INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Inpress MARCH 4, 2009 - by Tom Hawking
U2: NO LINE ON THE HORIZON
There's a famous passage in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas where Hunter S. Thompson traces the death of the '60s. "We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and... you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
Long-time U2 fans who look carefully enough at the band's career can see something similar. The wave crested about halfway through Zooropa, and the water started receding during the middle of Staring At The Sun (specifically, when Bono uttered the immortally dismal couplet, "Referee won't blow the whistle / God is good but will he listen?"). Since then, it's been ever-diminishing returns. So what of this new album?
No Line On The Horizon sees the band returning to the scene of past triumphs - the trademark moody Anton Corbijn shots that adorn the sleeve were taken in Morocco, where the band last decamped to record the video for Mysterious Ways. The locale is referenced in the atmospheric Fez - Being Born, which sounds like it could be an outtake from The Unforgettable Fire. It's that album which this is most reminiscent of - same Eno-crafted, lush production, same delay-laden guitar textures, same largely mid-tempo tunes. White As Snow, as moving and understated a song as Bono has written in years, even recalls A Sort Of Homecoming's post-apocalyptic landscape. When this album's good, it's surprisingly good.
Unfortunately, when it's not, it stinks. Unknown Caller is sabotaged by clunky, "tech-savvy" lyrics ("Force quit and move to trash... restart, reboot yourself"). The verses of lead single Get On Your Boots - notably, the worst song here - sound remarkably like The Escape Club's Wild Wild West, while the chorus proves that Bono should never, ever utter the word "sexy". The presence of the words "additional production by will.i.am" are enough to consign I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight to the shitter (and if they're not, the title of the song seals the deal).
All in all, there's about half a good album here - which seems about all the band are capable of these days.