Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Album Review: U2

No Line On The Horizon
Interscope Records

U2 may have nothing left to prove musically, but that doesn't stop them from making a sublime statement on No Line On The Horizon. This isn't an album of sonic experimentation or philosophical subjugation, rather a musical step backward and a lyrical glance inward, an album that swells within the warm rattle and hum of its own jetstream.

No Line On The Horizon works because U2 don't cloud their vision with the clutter of being visionary. Instead of charting new territory, they find new crevices and nuances in territories that they've previously explored - And everything fits just right.

Where All That You Can't Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb were the products of tight and precise production, the new release opens the reigns and lets the wind get caught in the sails. The album is more atmospheric and ambient than it is adventurous and post-adolescent, and that is where its majesty lies, the overpowering machismo of radio anthems replaced by the humble gestures of rolling soundscapes and lyrics in search of sanctity and solace. It is U2 understanding where they've been, and U2 letting that clarity help dictate their course forward.

The title track opens the album with a stumbling air of confusion, "Magnificent" following with a grand marriage of gentle dance rhythms and uplifting orchestrations, Bono's breathy vocals finding hope and promise in pain and hurt. A hypnotic trance encompasses "Moment of Surrender," "Unknown Caller" stands tall while swaying with a sense of insecurity, and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" is a more light-hearted blend of bouncing drums and galloping prose.

The second half of the album breaks away with the guitar-driven crunch and grind of lead single "Get On Your Boots" and the similarly big-sounding "Stand Up Comedy," a rambunctious, slow-rolling rocker with a flare for the dramatic. "Fez - Being Born" is a bit long to unravel, a five-minute kaleidoscope that plays like a misplaced interlude to the pensive vocals and stripped-down delivery of "White as Snow," the exhilarating redemption call of "Breath," and the sedated tones and muted calm of album closer "Cedars of Lebanon."

Instead of overwhelming the senses on No Line On The Horizon, U2 succumb to them, basking in a subtle glow of bewilderment while leaving enough blank space for a spring of hope to trickle throughout. This isn't the product of aging dinosaurs who still haven't found what they're looking for, it is a sort of homecoming by a band who have rediscovered their unforgettable fire.

RATING: * * * *

U2 MySpace

U2 Official Website


Todd said...

interesting. I don't think I could hate the single more. how is the Chris Cornell album? and what can you tell me about MGMT?

Paul Gargano said...

Honestly, the album as a whole couldn't be any further from how that single sounds. Definitely try and give the album a listen before you write if off because of that one song...

I'll be posting a Cornell review in the next day or two, as soon as I finish a few assignments that pay the bills!

MGMT are in the same vein as Animal Collective, if you're familiar with them. They are just as eclectic and experimental, but definitely lean more towards the mainstream. There's a light and fluffy electro-pop sensibility to the music, but also a psychedelic underbelly that keeps it from becoming campy. I love their last album, "Oracular Spectacular" -- Check out "Electric Feel" off that, and if you like it, I'd definitely recommend the album. For what it's worth, the first time I heard them, they reminded me of The Polyphonic Spree... And as an added bonus, they actually got their start as students at Wesleyan, in CT!

Todd said...

ok, won't write U2 album off yet. in fact, the new single I like much much more. I like what you said about musically going backward, which in itself exudes confidence...they have nothing left to prove.

as for MGMT, I've downloaded and can't get enough of Kids. Maybe I'll just get the whole thing b/c Electric Feel sounds cool too.