Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Line on the Horizon by U2

"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.

After listening to the newest offering from Uberband U2 for like, the 100th time, I felt like it was finally time to talk about it

and what exactly is.. it?

I initially found the album unsettling and not accessible. What was weird about the experience is that it made me feel exactly the same way Achtung Baby did 15 years ago. I was not really sure about what I was hearing. Having been at least a middling fan since the War record, I feel like I've got some U2 street cred. I was a fan before they were massive, and only became more enamored as the years went on. I even liked Pop. (it's a severely underrated album. deal with it.)

As for this smattering of emotion. this shotgun blast of song and technical studio craft. I can only say one thing:

it's pretty amazing.

I mean - this isn't a band that started 5 years ago and is just hitting their peak - this is a band that has been together for nearly 30 years and is hitting it's stride for.. a third.. possibly fourth time..? Is that even possible?

The Beatles invented it. U2 perfected it.

I do stand up and say that there are 2 songs I wish they would have left on the cutting room floor though. "..go crazy.." and "stand up". No matter how self effacing, tongue in cheek and smarmy Bono and the boys intend to be, there is no excuse for some of the lyrics and vocals on these two tracks. Sorry guys. All respect given but....

The rest of the album, however, is absolutely amazing. I liked the cut of the almost surely Lanois influenced "Moment of Surrender" (listen to that chorus - that is a Lanois melody if I ever heard one), the sure to be a classic "Magnificent", and the unspeakably well written "Cedars of Lebanon".

U2, and indeed popular music in the 21st century, simply do not get better, more serious, more thoughtful or more real than this. Was it the touted re-invention? Not really. Does it fall short lyrically at times? Yeah, it does. I can cop to that. But the beauty is that I think they know it. They are willing to fall down in front of all of us and enjoy the trip on the way down. At this point, they can do what they want. I'm inclined to let them do it.

If I can make one suggestion though - I think they should ditch the studio wizardry and do a record that sounds like it was barely done in a basement. Allow the songs to stand on their own without the technology. Maybe the Lilywhite and Rubin sessions will see the light of day someday. Lilywhite, while a ham fisted pop radio guy, does have a gift for finding the core of things and evoking that classic U2 thing. Rubin has a gift for finding near perfect songs. I say lets get these guys together, ditch the egos and watch the fur fly. It would be a helluva album, that's for sure. (Although let me say for the record that I'm a huge Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois fan.)

It took awhile to grow on me. Now I listen to it once a day and probably will for some time until it's worn it's path trough my soul much like The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby.

I'm not making this up. It's that good.


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