By Abid Hussain
Album: No Line On The Horizon****
Soon, however, Rick Rubin was replaced by the dream team and long time U2 producers, Steve Lillywhite, Brian Eno and Danny Lanois.
Like a jigsaw puzzle falling in place, the four men and their producers went about working on the album with a new found vigour and passion and flew across continents recording bits and parts of albums at different studios with different ideas, and the eventual result is a resounding triumph of music, albeit with its share of flaws.
Let me in on the sound
Opening strongly with title track, an invigorating bass line runs throughout the song which allows Bono’s vocals to mesh well with chiming guitar work by The Edge.
‘Magnificent’ follows next and it is quite simply, the most glorious of all songs. Edge is absolutely on fire. The guitar virtuoso, known mostly for his minimalist technique, indulges himself with a fine solo towards the end of the song which Bono fittingly ends with verses “Only love can leave such a mark / only love unite our hearts”.
‘Moment of Surrender’ is a seven and a half minute slow burner, rivaling Magnificent as the standout epic from the record. Edge is again in fine form with the rhythm section providing a divine like serenity. Bono belts out some of the most poignant lyrics ever penned by him – “At the moment of surrender / of vision over visibility / I did not notice the passers-by / and they did not notice me” – as the song concludes yet again with a classic Edge guitar solo, restrained yet memorable.
‘Unknown Caller’ is a truly Brian Eno number, opening with different musical instruments layering on each other, as the most melodious track of the album takes shape where Bono speaks about speed dialing, restarting and rebooting and finally, freeing up.
Next three songs are technically the weaker ones on the record, but ‘I’ll Go Crazy Tonight’ (the most catchiest of all and possibly, their next single), ‘Get on Your Boots’ and ‘Stand up Comedy’ all have major potential to be the next stadium hit during tours.
This is followed by the last phase of the album where the four men from north side of Dublin combine to stitch together songs which speak of the willingness to experiment and expand their horizons. Bono’s ode to a dying solider in Afghanistan, ‘White as Snow’ is an evocative number which has an eerie quality to it. It stand out among rest of the songs.
‘Breathe’, the penultimate song on the album is the most ambiguous one. With heavy guitar riffs to start off strongly, Bono joins in with yet another set of nonsensical lyrics where he talks about ju-ju men and cockatoos. This song, besides ‘I’ll Go Crazy Tonight’, is going to have the most divisive effect on audience who will either love it, or hate it. However, credit must be given to real flourishing guitar work from The Edge.
‘Cedars of Lebanon’ follows in footsteps of ‘White Snow’ as Bono dons the cap of a war weary journalist reporting from Middle East. As the song develops in a brilliant monologue, it is backed by some truly haunting bass line throughout the song which ends with an advice from Bono, ‘Choose your enemies carefully / ‘cos they will define you’. Quite relevant, if one may say in accordance with current times.
After giving the album a repeated listen, it seems that despite having some epic anthems in the mould of U2 of old, this album cannot necessarily be touted as the third of the U2 masterpieces, behind The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Maybe the closest thing – but it seems evident that despite the band striving really hard to experiment and move away from their comfort zone, there seems a slight bit of restraint.
Without a doubt, No Line On The Horizon is not a typical U2 album with straightforward rock numbers which are easy on ears and catchy enough to sing incessantly. This one is more of a grower and will slowly draw the listener in, weaving its magic. There are songs which will leave people puzzled and scratching their head. But what is obvious is that U2 certainly moved away from their tried and tested formula they applied on their two records released earlier this decade.
No Line on the Horizon remains among the most melodious yet experimental of U2 albums, with Edge in absolutely stunning form with his atmospheric guitar work and able support by Adam Clayton’s booming bass and Larry Mullen’s drumming. However, some of the lyrics fall flat slightly, which is rather unexpected, given Bono’s prolific lyric writing abilities as witnessed in past.
In the end, the thirst hasn’t been quenched the way one expected after waiting for five long years, yet No Line on the Horizon delivers just enough for one to eagerly look forward where U2 will go from here.
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