Monday, June 27, 2011

U2 16: No Line On The Horizon

Outside of two new songs on 2006’s U218 Singles compilation—one of which was a collaboration with Green Day; neither of which were very exciting—it was another five-year wait to the next U2 album. In the meantime there was the usual talk about how they’d finally got their old sound back, despite being more experimental. When it finally emerged, there were enough echoes of their early albums on No Line On The Horizon to make it sound like, well, U2.
The title track explodes with a heavy beat and Mideastern touches, under Bono’s yell. “Magnificent” manages to cross the classic sound with the Achtung Baby era for a decent single. Despite all the accolades for its “universal” lyrical content, “Moment Of Surrender” simply takes too long to achieve the chorus. Much more effective, and working on the same theme, but still too long, “Unknown Caller” nicely works in response vocals like the better parts of Zooropa; the extremely familiar Edge guitar sound helps too, and there’s a surprising appearance by a French horn. “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” is a dumb pop song written for arena shows, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it could’ve been bigger and dumber. Also, the title arrives too soon in the lyrics.
By the same token, the lead single, “Get On Your Boots”, fills the same role as “Vertigo” did on the previous album, a catchy stomper designed to grab, and it does. They get almost funky on “Stand Up Comedy”, but complicate it with several changes that reduce it to not much. We get just a hint of experimentation on the moody intro of “Fez—Being Born”, which should have been chopped; the main part of the song succeeds by concentrating less on lyrics and more on sound. “White As Snow” takes its melody from a Christmas carol for an effective meditation on a soldier’s death. The mood is jarred by the hip rap speak in “Breathe”, another wise decent rocker, before going quiet yet again on “Cedars Of Lebanon”, another reflection on war.
U2 come in like a lion and go out like a lamb on No Line On The Horizon, making for a slightly underwhelming listen. For the first time, Brian Eno and Daniel (listed as “Danny”) Lanois are credited here and there for writing music and/or lyrics instead of being limited only to production and performance; Steve Lillywhite is on hand again for a few songs as well. Admittedly, our hopes were higher, but we can’t condemn them yet. The band also insisted that they had another album’s worth of material they’d be putting out almost immediately, which unsurprisingly did not happen. Instead, they toured and toured, and toured some more.

U2 No Line On The Horizon (2009)—3

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