Okay, it really is too late at night to start an entire track by track review of U2's new album, No Line On the Horizon, but I want to put in at least a few words just to mark the occasion. New albums from that band are rare these days. It's been four and a half years since How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, making this the largest gap between albums they've ever had, and the question is, was it worth the wait? I am pleased, ecstatic, relieved and I hate to say it, slightly surprised, to say ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY! No Line On the Horizon is U2's fifth, count 'em, FIFTH complete reincarnation as a band. This is a rare mainstream band that is completely fearless in their endless pursuits to change themselves and pull the rug from under the feet of their audience. From the opening moments of the track one, this album wraps your mind and your heart in its guitar strings and it never lets go.
I was fortunate enough to rip a pitch-perfect quality version of this album from LimeWire, a whopping twelve days before it's set to release in the U.S. I didn't steal it because I didn't want to pay for it, I stole it because I've just been waiting too damn long. It was April of 2005 that I first heard Bono talk about the next album and announce that it should be out by the end of the year. They just love to mess with us! Now, nearly four years later, it's here! And I cannot be happier with the results.
I don't pretend to be a music expert. I pretend all the time to be a film expert, but I don't pretend to be a music expert. I know what I like though. I like daring bands, I like unpredictable bands, I like bands with meaning, with heart, and with variety. And U2 embodies all of those qualities far better than any other.
I haven't decided where to rank this in their overall album catalogue. It could be their best album yet, it could be their fifth best. I'm still thinking about it. I don't listen to a whole lot of new music these days, but from what I've heard, it's a done deal. This is the best album of at least the last several years. Period. From the rousing opening of the title track, to the Heavenly stadium-like anthem of "Magnificent," to the heartwrenching vocals and incredibly engrossing baseline of "Moment of Surrender," to the perplexing mysterious majesty of "Unknown Caller." to the good-natured starry-eyed whimsy of "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" (my favorite song title ever), even the punchy groove of "Get On Your Boots" and "Stand Up Comedy." I trashed "Boots," the first single, a couple weeks ago, but in the context of the album, it makes much more sense. And "Comedy" has been trashed as the weakest song on the album, but I fucking LOVE IT! It gives you an extraordinary burst of energy and (like most of the album) is completely unlike anything U2 have done before. Then "FEZ-Being Born" is just, words can't describe it. It's like a dream. I don't know how they will ever perform that song live. It's too good. Like "Exit" from The Joshua Tree album, they probably shouldn't ever perform it live. The album finally calms down for "White As Snow" which started out as one of my least favorite tracks on the album and after several listenings, it's almost as if the song has cast a spell on me. There's so much to it that I didn't notice. "Breathe" is classic U2 at their U2est. And "Cedars of Lebanon" has Bono giving some of his most gut-wrenching singing delivery since The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack. Every member of U2 does some of their best work ever. Bono at 48 years old delivers some of the greatest singing performances of the entire life of this band! He pours his heart into these songs.
Okay, I really got carried away, and that's probably good. The album is simply amazing. Yes, it is on par with Pop, far and away their most underrated album, and once I'm able to really penetrate it and get through it's endless complexities, it could end up being in the league of Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree. But actually, I think I should backtrack here. It's not about which album is the best. Almost all of their albums are supremely unique in every way. Zooropa isn't my favorite album of theirs, but I can't imagine a U2 without songs like "Lemon" and "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" in their repertoire. The question is, does this album shatter any argument that U2 are no longer musically relevant? And the answer is an unflinching "yes." Does this album explore new areas that none of their previous albums have covered and does it do so successfully? Yes. Will I listen to it again as often as I do their other albums? Yes.
I can't wait to see what the Concert Tour is going to be like.