No Line On The Horizon

Written by: TL on 05/03/2009 13:35:58

U2. The talk of the town since 1980 and by many coined to be the best rock band of our time. I'm not going to bullshit you, the size of this band outweighs my experience as a reviewer by a long shot, and given my mere 23 years of age, the whole getting on their bandwagon thing was over before I even saw my mother for the first time. Effectively, I stand aligned with the new generation. The generation that keeps hearing about this band U2 and how grand they are, but are really too occupied by the bands that make the buzz these days, to notice whether or not the veterans are still in shape here on their God-knows-how-many-eth album.

Well to my fellow ignorant youngsters I have been an ambassador, journeying into the soundscape of U2's 12th LP "No Line On The Horizon" and as I return I carry but one message: Move over Coldplay, recess is over, the teacher is back behind his desk and you boys are moved to the back of the class where you belong!

On their last two albums. "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" and "All That You Can't Leave Behind", U2 took a step back to the more anthemic and straightforward approach that helped them explode in popularity in the 80's, but here on "No Line On The Horizon" they take a break from that trend, allowing themselves to be more mellow and experimental. This means an absence of instantly captivating and widely appealing hits like "Stuck In A Moment" and "Elevation", and while I'm sure this will polarize existing bands and give younger music fans all the more reason to overlook U2, that's really going to be their loss, because "No Line On The Horizon" is an album that is overflowing with experience, skill and most importantly, the desire to still tell stories to the listener.

If the band have had any performance anxiety on the grounds of their status, it doesn't show for a second on this album. The songs here are largely dominated by a restrained approach to songwriting, relying on the rhythms of the bass to drive the songs forward, while guitars, violins, church organs and other instruments take turns at make their imprint on the sound and Bono sings in a manner that should make any auto-tuned upstart piss himself in awe. I've never really been into U2 or even able to see what all the fuss was about, but after consecutive listens to this album I get it. Obviously these guys still aren't in the game to impress you with overly technical passages, no, their strength lies in an adept understanding of culture and composition, as their songs simply weave atmospheres within which you feel compelled to take a break from your life and reflect on the world around you.

It's all really relaxed but also exhilarating at the same time, and while the instant hooks and choruses are lacking, every listen will make you notice and appreciate another detail. Take the chorus of "Moments Of Surrender" as an example, or perhaps the choir singing in weirdly anthemic computer language in "Unknown Caller". Those are amongst the highlights of the album, along with the brilliant western feel of "White As Snow", as well as "Get On Your Boots" that has a sexy groove that's very hard to resist.

To conclude, I'm sure that the sheer amount of exposure U2 get is enough for most people to hold a grudge against them (having a street of New York named after you? Come the fuck on!), but then that's also necessary if one really wants to stay angry, because judging from "No Line Of The Horizon" as a symptom of the band's music, they are still likable to the point where listening to them almost makes you feel bad about listening to as much superficial shit as is shoveled at you these days. The record may very well lack the more direct knock-out punches, but that subtracts little, because it's still an album that keeps inviting you in for one more listen, seeming to get better every time. I guess that just goes to show that even though you will soon be pushing 40 as a band, you may yet make a new fan out of a young know-it-all like me.


Download: Moments Of Surrender, Get On Your Boots, White As Snow
For The Fans Of: Coldplay, R.E.M
Listen: myspace.com/u2

Release Date: 27.02.2009
Island / Interscope / Mercury Music Group

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