Next story: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
U2 - No Line on the Horizon
by Rich Wall
No Line on the Horizon
In this moment when everything we thought about popular music, and about the popular music business, is teetering at the edge of a cliff, the one thing the doomsayers can’t deny is the transcendent art of songcraft and its thread through every metamorphosis of every lyrical genre.
On U2’s 12th album, No Line on the Horizon, that songcraft thread is alive and well, and the revolving colors of the music and sound are back to challenge, yet still offer the comfort many have longed for in this era devoid of the next “stadium rock band.”
After trotting the globe on a mission to wipe out starvation and disease in Africa, not to mention the almost two-year Vertigo Tour, the summer of 2006 found U2 lead singer Bono back in the studio with Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen. This time the band attempted a new collaboration with American producer/music documentarian Rick Rubin. When that didn’t pan out, U2 opted to shelve those songs and return to the studio with the production team that has brought them the most success: Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, with Steve Lillywhite—producer of Boy, October, and War—returning for key mixes as well. Eno and Lanois have long been much more than traditional producers in the U2 camp. Consider the Unforgettable Fire recordings in the echoey hallways and dining rooms of Ireland’s Slane Castle: These guys have been more like catalystic collaborators. This time they traveled with U2 for some open-air recording sessions in a Moroccan hotel courtyard, along with more traditional studio work in Dubln, France, London, and New York. On “No Line on the Horizon,” Eno and Lanois even get some songwriting credit, which says a lot about their participation.
The album’s first single—“Get on Your Boots,” a U2 best-of sound collage—is the throw-you-for-a-loop volley which U2 has been known to do previously with Achtung Baby’s “The Fly” and Zooropa’s “Numb.” The additional 10 tracks on the album alternately challenge and calm. Standouts include the sweeping “Magnificent,” which rides an almost Morricone spaghetti Western texture, followed by the soulful “Moment of Surrender.” Challenges to the comfort zone include the almost rock-rap of “Stand Up Comedy” and the closing “Cedars of Lebanon,” featuring a Leonard Cohen-esque spoken-word panorama as seen through the eyes of a Middle East war correspondent. Along with third-person observational themes, these songs continue to ask the ultimate questions of love, spirit, and soul which U2 articulate so succinctly—questions that continue to weigh on many of us.
No Line on the Horizon continues to U2’s album’s-worth-plus work ethic in a singles-obsessed environment. Download, extended digipac, superdelux CD, vinyl, or whatever your pleasure…this album could be worth the minutes on your iPhone clock, in an era where disposable entertainment time is a shrinking commodity.
Review dedicated to the passion of Bruce Moser.blog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n9 (week of Thursday, February 26, 2009) > Left of the Dial > U2 - No Line on the Horizon
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds