No Line on the Horizon

Release Date: March 03, 2009
Produced by: Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Stve Lillywhite
Format: CD



Matt Rowe


The U2 albums of the past have some very memorable elements to them that provide us a solid reason to treasure every song found on them.  There is strength in the lyric, the musical composition, and the extraordinary sequencing that paces each album leading up to their less desirable, experimental years (I’ll leave you to decide which albums fall under this category).  Imagine the immeasurable luxuriance and spirituality of The Joshua Tree, the maturity of The Unforgettable Fire, and the shifts of Achtung Baby.  Remember the raw power of the first three (Boy, October, War).  While the latest work is quite good, it possesses none of these features although Fricke, in his Rolling Stone review of No Line on the Horizon, who lavishes an all encompassing ass-kissing to the band, would have you think otherwise with his Five-Star (Classic) assignation, scooting this album alongside those wonderful earlier albums.

U2’s newest album, No Line on the Horizon, arrives five years after the release of their immensely popular How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.  And for the first time in many years, I am fairly impressed with a U2 album.  However, given the times we live in the album concept is a goner, settling instead upon the strengths of individual tunes.  No Line on the Horizon is an assembly of tracks that collectively do not have an album-like cohesion to them.  Rather, it is a collection of songs that can appeal to a wide range of U2 fans on different levels.  Perhaps that is why those in on the production of the album, including Bono, state that this might be their greatest effort.  And for that, it might be so if it appeals to the widest spectrum of U2 fans.  The old ‘something for everyone’ approach certainly can’t do any harm.

The album begins with the title track, “No Line on the Horizon,” a Coldplay-like tune (not a stretch given that Eno/Lanois worked on Coldplay’s last work) that is quite good with its U2/Coldplay hybrid structure.  Admittedly, this tune is more U2 in sound (but who is emulating who).  It is followed by the wonderful “Magnificent” that sounds like a track from the Unforgettable Fire sessions, good enough to have been included on the gracious 4-track EP, Wide Awake in America (here suggested as a musical point of reference).  “Moment of Surrender” is a strong U2 composition with strong Bono vocals, and superb Edge guitars that also bring back remembrance of earlier period U2.  It’s very bluesy (reminiscent of a Gilmour lick) and is likely the greatest, most resilient track on this album.  Fans of the ‘holy trilogy’ of U2 albums (Boy/October/War) will enjoy the album’s fifth track, “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” as it reminds of that venerated period and is another of the stronger tracks, one that could also be a single release.

I love the softly introspective guitar on that opens up “Unknown Caller,” with its hint of the “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” intro, however the song itself is an average one.  No Line on the Horizon was ushered in by the first selected single of the album, “Get on Your Boots,” an Elvis Costello (“Pump it Up”) meets “Vertigo” twist that  seems like a pre-designed formulaic grab for indie fans’ ears.  The remaining four tracks “Fez – Being Born,” “White as Snow,” “Breathe,” and “Cedars of Lebanon,” will have their fans but are easily the poorly sequenced lesser tracks of the album, seemingly pushed to the bottom in order to effectively draw listeners in with the stronger, top-loaded tunes.  These last songs are not bad by any means; they just have less staying power.  To me, they’re less memorable than the earlier track selections.

Having closely listened to each song multiple times, I have to say that No Line on the Horizon is not the band’s masterpiece as some would have you believe.  However, it is a pretty good album even though it feels less like an album that defines a period.  Instead, and as I’ve state earlier, No Line on the Horizon sounds more like a grab bag of U2 styles – find those you like.  With some exceptions, I’ll be surprised if the whole of U2 fandom finds the album to easily slot next to the ‘holy trilogy’ or even The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby.









Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
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212 Frech

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