Quick Review (LP): No Line On The Horizon by U2

U2
No Line On The Horizon
Interscope; 2009

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Magnificent", "Unknown Caller", "I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight", "Cedars of Lebanon”

The sound of a band staying the course.

TRACK NOTES

"No Line On The Horizon"

  • Cool track, and a decent opener.
  • I always cringe at the line "You can hear the universe in her sea shells." I guess because it brings this to mind. Is it supposed to do that?
  • I mean, I know what he’s talking about with the whole sound in the sea shells thing, so, anyways…
  • It’s no "Where The Streets Have No Name" or "A Sort of Homecoming", but its trajectory is at least in that direction. Solid enough, if a bit underwhelming.

"Magnificent"

  • Word is the lyrics are loosely based upon the "Magnificat." Genius.
  • Love the intro. Nice touch, letting it sort of build from something a bit muffled. Gives it that epic feel.
  • Great U2-ish tune, BTW. One of The Edge’s best riffs in a while.
  • The lyrics "Only love can leave such a mark/Only love can leave such a scar" remind me of this and this.
  • "Only love can leave such a mark/Only love unites our hearts." Nice change up in the parallelism there. 

"Moment of Surrender"

  • This one reminds me of something from ATYCLB. Has a soul-pop feel.
  • I think they closed most of the U2 360 shows with this one. It is pretty climactic.
  • The pacing of the song is brilliant. It allows it to unfold like a story.
  • The lyrics are pretty great.
  • "My body’s now a begging bowl
    That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
    To my heart
    To the rhythm of my soul
    To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
    To the rhythm that yearns
    To be released from control"

"Unknown Caller"

  • LOVE this tune. A new U2 classic.
  • I detect some inspiration from Sufjan in the use of a choral style vocal. Compare this to "Chicago."
  • Bono loves to make reference to Jeremiah 33:3. Wonder what it is about that verse?
  • Or is it a Trinity thing? 3 x 3?

"I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight"

  • Say what you will, I like this tune, corny (and, er, picturesque – "Squeeze out sparks of light"???)  lyrics notwithstanding.
  • Sure, it’s the most obvious play for pop culture acceptance here, but it largely succeeds, and I’d rather hear this than 99.9% of the tripe that gets played today.
  • Another great Edge riff here.

"Get On Your Boots"

  • This isn’t as bad as I once thought it was. The initial bass and drums things is a little deceptive.
  • Still, I’m not quite sure how it fits into the rest of the album.
  • I don’t hate it anymore, but it’s still a bit of a skipper.

"Stand Up Comedy"

  • Hey, there’s the "Love, Love, Love" thing! You know, from "Until the End of the World."
  • U2 doesn’t wear cock rock riffage well.
  • Bono’s lyrics are interesting and self-deprecating. Not bad in that department.
  • I particularly like the one about helping God cross the street like an old lady.

"FEZ-Being Born"

  • Not sure what to make of this one. It’s really an instrumental in essence, eh?
  • That being said, I kinda wish U2 would do more stuff like this. Some instrumentals might make their records a little more diverse and ultimately a little more interesting.

"White As Snow"

  • Nice use of "Veni, Veni Emmanuel".
  • Flutters by in a sort of dream.
  • Nice tune, nothing particulary special.

"Breathe"

  • Part of me likes this one, part of me doesn’t.
  • What I like: Bono’s vocal and the general thrust of the song.
  • What I don’t like: the instrumentation, especially the strings and such.
  • I think it actually works as a stripped down rocker, but the dramatic swells are too pompous.

"Cedars of Lebanon"

  • There’s a haze that hangs over this one that I really love.
  • Reminds me of "Mothers of the Disappeared."
  • In fact, it reminds me of combo of "Mothers…" and "Love Is Blindness."
  • One of the band’s most interesting experiments in a while. That backing vocal on the chorus is haunting.
  • Love how it sort of drifts away into nothingness all of the sudden. Totally mortal.

ALBUM NOTES

  • What to make of this one? Went it hit the streets, I was put off by the silly single "Get On Your Boots." I assumed that if that was the best they could muster, the rest of the album must be tripe. (see my old review)
  • Recently, I’ve had a change of heart. The first 5 tracks are all strong, and "Magnificent" and "Unknown Caller" both rank up their with their greatest.
  • Problem is, the last half of the album is somewhat uninspired. Don’t get me wrong, none of it’s BAD, but it’s a bit mediocre on whole, although their are some decent ideas (touched on above).
  • All in all, this is the most "U2-ish" they’ve been since the late 80’s. There are glimmers of what they were able to do in the mid-80’s here, but there’s also a good bit of corniness and over-production.
  • Bottom line though is that the boys still got it. They may not be making classics equal to The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby, but they are still making inspired music that has the ability to transport you to another time and place. And really, that’s all I ask for from Bono & co.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

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Quick Review (LP): October by U2

U2
October
Island; 1981

My Rating: C- (40/100)

Best Tracks: "Gloria", "October", "Tomorrow", "I Threw A Brick Through A Window"

NOTES:
– Some of it feels a bit directionless, though not awful, only as if the band is trying to find its way ahead but not having much success. ("I Threw A Brick…")
– The Edge’s guitar sounds great as always, especially on "Gloria" and "I Threw A Brick…"
– Conceptually at least, it is one of their best – the problem is apparently that Bono lost his lyrics and had to improvise a good bit. Witness "With a Shout (Jerusalem)" which is lyrically woeful.
– "Tomorrow", with its insistent refrain, probably captures the spirit of this album best, and is certainly one of the band’s best early tracks.
– In retrospect, this album fits nicely into early U2’s catalog, forming an interesting arc in terms of theme (Boy – coming of age; October – spiritual longing; War – faced with harsh reality; UF – re-embracing hope in spite of reality).
– "Scarlet" is a perfect example of the meaningless sort of excess that they’d often include in early albums, "passage" pieces that really do nothing for the record as a whole except slow things down and dull the effect.
– All in all, it’s pretty amazing the band was able to recover from such a big sophomore slump.
– Adam Clayton looks RIDICULOUS on the cover. Just sayin.
DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: "Trash, Trampoline, and the Party Girl", "Gloria (live)"

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (2.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Boy by U2

U2
Boy
Island; 1980

My Rating: B+ (79/100)

Best Tracks: “I Will Follow”, “Twilight”, “An Cat Dubh”, “Out of Control”, “Electric Co.”

U2’s debut is both desolate and muscular, with huge doses of the boyish optimism that would send them out of the stratosphere in the years to come. This is their “coming of age” record. Conceptually, it’s one of their best LP’s, and although not well known, it features some of their best early material.

NOTES:
– “I Will Follow” is one of the band’s best opening tracks. Gotta dig the glockenspiel.
– The whole album is shrouded in a sort of dark and unfathomable mist, sort of this unsettling weirdness in the background.
– “Shadows and Tall Trees” reminds me of early Cure.
– “An Cat Dubh” is one of the best things they’ve ever recorded, without a doubt.
– As immediate as the record is, it’s also quite atmospheric and dreamlike (“Another Time…”)
– For me, “Stories for Boys” is the thematic heart of the record.
– The cover is brilliant. Minimalist, but full of wonder and depth.
– Steve Lillywhite’s work with U2 is some of my favorite.
DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” (one of The Edge’s best guitar riffs), “Touch”

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

U2: No Line on the Horizon (2009)

U2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope
My Rating: 50/100
Rock saints fall short…
So by now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father.
Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with
U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the
time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination.
At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more
inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that
really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot
since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has
made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and
“Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately
for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.
TRACKS
1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)
CONCEPT (3.5/5)
CONSISTENCY (3/5)
CONSEQUENCE (4.5/5)
COHESION (4/5)

NoLineU2PromoU2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope

My Rating: 50/100

Rock saints fall short…

By now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father. Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination. At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and “Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.

Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)

TRACKS

1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)

U2: Achtung, Baby (1991)

u2-achtung-babyU2
Achtung, Baby; 1991
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

In the four years between THE JOSHUA TREE and ACHTUNG, BABY, the world around U2 radically changed in a hundred different ways. Corrupt political regimes were falling all over the world, disparate cultures were beginning to converge in a universalist mish-mash, and the old guard of rock and roll was forgotten in favor of fresher, more idealistic sounds. U2 certainly faced the possibility of their own extinction – if it could happen to others, it could certainly happen to them. But like fellow alterna-rock heroes R.E.M., U2 somehow managed to not only find its own place in the music revolution, but to ride said revolution to the top of the charts with another classic album. In fact, ACHTUNG, BABY not only achieves classic status, but manages to capture the international zeitgeist of the early-90’s like no other record, combining sounds as disparate as garage rock, euro-pop, and world electronica into a completely cohesive and romantic aural experience. The collision of worlds – in this case post-modern relativism with a definite hunger for spiritual experience – is once again U2’s thematic recipe for success. ACHTUNG, BABY is doubtless one of the band’s top 3 albums, and in the opinion of this humble reviewer, probably their best.

1. Zoo Station (4/5)
2. Even Better Than The Real Thing (5/5)
3. One (5/5)
4. Until the End of the World (5/5)
5. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (5/5)
6. So Cruel (5/5)
7. The Fly (5/5)
8. Mysterious Ways (5/5)
9. Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World (5/5)
10. Ultra Violet (Light my Way) (5/5)
11. Acrobat (4/5)
12. Love Is Blindness (4/5)

U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)

joshua treeU2
The Joshua Tree; 1987
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

THE JOSHUA TREE (1987) – 10: With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.
TRACKS:
1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)
With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While the atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.

TRACKS:

1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)

U2: War (1983)

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.
TRACKS:
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)

U2_War_album_coverU2
War; 1983
Island Records

My Rating: 9/10

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.

TRACKS:

1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)