INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo DECEMBER 2000 - by James McNair
KING ALFRED IN REVERSE
U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind: the tenth studio album produced, once again, by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.
Just days after Robbie Williams boasted that I am the UK charts, it was heart-warming to see a rock band whose average age is 40 beat him - and All Saints - to Number 1. When Beautiful Day crashed the airwaves it smacked of rejuvenation, and expectations for this LP soared. Dissapointing, then, to report that much of ATYCLB is a trifle underwhelming. After listening to it umpteen times, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
As you'd expect, the performances are sparky and committed but, as the lyrics of Elevation and Grace show, there's an impulse to pass off underbaking as spontaneity. The latter track is a richly-textured ballad in the MLK or Running To Stand Still mode, but melodically no one gets real mileage from its simple 12-bar structure. No twirls or skips between her fingertips, croons Bono at one point. Should those nouns be capitalised? Is he referring to choc-bars and crisps?
Wild Honey and In A Little While are far better, the former a harmony-rich strum-along with single potential, the latter pitching camp in Al Green territory. All told, you're left wondering if Bono's world-stage philanthropy cost U2 valuable writing hours.
THE EDGE TALKS TO JAMES MCNAIR
Pipping both Robbie Williams and All Saints. Feel good?
It feels great (guffaws loudly)! This being the year of pop, I'd thought it unlikely that we'd get to Number 1. Maybe people were ready for somw wound-up guitar.
Given that Bono's just convinced congressman Jesse Helms to return $435 million in cancelled Third World debt...
Yeah, not a bad day's work.
...It's difficult to quibble with his humanitarian efforts. Don't they eat into band time, though?
Recently, there's no doubt that they have. Whether that's been a bad thing in th long run is hard to figure out. There were certainly times when it affected the momentum of the album sessions, but it's a strong record and we're happy with it. The person who's had the hardest time is Bono himself, but he thrives under pressure. I'd rather he dissappeared for a few days and came back inspired than hang around the studio like a caged lion.
Peace On Earth seems to express frustration at the current stalemate in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Yes. It's probably the most bitter U2 song ever. Somebody told me they thought it was the exact opposite of Imagine. Bono wrote the lyrics in one sitting the night after the Omagh bombing.
On a lighter note, I heard that when you toured Pop with the giant lemon, Woody Allen described you as that band that comes out of a citrus fruit. What can we expect from this tour?
[Laughing] I think our outsized fruit days are over, but we don't want to do a contrived, back to basics tour, either. It'll still be a production, but with less emphasis on visuals.
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