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Lunch » Tags » Music » Reviews » No Line On The Horizon » User review

Mostly Magnificent

  • Mar 12, 2009
Rating:
+3
Pros: "Magnificent," "Stand Up Comedy," "Breathe"

Cons: Studio magic overwhelming at times

The Bottom Line: Please, no more war songs told from the soldier's point of view.

At this point, the praise for any new U2 record being their best since the legendary Achtung Baby album is redundant. It's been done to death. First they released Zooropa, which was their best since Achtung Baby mainly because it couldn't possibly be false. Then U2 released Pop, which was also their best album since Achtung Baby. While Pop did have its moments, it achieved that acclaim mainly because Zooropa was a crappy techno trick CD which set a low standard and is still easily the worst song in the U2 discography. Then came All That You Can't Leave Behind, a return to anthemic stadium rock which caused longtime U2 fans to rejoice. So THAT was their best album since Achtung Baby. Afterward was How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which took All That You Can't Leave Behind and expanded it.

Achtung Baby is the bane of U2 because anything they release afterward probably won't be as good. I myself have called it the best album ever recorded and I stand by that. So I'm not going to sit here and regale you with praise about how U2's newest CD, No Line on the Horizon, is their best since Achtung Baby. In fact, it's the first time since Achtung Baby gave way to Zooropa that I've thought the new U2 album hasn't been as good as the previous one. No Line on the Horizon tries to recreate the experimental U2 of Achtung Baby more than either All That You Can't Leave Behind or How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb did. No Line on the Horizon is certainly more experimental than any of their other albums this decade, it's far superior to both Zooropa and Pop. However, as I always say, original and good are mutually exclusive terms.

Unlike Achtung Baby, which fused the old and new in every song, No Line on the Horizon appears to be picking specific songs to experiment with. There's very apparent use of studio magic in several tracks. Longtime U2 producer Brian Eno seems to be trying to fall back into his U2 groove on the title track and "Magnificent." "No Line on the Horizon" is simply not a good opener. It has way too much of a touched-up sound and Eno's studio touch robs the band of the coarse edge which gives U2 the unique sound which makes them perform in such a sincere fashion. "No Line on the Horizon" is a weak song. U2 falls back into a groove in the second track, "Magnificent," but Eno's studio tools have a bad habit of nearly drowning out Larry Mullen's drums. If it weren't for that, "Magnificent" would probably have a spot among the great U2 anthems with "Pride" and "Gloria." It is a song with a powerful, arcing guitar riff and Bono singing lyrics in a beautiful tribute to the glory of God. It really should have been the first single.

The song U2 did choose for their first single, "Get on Your Boots," is one of the more outrageous experiments U2 has attempted. I had my doubts about No Line on the Horizon after hearing it, but then again I had doubts about How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb after first hearing "Vertigo" too. "Get on Your Boots" had a punk sound which makes it sound like a combination of an older U2 song and something The Clash would try. "Get on Your Boots" is the sixth track and it appears on the most experiment part of the CD, which consists mainly of the songs "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight," "Get on Your Boots," "Stand Up Comedy," and "Fez - Being Born." The best of the bunch is "Stand Up Comedy," which features some of Adam Clayton's best bass work ever. It has a sound which reminded me of Cheap Trick if Cheap Trick were a reggae act. What's more, it's the point on the album in which U2 finally meshes with Brian Eno and Danny Lanois and the old ruffian U2 edge returns and stays consistent. "Fez - Being Born" is definitely the oddest of the bunch. It actually starts out as some kind of weird electronica track and at some points includes a bit of background fuzz. It's a pleasant song which reminded me of the Achtung Baby song "Acrobat."

The title track and "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" are the two worst tracks from the album. I've already touched "No Line on the Horizon" But "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" has that particular brand of happy music which drives you nuts because it sounds so overwhelmingly happy. Production can again be blamed - in this case it's Steve Lillywhite sitting at the switchboard in addition to...... will.i.am! Yeah, the guru from Black Eyed Peas is lending his switchboard talent to a band which is not a good fit for his style. It's every bit as bad as one could expect. And how a hip hop producer could drown out the drums is a mystery. Maybe he mistook Mullen for a beatbox.

The other Steve Lillywhile song, however, is the spectacular "Breathe." But he gets a lot of help in this help from Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen. All four of them play at the top of their games here - especially The Edge, who plays a solo which I never knew he was capable of. will.i.am is not around for this one. The lyrics are occasionally odd and funny and sometimes inspiring and the music contains loud keyboard blares in the hook which sound perfectly in place.

If I'm U2, I end No Line on the Horizon with "Breathe." But as is their usual style, U2 instead ends it on the somber note of "Cedars of Lebanon." This joyful prose, with music which is barely even there, is about a dying soldier. I can actually understand the logic behind ending with it - it just doesn't seem right to place another song after it, especially an uplifting one. It's a very good song, but it's just sad. "White as Snow" is another sad song which is very good and uses a french song. The other sad songs are "Moment of Surrender" and "Unknown Caller" which are good but not great because they both run too long - the former is over seven minutes long and the latter clocks in over six. There's only so much depression a guy can take, you know? "Moment of Surrender" is about loneliness, which makes it sad for me, having been in that state before. "Unknown Caller" is decent but the layering of The Edge's background vocals become grating after the first three minutes.

The musicianship of the band can't be called into question. U2 is a band of four people who realize they have been given wonderful musical gifts, but at the same time they all know they would be nothing without each other. Every member of the band is both irrelevant and irreplaceable. U2 is a congealed whole of talent which knows it is greater than the sum of its parts. Instrumentally, No Line on the Horizon may be the best album U2 has ever recorded. In its lyrics, Bono seems to be evoking a lot of religious imagery, particularly in "Magnificent." Criticism has been leveled at "Magnificent" because Bono brags about being "born to sing to you." But remembering the U2 frontman's devotion to his Irish Catholicism, I think he is addressing God. There seems to be a distinctly spiritual aura hovering over No Line on the Horizon at many points, especially the last three songs, "White as Snow," "Breathe," and "Cedars of Lebanon."

As a complete album, No Line on the Horizon isn't as good as Achtung Baby. But what is? It isn't as good as How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb either. But No Line on the Horizon is distinctly, purely and unapologetically U2. It may not grow on you quite as quickly as either of the last two, but it lets you grow into it, and the more you listen to it, the more you'll love it. As a complete album, No Line on the Horizon is a very fine bit of music featuring four talented musicians at the very top of their games and playing the coarse, emotional, and sincere music known to the listening public as true U2.

Recommended:
Yes

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More No Line On The Horizon reviews
review by . March 23, 2009
In the seventeen years (and counting) that I have been a fan of U2 I have noticed that all U2 fans do not stand united with regards to the style of music they enjoy to hear from U2. Allow me to elaborate, U2 music can fall into two different categories (and these categories have subtext and layers), rock and roll is the first category and outlandish experimentation is the second category. It is then a safe assumption to claim that there are two different types of U2 fans the ones that prefer straight …
review by . March 05, 2009
posted in Music Matters
Title: No Line On The Horizon  Band: U2  Producer: Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois  Label: Interscope  Parental Advisory: No  If You Can Only Buy One Song Make It: No Line On The Horizon    Unlike most music lovers I'm only an average U2 fan. Oh don't get me wrong: They write great music, but it's not like I've been a loyal fan for their whole career or anything. It's only fairly recently I've gotten into their material, and even then …
review by . March 05, 2009
This new album by U2 has some good songs and some bad ones. My favorite track is the beautiful track "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight". This song is a reminder that everyone needs to cut loose to stay sane in the world today. My other favorite song is "Get On Your Boots". This song pumps me up and really rocks. "Magnificent" is a love song with a good beat. The Edge does a superb job playing the guitar as usual. The title track is very engaging and upbeat. Bono's vocals are very strong …
review by . March 04, 2009
posted in Music Matters
I've been looking forward to the release of U2's latest album since I first listened to their last album, HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB, about five years ago. U2 is one of the few rock bands that is able to make music that is not only good to listen to, but that is full of spiritual and philosophical meaning and I enjoy most everything of theirs that I've heard.    After having purchased the album and listening to it several times, I admit that I'm a bit disappointed by NO …
review by . March 04, 2009
U2 definitely cares what listeners think of their albums--based on listener reactions, the band corrected "Rattle and Hum" with "Achtung Baby" and "Pop" with "All That You Can't Leave Behind." "No Line on the Horizon" corrects the too-close-to-home "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" by leaving home and then setting up on Mars. Accusations that the result is too airy or hollow miss the point: just as "Achtung Baby" arose from the nowhere-bound aggresso-alienation of the Nineties, "No Line on the Horizon" …
review by . March 04, 2009
Standard U2 brilliance.     Way above average cd, compared to the rest of the world, but only slightly above average in U2-land. It's no "Joshua Tree," but that was just amazing kizmit coming together. NLOTH is still a great cd, though I don't see any "stand-outs" right off-- maybe I need to get back after I listen to it a while. It will be interesting to see what floats to the top of popularity. Powerful music - they are just the kings of the music world. Worth a listen.
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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Wiki

No Line On The Horizon, the new studio album from U2, will be released on Tues, March 3, 2009. The band’s 12th studio album calls on the production talents of long-time collaborators Brian Eno and Danny Lanois, with additional production by Steve Lillywhite. The album will be available in 5 different packages.

This version is the standard album CD in a plastic jewel case w /24 page color booklet.
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Details

Label: Interscope Records
Artist: U2
Genre: Pop
Release Date: March 3, 2009
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