Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U2 - No Line on the Horizon

The last U2 album I fell in love with at first listen was 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind. For me, reaction-wise No Line on the Horizon is closer to their last album, 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb -- I liked the album after the first listen, but I can tell that I'll fall in love with it slowly as I discover something new to appreciate and enjoy each time I listen to it.

Though public response has been lukewarm, I liked "Get On Your Boots" right off the bat. It's a get-happy bit of spun sugar on an otherwise soulful album. Other early favorites include the almost seven-and-a-half-minute-long "Moment of Surrender," which pairs mellow instrumentals with Bono's passionate vocals. My one complaint about this track is that the lyrics "I was punching in the numbers/at the ATM machine," while relatable, may rank right up there with George Michael's "guilty feet have got no rhythm" on the Why Would You Include a Phrase Like *That* In a Song list.

Another track that immediately caught my ear and that I could see being a second single off the album is "Stand Up Comedy." The song has an upbeat, anthemic feel and driving guitar line that sounds like the U2 most people expect. It's definitely less challenging and experimental than the cut "FEZ-Being Born," which starts out with over a minute of ambient-style music with repeated echos of the "let me in the sound" cry from "Get On Your Boots," along with other melodic vocalizations. Listeners definitely feel the presence of album co-producer Brian Eno in this song.

While it's an album that takes a little longer to fall in love with, U2 takes chances in No Line on the Horizon, continuing to experiment with new sounds and influences while putting together lyrics that are smart, unique and never fail to produce an emotional response. And somehow the experimentation doesn't feel like the band is pushing at their boundaries for vanity's sake -- trying something new just because they've been around for 30+ years so they can. Perhaps it's the moody earnestness of the album, but in No Line it feels like U2 is experimenting because these musicians are still looking for ways to grow, improve and make their music more.

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