Friday, March 06, 2009

CD Review - U2 No Line On The Horizon

I got an email this week telling me I could buy the MP3 version of the new U2 album, No Line on the Horizon, for $3.99 at Are you kidding me? I spend more than that on parking. So of course I went and hit ‘buy’ and have been listening this week.

There has been loads of hype around this album and frankly I have been really busy and have not paid much attention. I missed the band on Letterman all week, and I have not read the Rolling Stone cover story that arrived in the mail (Bono is wearing eye makeup on the cover photo that makes him look like he had a lobotomy. Is that why he wears the shades all the time?). I don’t know what the ‘single’ is, and I have not watched any of the new videos. So I am hearing this with untainted ears.

I also think they will have a hard time topping All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which is my all time favorite U2 album hands down. Sonically, performance wise and songwriting wise, they set a very high bar for themselves.

On first listen to No Line On The Horizon, I thought the first two songs were OK but nothing special. Then I hit the 7 plus minute Moment of Surrender, which is a slow, slinky tune that has a bit of a gospel feel, some fantastic slide guitar work from Edge and a vocal melody that reminds me of another song – Stones, Dylan, Neil Young? It’ll come to me. From this song on, I was engaged. And then on the next listen I got more into the first two songs.

Speaking of Neil, Edge lays down an interesting outro solo in Unknown Caller that sounds like he is channeling Neil – he pulls the notes from the guitar and branches out from his usual, chiming simple solo style. Get On Your Boots sounds like a return to the band’s techno experiment phase, except the main riff is a grungy, groovy thing. Someone gave Adam Clayton a fuzz box – sounds great! Stand Up Comedy is as catchy and funky as U2 gets. Not sure if this is the ‘hit’ but it should be! Great line in there too – “Be careful of small men with big ideas.” Indeed.

What is with all the vocal harmonies on this album? That is kind of a cool departure. Check Get On Your Boots On for the best example but it happens in Moment of Surrender, Fez – Being Born, Breathe and Cedars of Lebanon as well. Not sure I have heard such a rich vocal harmony sound on a U2 album.

And I have to say, Edge’s guitars sound as good as ever on this one. The dude has so many tools in the arsenal, from the smooth, almost jazzy picked chords in Cedars of Lebanon; grainy razor slide guitar; the rocking chunk of Magnificent; and of course the jangly, echo and delay drenched textures we all know Edge for throughout.

The band provides a really healthy balance between funky rhythms/distorted slide guitar and the moody, ethereal stuff I most associate with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno (a la Unforgettable Fire).

I can already tell that this album is going to grow on me. If you are fan of the band, shell out your $4 at while the offer lasts.

One other thing. After all the verses on the title track, Bono belts out “ah woa-oh-oh-ohie” right off of a 70s KISS album. Bono channeling Paul Stanley? You make the call...


Chris said...

Great review. I've been on the fence with this one, because I'm with you -- All That You Can't Leave Behind set a pretty damn high bar for "modern" U2 (though Achtung Baby did the same for its time too, IMO). I will definitely check this out.

Don Capone said...

Good, in depth review. I've been listening to this CD almost non stop since Tuesday. One good track after another. The last one, "Cedars of Lebanon," is just great. They did a killer version of "Breathe" on Letterman.

The background vocals/extra textures (that you can really hear with headphones) most likely are Eno/Lanois contributions. They even got co-writing credits on some of the songs.

U2 has completely taken over NYC this week. It's great! They played a free concert at Fordham University this morning.

You can probably catch all the Letterman performances on Youtube or Dave's CBS page. He even had them read off a Top 10!

Bob K said...

Thanks for sending me a note! Nice job on the review!