U2's No Line on the Horizon delivers some surprises
The wait is finally over and with the official release of the new single Get on Your Boots, fans of home-grown superstars U2 are finally able to get their teeth into the new album. But does this much-anticipated effort from the lads deliver? Danielle Cahill finds out.
Between listening to Bono speak about poverty on the global stage and hearing tales of whose house was given what kind of planning permission in south county Dublin you could almost be forgiven for forgetting what it is that U2 do best. But, with their 12th studio album, the boys from da north side get back to basics with their strongest offering in years.
No Line on the Horizon delivers a range of sounds you wouldn't normally associate with one of the biggest stadium rock groups in the world. Throw in a brief homage to 70s rock, a hint of folk music, a touch of otherworldly tones and add some of the longest tracks the band have ever released and what you end up with is an interesting mix of electic sounds that promises to dominate radio airplay in the coming months.
The album's title track is, according to Bono, one of the fastest songs they have recorded and it's a great mix of strong guitar sounds and electro pop and haunting lyrics. Magnificent is a lot rockier and sounds like what you would expect of a U2 song. Though few acts could get away with lines such as "I was born to sing for you".
Despite its length, one of the stand out tracks for me is easily Moment of Surrender. At more than seven minutes this song shows the band at their best with Bono delivering strong vocals backed up by great guitar work and a real earthy sound. The almost biblical lyrics though, could send many rock fans running in the other direction what with all the talk of stations of the cross and souls. The first time I heard this track I wasn't overly impressed, but of all the songs on the album, it is the one that my mind replays over and over again.
Oddly the two longest tracks are back-to-back on the album with Surrender being followed by the six-minute epic that is Unknown Caller. There are some decent guitar sounds on this one and the lyrics are an interesting play on the importance of technology in day-to-day living. "Force quit, move to trash" are the kind of words you don't really expect on a rock album.
I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight will be all over the radio and no doubt become a popular ring tone too as it sees the band return to the rock and roll sound we've all long associated with them. With will.i.am playing keyboards and lyrics such as "every generation gets a chance to change the world" blending smoothly with the kind of guitar sounds that will keep everyone happy.
Stand Up Comedy sounds like a throwback to 70s rock that come across as a mixture of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Music fans should get a kick out of the self-deprecating lyrics like "stand up to rock stars/ Napoleon in high heels", with Bono singing "be careful of small men with big ideas".
Mixed by producer Brian Eno, Fez-Being Born is a real departure for the band and it begins with a long musical intro that combines an electronic sound with an otherworldly quality which then blends into a more traditional rock track - all together it puts the listener in another place. The track was recorded in Morocco and the rich array of unusual sounds is daring for a band that is clearly hoping for world domination with this album.
Video: Get On Your Boots
White as Snow sounds folksy and with lyrics rich in themes such as sowing seeds and finding a land as white as snow, this is one song that you wouldn't expect from U2.
The last track, Cedars of Lebanon takes music fans on a brief tour of conflict in the Middle East as seen by a war correspondent. "Choose your enemies carefully because they will define you," Bono sings in the most political track on the album. It's a haunting song with a rich narrative that is well worth a second and third listen.
Given the long gestation period of this album, its accidental though short-lived online bootleg release, the final product has a lot riding on it. No doubt fans will mull over its textured sounds and lyrics for months to come and the band have been kind enough to offer five separate formats for music lovers to appreciate. It's not just another album, it's a multi-faceted offering from a band who are smart enough to understand that every brand needs options. Whatever listening option you choose, this is one album you will playing over and over again.
No Line on the Horizon is released Monday 2 March. Get on Your Boots is out now.