Dublin’s finest astronauts almost find "The Right Stuff"
March 8, 2009
You can sometimes forget that Bono is the lead singer of one of the world’s biggest bands. Saving the world from itself you would think would be a full-time job, but somehow he has found the time to make an album with his three buddies from Dublin: “No Line On The Horizon.”
While Bono clearly fancies himself the voice of a generation, the album’s true joy comes from The Edge’s guitar. “No Line On The Horizon” sees the band further bridging the gap between rock and dance, a foray that started with “Pop” and has seen them pick up new legions of fans while shaking off a few of the old stalwarts who would rather remember Bono waving a flag at Red Rocks and not as the cartoon character he has seemed to adopt on stage these days.
Through all of this the band has found a way to remain relevant over a 30-year career and while they occasionally can make you grimace they will always make you prick up your ears to take a listen. Case-en-point is the album’s second track, “Magnificent,” which is a monster of a song that you could rank as one the best in a catalog full of great music.
The guitar work by Edge is as transcendent as any I’ve ever heard and the song makes you actually believe the world is a better place with U2 in it. Clayton (bass) and Mullen (drums) have never been so tight and they allow Bono’s soaring vocals and Edge’s ethereal guitar to travel from the murky soil of the Mississippi to the farthest reaches of outer space on a tether line.
After hearing the first five tracks I actually began to believe that this album might just be as good as “Achtung Baby” but then the song “Get On Your Boots” started and that grimacing began again. It just reeks of “single” and when I recently heard it playing during a TV commercial my worst fears were confirmed.
Whereas the first five tracks all flowed seamlessly as if they were just one long song, this one just sticks out like a incredibly mangled thumb. This song and the next one, “Stand Up Comedy” (aptly titled because it bombs) are both rather forgettable for a few reasons but mainly because it sounds as though the band wants to really rock out and that’s just not their strength these days.
Instead the band sounds best when they make music that I would describe as “world-dance-rock-pop” or “wodrop” for those of you that like things shortened into clever little acronyms. Thankfully the rest of the album is just this.
As I stated before Edge is the album’s one true standout. His sound has become so recognizable and for good reason. More than anyone in U2 I believe it’s him who has been able to forge the band’s new direction and give it the sustainability that so many other bands have been unable to achieve.
Overall “No Line On The Horizon” is a noble effort from a band that whether you like or dislike should above all else be respected. I’m just not sure if Bono should quit his day job ” you know, the one where he flies around the world using his voice to solve the world’s problems. Wait, maybe that’s his night job.