having never listened to a single U2 album in my life (you can read my review here).

I find that in between their re-arrivals on the scene I forget about them, but every time they return I remember that I just like them as people, and I like, for the most part, the music and lyrics they produce. Likely if this album where released by anyone else I'd ignore it. In this case, it fits in the U2 timeline quite nicely and is a worthy purchase for any U2 fan.

Oh, and the following video is pretty funny:


trevor said...

Yeah, the album was "so so". Cedars of Lebanon was definitely my favorite.

I really enjoyed the "get on your boots" single. I'm not sure why so many people hate it.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I have truly loved U2 in the past, but I simply can not work up any enthusiasm at all for this album. I've only heard 'Get On Your Boots' and it did nothing for me.

I dunno. I'll download a couple tracks to see if its worth exploring.

Thanks for the review. It confirmed my suspicions/fears.

jon said...

Trevor: Get on Your boots has grown on me a bit, but I usually skip it. It reminds me of the stuff I didn't like on Atomic Bomb.

Matthew: Try Fez and Cedars of Lebanon. I think you will like those two songs. Maybe Magnificent, although it depends if you still have an ear for more of the classic kind of u2-song-formula.

I can understand both those that have great enthusiasm for this album and also those that don't. I'm not sure I was so psyched myself, except I went back and started listening to all the old U2 stuff and so much of my memory and connection with them was rekindled. This album does not disappoint in the sense that it is consistent with where the band has gone, and is not bad. But it doesn't offer a lot that is groundbreaking or which is going to attract on other grounds. I enjoy it and will be glad to see it popularly accepted. But it isn't amazing. Still, try Fez and Lebanon. Those are some decent U2 tracks.