Wednesday, March 04, 2009

'No Line on the Horizon': Initial Thoughts

I've had a couple people already ask me what I think of the new U2 album, "No Line on the Horizon," which came out yesterday. Tonight I listened through it start to finish through the headphones for the first time and had a pen and notepad in hand to jot down thoughts for an eventual review. I will still write that later, but thought I'd just straight copy what I wrote down for now—kinda like live-blogging my listen. (I got the idea from my absolute favorite U2 blogger, whose voice I adore—hers is better than mine, so go read it first.)

Here goes …


"No Line on the Horizon"

—"New Year's Day"

—Could pick out sounds for comparisons, but really, this album doesn't sound like anything else they've done … Takes weird turns … not that great a flow

—Some of the most overtly spiritual lyrics Bono's written, with some of the best results

—Lots of little ticklish sounds beneath the surface … Even on seemingly straightforward songs like "Surrender"

—Bono's lyrics hold the record back a little, overall … Too direct, too literal, can't get lost in the songs

—The MUSIC is outstanding … no boundaries, no rules, no pattern … The most adventurous, complex stuff they've written in a decade … Larry is on fire!

"Moment of Surrender"
—True soul … what they were looking for on "Rattle and Hum"?
—"Stuck in a Moment"

"Unknown Caller"
—The most "U2" riff on the entire album?
—LOVE the multitrack vocals that come out of nowhere on the chorus
—Love the use of digital/Internet terms … not overdone, just right

—"love" = God in many of these songs

—Bono's dealing with being "Bono" on several songs, "Caller" especially: "Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak/Shush now/Oh, oh/Then don't move or say a thing" … picked up later in "Get on Your Boots" and elsewhere

"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
—Title not as bad in context of the song as it seems on paper … Still, what's with always having some sort of long, stupid title on every record this decade?
—"U2" riff and multitracked vocals again here
—"The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear" (smile)
—Nice, easy, comfortable song … not a bad thing on this dense record

—I can't see mass/broad appeal for this record

—Bono is singing his lungs out all through this album, with power and in the upper register … How's he gonna keep this up on tour?

"Get On Your Boots"
—The band does, indeed, go crazy here, on the very next song
—Sounds a little out of place with the rest of the album … everything else isn't nearly as freewheeling
—Sounds even FASTER after rather mid-tempo of first five songs
—"I don't want to talk about the wars between nations": Again, Bono getting away from "Bono"
—"Let me in the sound …": Summary of the record? Need the entry point, similar to the recording process for "Achtung Baby," which is why this line is picked up again in "FEZ," the place where recording on this record began

"Stand Up Comedy"
—Another bad title redeemed
—The "love, love, love …" in the background reminiscent of "Zooropa"
—"Stand up to rock stars/Napoleon is in high heels" (smile)
—There's a memory these particular multitracked vocals evoke I can't quite place

—Casual fans: These middle three songs are for you (not a bad thing)

"FEZ—Being Born"
—Should this have been the album opener?
—By the title, one of the songs I thought I'd like the least, and it's a favorite
—Love the abrupt changes
—Wish there were more lyrics like this on the album

—Ever try taking notes with a VERY curious cat in your lap? Good luck

"White as Snow"
—From the liner notes: "Traditional, arranged by U2 with Brian Eno and Danny Lanois": Must find out more about this
—"The Hands That Built America"
—Loving the guitars here and Bono's vocal delivery … stripped down without melodrama … U2 at its best … What "One Step Closer" tried to be and failed
—"Once I knew there was a love divine/Then came a time I thought it knew me not/Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not/Only the lamb as white as snow": Favorite passage on the album?

—THIS could be an album that adds up to more than the sum of its parts … the opposite of "Atomic Bomb"

—Eno and Lanois: mmm … good

—Right from the beginning feels like it's building to something massive, but doesn't really get there until the very end … could've used more of that earlier
—LOVE Bono's delivery, again … has he ever tried this words-stumbling-over-one-another thing before?
—LOVE Larry's drumming, again
—The entire last verse: Another favorite passage
—The best Lillywhite contribution to the album, certainly
—LOVE that this song is so late in the sequence … U2 has a bad habit of frontloading their albums, especially this decade
—Wish this had closed the album

"Cedars of Lebanon"
—ANOTHER great and different Bono delivery … also reminiscent of "One Step Closer," and, again, better
—"Return the call to home": What is this, Pink Floyd? Don't like that interpretation AT ALL
—What is that person saying low in the mix? Can't make it out
—This song could've been on "Pop" (not a bad thing)
—"Choose your enemies carefully 'cos they will define you/Make them interesting 'cos in some ways they will mind you/They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends/Gonna last with you longer than your friends": Strange passage to close the record … will have to think more on its significance
—Right now, probably my least favorite track, more for the way it leaves me feeling than the song itself … Overall, this feels like a hopeful record, and this leaves things on a bad note
—First album in a while Bono doesn't end with a conversation with God

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