Author Topic: U2's new album ranges from simple to grandiose  (Read 1110 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Guest
U2's new album ranges from simple to grandiose
« on: March 04, 2009, 06:01:43 AM »
You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

To put it in positive terms, U2 never suffers from a lack of ambition.

One track into "No Line on the Horizon," the band's first new album in five years, and I was feeling overwhelmed, sonically bludgeoned. That opening title track is a dense, cryptic affair, written from the perspective of, of all things, a traffic cop on the Rue du Marais.

At that point, I was questioning the wisdom of letting Brian Eno into the game. Eno co-produced and helped write the album along with Daniel Lanois, a U2 vet and a producer less prone to overreaching. Those of us who remember "Popmart" know U2 has a checkered history with electronica.

Fortunately, things returned to an even keel on "Magnificent," a simpler, more linear, more optimistic track, expressing love in terms of destiny.

U2 has a love of anthems, and it's in that tenuous balance between the grand sonic statement and the band's abundant melodic skills that the fate of many of its albums unfolds. To these ears, U2 is at its best when it is most linear and uncluttered.

There are more than a few such moments on "No Line on the Horizon." "White as Snow" opens with a simple, unadorned piano line and unfolds the tale of a foreign soldier stranded in Afghanistan, struggling to find mercy and beauty in a cruel place.

That image of being caught in a war-torn environment is repeated in the closing track "Cedars of Lebanon," written and sung in conversational tones by a man seeking solace in reconnecting with a former lover. The song is dotted with photographic images: a soldier bringing oranges from inside his tank, a child drinking dirty water from the riverbank.

"Unknown Caller" begins simply with brassy keyboards and the sounds of chirping birds and gradually builds into a typical U2 anthem. Written from the perspective of a junkie, the song uses the language of computers and electronic gadgetry to project the confusion of a lost soul: "Restart and reboot yourself . . . Password, you enter here, right now."

"Stand Up Comedy" uses the metaphor of comedy as a call for defiance and independence. It's also about as close to humorous as U2 is likely to get, with images of Napoleon in high heels and a caution to be "careful of small men with big ideas."

Hints of the Christian perspective that marked U2's early work surface from time to time. The soldier in "White as Snow" seeks forgiveness from "the lamb as white as snow." "Moment of Surrender" is part prayer, with a plea to God from a junkie seeking deliverance.

There are certainly those who are hailing "Horizon" as comparable to U2's finest work. I wouldn't go that far. It lacks the restraint, consistency and discipline of "The Joshua Tree." There are passages of melodrama and simple clutter.

But the talent lingers. Even when the horizons are blurry, this is still a band that commands attention.