Mercury Records (label)
03 March 2009 (released)
03 March 2009
U2’s 12th album in nearly 30 years came along with the usual publicity, and not surprisingly, with all songs being web-streamed through myspace. It seemed as if like Paul McCartney, U2 are either aware of the poor sales’ situation or else and unlike Paul McCartney, they somehow have realised that they still have not found what they are looking for.
No Line On The Horizon is indeed quite an appropriate title for U2’s latest endeavour. Recorded in Fez, Morocco and co-produced by Steve Lillywhite, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, the album does retain the cool sonic grazes that characterized their debut album, Achtung! Baby and Zooropa or even All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and despite having three producers, the overall effort is indeed commendable delivering once more, 'the big sound' that U2 have become quite familiar with.
The big problem with U2 is nonetheless the rather poor quality of songwriting that crops up again—this despite having the producers doubling as co-writers. Bono rants again on world injustices, fear of a dead planet though this time, things seem to be less pessimistic and melancholic. Yet, No Line On The Horizon is unfocused and unimpressive until around half way through. The recent single Get On Your Boots is a case in point, --a rather disjointed affair even though it is excellently produced. The sonic effects on Magnificent give the song a special warmth and If I Go Crazy sounds like a reject from The Joshua Tree. The same can be said of Stand Up Comedy, which sounds more like a song from U2’s previous album release. Its self-deprecating verses about rock stars seem to be a reflection of the situation some big names, not least U2 themselves are finding themselves in. Fez-Being Born, on the other hand would have comfortably gelled in The Joshua Tree.
U2 really click and tick on White As Snow and Cedars of Lebanon. Both songs reveal a precociousness that recalls early and present day Bono, in the sense that he brings about the freshness of early U2 as well as more ponderous recollections of a middle aged man in this day and age. The rather downbeat keyboards effects on both songs are fine and great. No Line On The Horizon is a much better effort than its predecessor, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but after five years and despite a neat approach by the producers, U2 are still in need of getting their dynamics right. Let’s hope they do so next time.