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2.23.2009

Is That All? A review of U2, "No Line On The Horizon" 



U2 is back with its first album in five years, "No Line On The Horizon". It seems to be receiving nearly universal acclaim in the music press, and I'm not quite sure why. It certainly sounds like nothing they've ever recorded before, but I count four or five tracks that are really worth coming back to. The rest of the record mostly consists of these remote, spaced-out, languid pseudo-meditations that also happen to feature some of Bono's most embarrassing writing to date.

The album starts off with two roof-busting anthems in the title track and "Magnificent". Both tracks are certain to become radio hits, but the more muscular guitars and tighter rhythm grooves distinguish them from U2's Joshua Tree-era tracks.

So far, so good. U2 then proceed to crush the momentum of the album by launching into "Moment of Surrender", a seven-minute long reflection that really belongs at the end of the album, the way "40", "Grace" and "Yahweh" closed out previous albums. Next up are "Unknown Caller", a rumination on the pervasiveness of modern technology by a wandering soul that is broken up by rhythmic chants, and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", a more melodic ballad. Unfortunately, both of the previous tracks feature some of the most cringe-worthy lyrics I've ever seen: "Restart and reboot yourself/You're free to go/Shout for joy if you get the chance/Password you enter here right now." "Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear/The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear."

Fortunately for the listener, the album picks up with the disjointed yet irresistible single "Get On Your Boots" and continues with "Stand Up Comedy", a neat little track that layers classic chimey Edge tracks upon a Hendrix-inspired groove. Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. contribute some of their best work here.

Next up are "FEZ-Being Born", which is kind of hard to describe here. The lyrics are brief and elusive, buried under layers and layers of percussive synthesizer lines. It's certainly an intriguing listen. This is followed by "White As Snow", a heavy minor-key lamentation full of Biblical imagery. The album then ends with a thud as Bono channels his inner Bob Dylan free-verse poet in "Breathe" and "Cedars Of Lebanon", neither attempt at which is particularly successful.

Well, there you go. There are a few obvious hits on the album, but large chunks of the rest of the album simply don't move me at all, making it hard to listen to the whole thing in one shot and placing it firmly below U2's two other albums of the decade.

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Comments:

Took a quick listen to NLOTH at u2.com. Going to pick it up at Best Buy tonight after work. May write my own review later.

I'm still set on my Holy Trinity of U2 albums (TJT, AB and ATYCLB) as their best work.

And don't you think "Magnificent" would make for a great opener at a concert?
 


The introductory guitar line for "Magnificent" would be perfect for opening a concert, although they could also use "Get On Your Boots" to replace "Vertigo" from the previous tour.

"Moment Of Surrender" would be a fine closer, as mentioned in the post.
 


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