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U2: No Line On The Horizon

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As an avid U2 fan, I figured that there would be no better way to start my new blog than to review the new U2 album, No Line On The Horizon. I haven’t reviewed it before now because, as with all of U2’s albums, I like to give it a few listens before I make up my mind. First impressions are one thing, but with U2 albums, there is usually much more to them than can be discovered on a single listen. Now that I’ve lived with the album for a few weeks, I think I’m finally ready to weigh in with my thoughts. I’ll do a track by track review, and then an overall summary at the end.

1. “No Line On The Horizon” – The album opens up with this rocker, which sees the Edge using the lower registers of his guitar. The rhythm is heavy and distorted, with more signature delayed, chimey Edge sounds finding their way into the song during the chorus. Bono’s voice sounds great on this one, and Adam and Larry provide a stellar rhythm section. Nothing fancy in this one. It’s quite minimalistic. But it is U2, after all.

2. “Magnificent” – Almost every other review I’ve read in some way mentions how this song is truly “magnificent.” I don’t want to say the same thing, but it’s true. It’s one of the stronger tracks on the album, with a  great chorus that you can definitely see live audineces in the stadiums singing along to loudly.

3. “Moment of Surrender” – U2 does gospel/R&B. And they do it really well. A really good song, though it falls a little short of being epic. It could turn into a modern version of “Bad,” though, if done properly when performed live. Bono’s vocals on this track are amazing.

4. “Unknown Caller” – One of the stranger songs on the album. The chorus is a bit too monotone for my tastes. The guitar solo at the end is great, and the song, musically, is solid, but I’m having a hard time with the lyrics and especially the chorus.

5. “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – Silly title, but a pretty good song. This one has definitely grown on me, especially after seeing them play it live on Letterman. Another song that you can tell will be big in the arenas.

6. “Get On Your Boots” – I don’t think this should have been the lead-off single, or even a single at all. Not indicative of the album as a whole, and kind of the album’s light/fluffy track. That being said, it’s not a bad song, for what it is. I like the heavy guitar riff, and the bridge is fantastic. “Let me in the sound, now…God, I’m going down…I don’t wanna drown now…Meet me in the sound…”

7. “Stand Up Comedy” – This is a funky/groovy little number. It opens with a Zeppelin-esque riff, has some Beatle-esque vocal harmonies, but is pure U2 funk. The outro to this is awesome too. I think this could be a huge song live, and will probably be expanded upon (extra lyrics, guitar solos, etc.). Bono kinda pokes fun of himself in this song a few times, too.

8. “FEZ-Being Born” – Actually two different songs. “FEZ” is just this little instrumental bit at the beginning with a sample of “Let me in the sound…” from “Get On Your Boots.” This will probably be what is played as the band comes out for an encore at concerts. “Being Born” is kind of heavy, and hearkens back to U2’s younger days. This track would totally be at home on their fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire.

9. “White As Snow” – A stripped-down U2, and you can almost hear Johnny Cash or Bob Seeger singing this. It’s different and not like them, so I dig it. Not an amazing track, but it does what it does.

10. “Breathe” – For me, the best song on this album. I really like Bono’s stream of consciousness, Dylan-esque rattling off of lyrics here. I love the pre-chorus and chorus (“Walk out…Arms out…I can breathe…breathe now…”). I really like the sort of dissonant harmonies on it. It really adds to the ambience. The Arabian cello throughout also adds to the song, especially on the bridge right before the (completely awesome) guitar solo. You can tell something good is coming. To me, this song is the spiritual successor to “Acrobat.” 3/4 waltz timing, but heavy and yearning. I’ve liked this one since the beach clips on YouTube. This should be the next single after “Magnificent.”

11. “Cedars of Lebanon” – They usually close with a slow song, and this album is no different. Just the point of view from a war correspondent in the Middle East. It’s moody and atmospheric and melancholy. There’s a cool little guitar solo at the end that is followed exactly by the bass, and it’s pretty cool.

Some reviews (like Rolling Stone or Q Magazine) have given this album 5 stars. Others have bashed it as bland and boring. I don’t agree with either assessment. The album is solid, with a lot of good tracks. But, I feel like Eno and Lanois (Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, longtime U2 producers) are way too involved in many of the songs. In fact, they actually get songwriting credit on many of the tracks. Eno in particular just likes to push the weird/minimalistic envelope too much, and it shows here. U2 should have been let loose on this album, but it feels like they were held back. The result is an album that feels 85% finished. Lots of great potential, but too much meddling by Eno.

Overall Score: 8/10

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No Line On The Horizon

Written by Jason Stroming

March 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Posted in album review

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