U2 - No Line On The Horizon
2009. Where The Streets Have No Woolworths. Institutions are crumbling before our very eyes. Empires are collapsing into the sea. Is the biggest show in music since Elvis went AWOL finally ready for the Sunnytimes Retirement Complex? Well let's just say rumours of their demise have been slightly exaggerated. For now.
The First shot (and title track) is promising. It's Caution! Men At Work! stuff. It's like, as rumoured, we're back in Achtung Baby territory - although this is due in part to Larry beating the crap out of those metal machine Autobahn drums and Adam playing The Fly bassline (again). Is that the riff from Mansun's Wide Open Space too?? Who cares, this is heavy duty good. “She said 'time is irrelevant, it's not linear' then she put her tongue in my ear”. It also features some solid “whoa-whoa” bits for all you “whoa-whoa” fans out there.
Forthcoming single Magnificent features some muppet from Black Eyed Peas but worry not there are no humps or lovely lady lumps, more Green-era REM. It's sorta funky and the phrase 'marching band' is appropriate. It's too house trained though, it really should be out chasing rabbits.
Moment Of Surrender rolls like So Cruel and it's clear Eno's now behind the wheel with Reverend Bono preaching over a dubby bassline, “Playing with the fire until the fire played with me”. It's pleasant enough but feels laboured, overly tailored for stadium interaction (oh-ohhhh's included). They've done this pick-me-up (buttercup) thing better on In A Little While or Stay. Unknown Caller also has U2 written all the way through it like a stick of rock, but is drab with Mr. Motivator spinning 'soul as technology' metaphors and was possibly written with U2 Fridge Magnets.
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight is, despite the totally Bon Jovi songtitle, glorious. “Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot”. Amen, Brother. It's fun, dandy and I do a little giddy pirouette to impress a passing stranger. People will actually enjoy this, not just accept it 'because it's U2'. The best pop song on the album, viva le pop fantastique!
What's next? Ooh! The controversial Get On Your Boots!! Musically, it's thrilling - like having a bath with electric eels i.e. It's electrifying and you get to do a dance (Selection = 'freestyle') and everything. It's basically revamping the Only Fools and Horses theme which everyone loves right? BUT...the lyrics are crap. This whole “Sexy Boots” affair sung like some sleazy Dad At The Disco. “Bossy boots...I got a submarine”. Just tragic.
Stand Up Comedy is alright but disturbingly reminds me of Franz Frickin' Ferdinand. The Edge heroically tries to revive interest with a Hendrix buzzsaw and it's frisky enough if a little backward in the grand scheme of things. The lyrics are tighter though, ”Napoleon is in high heels, be careful of small men with big ideas”. Hell yeah!
[At this point a very expensive car pulls into the driveway. Damn! Eno and Lanois return from a grocery run for bread and milk and BOY are they furious! “Sexy boots? High Heels? We're ARTISTS!” they yell]
FEZ-Being Born could've been on Zooropa. It's floaty space music. There's no tune or anything but it sure looks purdy gliding through the stars. Ooh look there's that Fly bassline again! Well done Adam. Shall I get a round in before they play Vertigo?
Maybe Eno's right. White As Snow is beautiful. Really, really, beautiful. THIS is what they should've been doing. It's sad, sweet and hymnal and it feels complete, natural. The lyrics are haunting too, ”My brother and I would drive for hours, like we had years instead of days”. But the album's nearly over I hear you cry! Well best not muck about then.
Breathe, the album's peak, gave me goosebumps. It's fighting music and about bloody time. It's a terribly clichéd word to use with regards U2, but it soars. It ticks like REM's Wake Up Bomb and it's exactly that, an incendiary device. “I'm running down the road like loose electricity, while the band in my head plays a striptease”. A-mazing. Bow your heads, this is the sound of the world's biggest band.
It ends as U2 albums do with a shot of driftwood introspection, Cedars Of Lebanon. Bono's sat in his (giant) lemon orchard like a dying Corleone contemplating his fading empire, “I have your face here in an old polaroid, you're smiling back at me”. It's humbling stuff when you get a glimpse of how good this band can be when they're acting like men not boys. It's a bold step to close on such a dark night, ”Choose your enemies carefully 'cos they will define you”.
If you shoot for the stars you're gonna sometimes fall flat on your face. The most disturbing crimes on this scene are lyrical. “I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine”, “Restart and reboot yourself”, “Speed dialling”. It's only when Bono crouches to the rugrats, he just looks foolish sat at the little table. Stop it, stop it now, 'cos a) you're better than them and b) you'll do your back in.
This is a three act performance;1) Everyone loves Achtung Baby? Let's remake it! Bagsy I'm The Fly!! 2) “No, I can't be arsed let's just try and win some more Grammys, I want one for the shed” 3) “Sorry Dr. Eno you're right F*ck dance, let's Art”. It's bafflingly inconsistent as if constructed by committee pulling the poor thing apart like wild horses in their ongoing conflict between artist and populist.
No Line On The Horizon is still a night at the Opera. When the curtains open everything's strange, new and exciting. Midway you're a little fidgety, itchy and frankly a little bored. Then, somehow, by the end you're in tears, on your feet and you don't want to leave. The final triptych in particular is why people still have faith and why every morning Bono must wake up and thank the Lord he still hasn't lost his Edge.