Review: “No Line On The Horizon,” U2

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Quite a few people have been eagerly anticipating U2’s No Line On The Horizon, particularly because it’s been five years since the Irish uber-rock band released their last studio effort.  And this new album is pretty good; at times it’s “Magnificent” (to steal the title from one of the highlight songs) but falters a bit in the middle.

The good news first: U2 has reunited with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the producers who helped them to their greatest successes (The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire, etc.).  Although the band recorded some music with Rick Rubin, they have shelved that work in favor of a more textured sound with Eno-Lanois.  The first four songs are brilliant: from the title track that kicks off the album to the radio-ready “Magnificent” and “Moment Of Forever” and the breathtaking Edge guitar solo that closes out “Unknown Caller.” 

Trouble starts with “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” which lifts a riff from Journey’s “Faithfully.”  That song and the one after it, the idiotic single “Get On Your Boots,” don’t seem to fit with the elegant u2_1318564csoundscape of the songs that come before.  These two arena rockers were produced by Steve Lillywhite, and it’s as if U2 were hedging their bets a bit by tossing in a few songs that a bit more “commercial.” 

Consider that two-song break a breather from the album’s weightier moments, because the deepest is yet to come.  “White As Snow,” written from the point of view of a dying soldier, is one of U2’s most powerful “message” songs and it’s stunning.   The power chords of “Breathe” break the mood; the contrast between this song (also produced by Lillywhite) and “White As Snow” pretty much sums up the entire album.  Jarring as they may be in the context of the album, the Lillywhite songs will probably be big in concert and after a few listens one begins to warm up to them.  But they still belong someplace else: bonus tracks or a bonus CD, maybe. 

But the Eno-Lanois collaborations are the heart of this album, and they serve to push U2 forward even while celebrating the band’s trademark sound.  No Line On The Horizon is our second Big Rock Star Statement of the year (after Bruce Springsteen) and despite a few rough patches, it’s a keeper.

Stream complete album at U2’s MySpace page

U2 official website

3 Responses to “Review: “No Line On The Horizon,” U2”

  1. The album is, by all accounts, average, which is to say that it’s not bad per se. But coming from U2, I expected something more than an album that I just listen to and go “Eh. Not bad.”

  2. 30daysout Says:

    That’s the problem with a lot of our musical heroes these days … They don’t seem to scale the heights they did in the past.

  3. Augustus Says:

    This is the best review I’ve read of the album to date. This album is much better “than average”, in fact it’s a really excellent CD (the best I’ve heard since the “Achtung/Zooropa/Pop” era). “Moment of Surrender” is something really special. Other than the two songs in the middle mentioned above, which really don’t fit, there is some great stuff here!

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