Friday, February 20, 2009

U2 - No Line On The Horizon

U2 - No Line On The Horizon
1. No Line On The Horizon
2. Magnificent
3. Moment Of Surrender
4. Unknown Caller
5. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
6. Get On Your Boots
7. Stand Up Comedy
8. FEZ - Being Born
9. White As Snow
10. Breathe
11. Cedars Of Lebanon

First of all, I feel i must set the record straight about U2. They are quite possibly the greatest rock band the world has ever seen. I am a massive U2 fan, and i can say that about them confidently, based on the existence of records like...well the first half of their discography, to be perfectly honest. While I am a fan, i am also a purist, when i listen to this band. Sure its fair to cut them a break, they are middle aged men, and they have nothing else to prove. Why not let them just rock, right? That is fine, as long as the band, and the fans are honest. If U2 could stop saying "We feel strongly that this new album is some of the best material we have ever created" and instead say, "We are middle aged rock stars, we have made enough money, we have said all that needs to be said, we just wanna keep creating the most creative music that we can, why stop, when we still have songs in us"? I feel like i could, at least, respect that. But, with No Line On The Horizon, it is clear that U2 are not done trying to be the innovative, and break new ground. Fair enough, but now that you know that i deeply admire this band, and most of their work, I have to admit, this new record is, at best, worth EP status. First the positives...

For starters, and much like the new Cure and the new Morrissey, U2 have finally shaken their age off, and stepped it up in way of performance. I always felt that since "All That You Can't Leave Behind" the band was starting to sound middle aged, and anything they were doing from that point on, was a pursuit to have some element of surprise. They finally landed a record that has a sense of urgency again. Bono is singing the best he has sung in a long time. He is backed up by some over the top playing. Production wise, i cannot really complain. For what they aimed to do, the production is there.

The problem with this album, for me, is that in a time when U2 finally found their niche for writing simple songs again, they are trying on something completely new, and the songs just are not there.

There have always been changes going on in their career, and i loved every minute of it, until they got to 1997's Pop. They lost me there. Then, Bono lost his voice, and that was one of the greatest parts of the band. It took quite a while to get his voice back, and i dont think he was capable of carrying a tune again until "How To Dismantle...".

This record really reminds me of where the band was around the time of Pop, where the the elements were more reliant on electronics, and vocal experiments, and less of the soaring melodies, and soulfulness of the Edge's guitar playing. There are a few moments on this album, where we get classic U2, but for the most part, the songs are focused on getting away from classic U2, and having confidence in breaking new ground. You can tell that Brian Eno set out to help them do that too. It all sounds well and good, and it worked for bands like Coldplay, but the songs just aren't working here. Too much quirkiness in vocal ideas (Bono sorta talk singing over songs) There is too much "disco funk U2" here as well, again, ala Pop. I have always hated that element of U2, and this record is highly produced, electro-infused, party U2 again.

If your looking for "classic" U2, there are a couple of tracks to mention. There is only ONE song that sounds, truly, and undeniably U2, Achtung era, and its called "Magnificent" mark my words people, this is going to be a single. It is drenched with that U2 power we have come to love. The album opener "No Line On The Horizon", is the best example of the band "doing the new thing" but also keeping it interesting. There are several tracks though, that are slow moving and feel like they should break into something, but they never do. The last half of the album (again, like the new Cure) falls completely off, giving us songs that sound, literally, half written. I was not a fan of the single, Get On Your Boots, either. It had a few good ideas, but for the most part, it was just annoying and embarrassing, especially when Bono starts yelping "Let me hear the sound, let me hear the sound" over and over.

I dunno, it really sounds to me like an EP and a bunch of b-sides.

I know a lot of new U2 fans have come to the surface, since Vertigo. What i find funny about this album, i cannot imagine those fans liking this record. But, i cannot see many of the old fans liking it either. It will truly be interesting to see the audience response to this cd. I know there are people who are more interested in defending the music of U2, than being honest. There has got to be a number of people out there who think the last few records from U2 were the best. But, many more of us know that is CRAZY!!!

Much like movie remakes that swarm the theaters these days, you can take the stance of "Its ok to make them, if they are good, we will hold onto them and embrace them, if they suck...we still have the originals" I kinda take that stance with middle aged legends. If they suck, i still have the old records. If they are worth listening, than welcome back. At least i don't pay for music anymore, only to find out that it sucks. Ahh the beauty of downloading mp3s.

I for one, appreciate that U2 want to try to keep evolving, i just wish that they would hear what works, and hone in on that sound. An album of songs like the first 2 songs, would have made this a TRUE U2 album, not to argue with!!