'No Line On The Horizon'
A new U2 album has always been kind of an 'event' for me. Granted, the degree to which it's an 'event' has gone up and down over the years. As documented, most likely, on here in an earlier post...I wasn't really all that bowled over by 2004's 'How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb'. It had a few solid tunes smattered about, but it didn't really hold my attention for that long...as long as it should...and i've never really gone back to it. So, it was w/ some amount of trepidation that I took in all the press and hoopla on the sound of their subsequent release.
Happily, 'No Line' is a nice musical response to my feeling that the band played it way too safe on 'Atomic Bomb'. Teaming up again w/ producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, this album is no return to the electronic experimentalism of 'Achtung' and 'POP', despite that the first single, 'Get on Your Boots', may make you think so. Actually, aside from the album's almost heavy-handed mid-point where 'Boots', 'Stand-Up Comedy' and (my least favorite track) 'I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight' reside...it's more of an attempt at re-igniting an 'Unforgettable Fire'.
The album starts w/ the vintage chugging crescendo of a title track into what should have been the first single...the absolutely soaring 'Magnificent', quite frankly one of the best tunes they've done in years. 'Moment of Surrender' is a decent enough gospel-tinged ballad and then the band serves up another stadium-friendly anthemic track in 'Unknown Caller'. Later, after a little trip into the sonic collage of 'Fez - Being Born' and lilting 'White as Snow', we're treated to the second best tune on here in the sweeping 'Breathe'.
Now, the album is not w/out it's mis-steps...one of the biggest issues being Bono's lyrics. The aforementioned 'Unknown Caller' being a perfect example of a great song almost ruined by an oft too literal subject matter of today's techno-babble. There was a wry ambiguity in his a lot of his lyrics on 'Achtung' and 'POP'...deeper, more contemplative words used in earlier releases...he just hasn't been able to recapture since 'All that You Can't Leave Behind'. The other, is that the band sometimes sounds like they are trying too hard NOT to play it safe and it ends up sounding a little forced and paint-by-numbers.
That said, it's still a fine return to form in a lot of ways. The album's strengths more than overshadow it's weaknesses and I really do think this one will hold up much better than the last. One thing for sure, as evidenced by the past two nights on Letterman, some of the tunes on 'No Line' will be incredible when performed live. As they'll be returning to playing full-fledged stadiums this year...it'll be great to have those tracks to fill them up. Until then, put another dime in the AMBFAD jukebox and see what you think.