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No Line On the Horizon (Deluxe Edition)

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Album Review

A rock & roll open secret: U2 care very much about what other people say about them. Ever since they hit the big time in 1987 with The Joshua Tree, every album is a response to the last — rather, a response to the response, a way to correct the mistakes of the last album: Achtung Baby erased the roots rock experiment Rattle and Hum, All That You Can't Leave Behind straightened out the fumbling Pop, and 2009's No Line on the Horizon is a riposte to the suggestion they played it too safe on 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. After recording two new cuts with Rick Rubin for the '06 compilation U218 and flirting with, U2 reunited with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (here billed as "Danny" for some reason), who not only produced The Joshua Tree but pointed the group toward aural architecture on The Unforgettable Fire. Much like All That You Can't and Atomic Bomb, which were largely recorded with their first producer, Steve Lillywhite, this is a return to the familiar for U2, but where their Lillywhite LPs are characterized by muscle, the Eno/Lanois records are where the band take risks, and so it is here that U2 attempts to recapture that spacy, mysterious atmosphere of The Unforgettable Fire and then take it further. Contrary to the suggestion of the clanking, sputtering first single "Get on Your Boots" — its riffs and "Pump It Up" chant sounding like a cheap mashup stitched together in GarageBand — this isn't a garish, gaudy electro-dalliance in the vein of Pop. Apart from a stilted middle section — "Boots," the hamfisted white-boy funk "Stand Up Comedy," and the not-nearly-as-bad-as-its-title anthem "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"; tellingly, the only three songs here to not bear co-writing credits from Eno and Lanois — No Line on the Horizon is all austere grey tones and midtempo meditation. It's a record that yearns to be intimate but U2 don't do intimate, they only do majestic, or as Bono sings on one of the albums best tracks, they do "Magnificent." Here, as on "No Line on the Horizon" and "Breathe," U2 strike that unmistakable blend of soaring, widescreen sonics and unflinching openhearted emotion that's been their trademark, turning the intimate into something hauntingly universal. These songs resonate deeper and longer than anything on Atomic Bomb, their grandeur almost seeming effortless. It's the rest of the record that illustrates how difficult it is to sound so magnificent. With the exception of that strained middle triptych, the rest of the album is in the vein of "No Line on the Horizon", "Magnificent" and "Breathe," only quieter and unfocused, with its ideas drifting instead of gelling. Too often, the album whispers in a murmur so quiet it's quite easy to ignore — "White as Snow," an adaptation of a traditional folk tune, and "Cedars of Lebanon," its verses not much more than a recitation, simmer so slowly they seem to evaporate — but at least these poorly defined subtleties sustain the hazily melancholy mood of No Line on the Horizon. When U2, Eno, and Lanois push too hard — the ill-begotten techno-speak overload of "Unknown Caller," the sound sculpture of "Fez-Being Born" — the ideas collapse like a pyramid of cards, the confusion amplifying the aimless stretches of the album, turning it into a murky muddle. Upon first listen, No Line on the Horizon seems as if it would be a classic grower, an album that makes sense with repeated spins, but that repetition only makes the album more elusive, revealing not that U2 went into the studio with a dense, complicated blueprint, but rather, they had no plan at all.

Customer Reviews

Fourth masterpiece

Joshua Tree, Achtung, Baby!, All That You Can't Leave Behind... These three albums, aside from some of the cornerstones of U2's sounds, had very little in common (part of what made them great, in my mind) aside from the fact that they were, one and all, cohesive albums; albums of exploration; the whole of each of these albums was by far greater than the sum of its parts. I love the collection of songs on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but I just can't say the same for that album. I can for No Line On the Horizon. Two thoughtful listens, and I can say with supreme confidence that this is U2's fourth masterpiece. "Get On Your Boots," I would argue, is the weakest track on the album - when I first heard it as a single release, my confidence in the Dublinites (and Eno, Lanois, and Lillywhite) was shaken. But I can honestly say now that it fits well in this seamless album. Highlights: "Magnificent," "Unknown Caller," "Fez: Being Born," "White as Snow"


Buy this album now and come to it with open expectations. If you listen expecting something of the previous two albums then you might be a bit disappointed. This is the first album Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois have contributed with as songwriters and it’s taken U2 to new ground. This is most apparent in the latter half of the album, the most apparent song being the Eno programmed and sampled "Fez:Being Born". The first half of the album gives listeners a taste of classic U2 in songs like "Magnificent" which is could easily have been on The Unforgettable Fire, and the Gospel fueled, "Moment of Surrender" which is this decades' "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". The only thing lacking in the new album that's not comparable to previous albums is the quality of the lyrics. This album is far less personal and more abstract and reminiscent of the lyrics from the bands' 90's catalog. What the album lacks lyrically it makes up for in the writing and amount of raw energy both the band and Bono's voice emits throughout the 11 tracks on the album. Bono's voice is as strong as ever and strangely reminiscent of the power he on the Boy/October/War albums. Rejoice! U2 is back!!

No Line On The Horizon

U2 ... thank you for existing.


Formed: 1976 in Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Through a combination of zealous righteousness and post-punk experimentalism, U2 became one of the most popular rock & roll bands in the world -- equally known for their sweeping sound as for their grandiose statements about politics and religion. The Edge provided the group with a signature sound by creating sweeping sonic landscapes with his heavily processed, echoed guitars. Though the Edge's style wasn't conventional, the rhythm section of Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton played the songs...
Full Bio
No Line On the Horizon (Deluxe Edition), U2
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  • $17.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative
  • Released: Mar 03, 2009

Customer Ratings