Posts Tagged ‘U2

09
Mar
09

U2 “No Line on the Horizon” Album Review

Okay so today I went to R&R Coffee here in the Black Forest and got a cup of Forest Mist Dark Roast (a signature blend…mmm), then I went next door to the Post Office and mailed back a washing machine part we didn’t need, I went to PetCo and bought some fish for my tropical tank, and I went to Target and bought the new album by U2 on CD.  Not a bad set of errands.  PetCo’s doing 5 for $5 tropical fish, R&R Coffee has a self service on drip that is less expensive and better than anyone around, and Target had the CD on sale.  The only thing I didn’t get a deal on was the washer pump (waste of shipping $!).  Can’t win em’ all, but in the process I got the new offering from one of rock’s most enduring bands.

First I will say that listening to Bono sing is worth the price of admission alone no matter the quality of the album.  What is that price you ask?  iTunes carries it for $9.99 album only or $17.99 which includes an hour-long movie featuring the music of the band as a part of the download (by Anton Corbjin who is the band’s favorite photographer).  Not bad.  If you prefer hard copy (and for those who lament the lost pleasure of album artwork who doesn’t?) Target has it on sale this week: album alone is $9.99 as well or you can get a cool deluxe edition for $21.99 which includes the album plus a poster, a mini book, and finally a download of aforementioned movie.  If you really want to go crazy you can get the whole thing bundled with DVD version of the movie for $64.99.  $9.99 seemed like the right choice for me although I will admit I had the deluxe edition in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Okay so with a 30+ year history behind them, who doesn’t like U2?  It used to be if someone said U2 was lame folks would give them the luxury of personal opinion, but today saying U2 is lame is like calling Bob Dylan a two-bit horseshoe farrier. Yeah, you would be called crazy.  Here’s my overarching assessment of their output over the years: they consistently outshine every other alternative band in history but they run out of gas 75% through almost every release.  It’s true.  I mean, you really have to be a major fan of their creative muse to like “Mothers of the Disappeared” for example (from “Joshua Tree”).  But 75% of U2 is 100% better than 99% of the artists in the world so who’s complaining?  If we have to suffer “Please” we still get “Do You Feel Love” (from “Pop”) or if we have to endure “Peace on Earth” we still get to revel in “Kite” (from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  All that to say I always expect to enjoy most of a new U2 album, but plan to be bored or let down by a chunk of it (kind of like a new Hillsong release or the skillets at Village Inn).

For this effort they ran through a series of producers (big names like Rick Rubin) and finally landed with three guys who have consistently delivered for them over the years: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and a few by Steve Lillywhite.  So expect the album to have some sounds that hearken your favorite U2 stuff from previous years.

I scanned a review that said something about U2 getting criticism for their last album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” because they didn’t risk enough on it and this album was theoretically a response to that critique but I don’t hear it.  It sounds very much like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” era U2 which is not to say it’s bad, I just don’t get the whole exploring-new-territory thing.  U2 on this album sounds like we would expect U2 to sound.  Anthemic, bluesy, and pulsating (all that’s missing from early U2 is the passion).  That’s why we listen to them over and over right?  U2 is a sonic soundtrack for our lives.  Our lives in the car, in the kitchen, on the bike, at work, on TV, gosh you can place U2 just about anywhere and it plays well.  So expect the familiar and that’s okay, well better than okay, it’s downright good.

“Get on Your Boots” was the first single released (to mixed reviews) and I was excited because it sounded like a band that was in fact looking to reinvent.  But as track #6 it sounds oddly out of character with the album up until that point.  The new fresh sound comes only after familiar territory.  Funny, as I listened the first time as each track came on it sounded like a different U2 album from the past.  I wonder if this was intentional by the band. Almost a retrospective without being retrospective.  I actually spent a little time linking each song to a previous U2 work, but I will spare you the list due to the length of this post.  Try it yourself, it’s fun.

As a leadoff cut “No Line on the Horizon” is a dud.  The title suggests that the band is looking forward with no boundaries which implies uncharted waters.  Can anyone else hear the blatant nod to “Until the End of the World” in the guitar riff?  That’s from 1990 and it’s funny because that song was written for a movie soundtrack where they were supposed to try and write in a style of where music would be 10 years from the writing.  They should have started the album with “Magnificent” which really shines as a classic U2 groove and overarching melodies.  Still, like a good road trip, this album gets better as it travels further and explores more.  That’s a first for U2 with me: I enjoyed the 2nd half more (One exception is “FEZ-being Born” which is out of place and belongs at the end of the album or somewhere else).  “Unknown Caller” has a rare Edge guitar solo, which was very refreshing to hear.  “White as Snow” is hauntingly beautiful (and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that the melody line to “O Come Emmanuel”?).  Bono is in good form with his wink-of-the-eye one-liner lyrics (“gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy”) and the album just sounds great sonically.

So in summary, if you like U2 you will like this CD; I do and I did.  It doesn’t break new ground but it’s everything we want in U2.  Not bad for $9.99.  I can listen to it over and over again too and probably will (can’t recycle that coffee and get the same bank for the buck now can I?).

On a final, Christian worldview note, I will say that it was refreshing and nice to have Bono singing about his faith so positively on the last album, but unfortunately there’s not a ton of that going on here.  We get that old 90’s style of faith from Mr. Vox.  It’s a sardonic and slightly jaded religiosity that filters though.  I recall seeing him wearing one of those “COEXIST” hats on TV last year at an AIDS rally.  Is Jesus still the only true way to salvation for Bono or does he now espouse the ever so popular one-world religion that prevails these days?  In “Breathe” he sings, “St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine.”  Seems he hates religion, but then again don’t we? At one time Bono and the Edge wanted to abandon their careers in music and become pastors, but that was over 20 years ago. It’s almost as if when he says “stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” in “Stand up Comedy” he’s singing to himself, the Bono-Christ.  I am happy that my faith remains unshaken.  Why don’t you all pray for Bono when you finish reading this, okay?

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