After hearing the live BBC gig at which granted only two new songs off this were played I happened to be in Tescos on Saturday getting the ingredients for one of my legendary Chinese banquets (Well they are legendary in the family :-)) and I passed the CD rack and saw the new U2 and thought I’d get it.
Now I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Bono, Edge and the other two guys over the years. I thought War was a brilliant album and was the first U2 I bought, Sunday Bloody Sunday is just brilliant off that album. Whilst others had highlights like Pride (In the Name of Love) off Unforgivable Fire they weren’t that memorable as entire collections. Then came The Joshua Tree which is for me one of the best albums of the 80s and a stunning piece of work, there are so many great great tunes on that one. Rattle & Hum… oh dear, too long not enough good stuff. Then the whole Achtung Baby and following albums all left me cold, I just didn’t get it and I thought U2 and I would probably never cross paths again. Then came All That You Can’t Leave Behind and on that the stunning Beautiful Day but also Elevation was great U2 pop at its best and on the whole a good album that got me back into them. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb continued in the same vein I thought with The Edge back on great form and with a sound nearer to his classic Explorer fuelled, Delay indulged AC30 bark. Vertigo, Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own, All Because of You were stand out tracks for me and it’s still a reasonably frequent dip into on the MP3 player.
Amazingly it’s been 5 years since that came out before No Line on the Horizon. I have seen one review in a guitar magazine giving it only 2 stars and blaming the over production by Brian Eno for swamping the soundscape. Well this is a different sounding album to both the two previous efforts and is more towards Unforgettable Fire in sound and production terms but I still think the songs come through well and it got some of the bite the band returned to in the last two outings and there are hints at The Joshua Tree no doubt due to Daniel Lanois being involved again.
There are a good deal of good tracks on this album and at least one totally classic U2 song. The opener – No Line on the Horizon is a good opening track and captures the feel for the rest. Track two – Magnificent, is just that! U2 classic song alert!! This really is right up there with the classics from The Joshua Tree era, great song, great sound and production… Brilliant. To continue then… Other tracks worthy of note include Unknown Caller which has some odd but intriguing lyrics. Get on your Boots is the obvious first single and again U2 pop song par excellence. Fez – being born is a very atmospheric track, I don’t know if intended but I’m transported to Northern Africa whilst listening to it. Breathe and the brilliant Cedars of Lebanon finish off the album and so far whenever I’ve listened to it I’m left wanting more – surely a good sign of a good album.
So a definitely recommended stamp from me. In terms of U2 albums with Joshua Tree clearly getting all five stars I’d give this a 3 and a half just behind the last two and War.
Before we leave here though consider. U2 released Boy in October 198. I was still at school having just turned 18. I’d not started dating Mrs F. Margaret Thatcher was a relatively new PM. Britain still had a coal industry, a steel industry, a manufacturing base, my Dad still worked in a dockyard. Brezhnev was still leader of the Soviet Union! There was still a Soviet Union, an Iron Curtain and a cold war. Jimmy Carter was USA President, we had yet to see Reagan in that post. That was 28 years and some months ago, that is a lifetime ago. The fact that U2 are still churning out good albums is credit to them, the fact that they are all over the media when they do so is frankly incredible. Then think on, Radio One clamour to get them to do a live session and interviews, they are as relevant to the mass pop market today as they were in the 1980s. Whatever you think of them or their music that is one incredible career and position to be in. U2 best band on the planet? Tricky to say – but consider will Chris Martin and Coldplay for example still be the toast of the town in a similar way in another 20 plus years? Red Hot Chilli Peppers may have the track record regarding the same level of interest and relevance but given they appear to be defunkt given recent interviews saying "... on hiatus with absolutely no plans to do anything together at all in the future".