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The Telegraph FEBRUARY 20, 2009 - by Andrew Perry
U2: NO LINE ON THE HORIZON
No Line On The Horizon is a bold, beautiful and highly speculative re-imagining of U2's music.
Coldplay may have conquered the Grammys a few weeks ago, but the ceremony opened with a warning shot from the world's premier rock band, a dazzling performance by U2 of their comeback single Get On Your Boots which shouted out their return.
Their twelfth studio album is, like its immediate predecessors, less a record than an event, breathtaking in its ambition and its shimmering, mesmerising and sometimes outright volcanic sound.
Within the band's army of production staff, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois were, this time, the key figures, integral to the writing and playing of the music, while Steve Lillywhite streamlined the sound for mass consumption.
Auspiciously, this is the same backroom line-up that made The Unforgettable Fire (1984) and Achtung Baby (1991). Like those, No Line On The Horizon is a bold, beautiful and highly speculative re-imagining of U2's music.
Such a spirit is palpable, as the title track rumbles off, like a space rocket making its awe-inspiring ascent from a launch pad. Against a backdrop of swirling Eno synth, skittering rhythm, and, in the chorus, Pixies-style guitar twanging, Bono sings at an exhilarating stretch, sometimes falsetto, about a mysterious, free-spirited girl.
"She said, 'Time is irrelevant, it's not linear'," he yowls, introducing a recurrent theme of women holding the answers in man's crumbling world.
This track, among others on the album, was written during a group retreat to Fez in Morocco. Bono talks of the city as the crossroads between Western modernism and Eastern tradition - a typically globe-trotting cipher for U2 themselves.
Where Get On Your Boots is all high-tech, "edgy" electronic scuzz, the next track, Stand Up Comedy, kerrangs along on a belting riff, as arcane as Led Zeppelin. On Moment Of Surrender, ancient and modern collide in exquisite, futuristic (and secular) gospel.
Bono, ever maligned for his gestural politics, often writes as a kind of world traveller diarist, whether chronicling a mood-elevating return to Africa (Fez - Being Born) or his jet-lagged laptop activity (Unknown Caller). There's a scrupulous distinction between Bono the poverty-buster, and Bono the rocker - no big messages here, just a mirror on global confusion.
"I don't wanna talk about wars between nations," he sings at one point, adding, with a knowing wink, "Not right now - Hey, Sexy Boots!"
On this form, we should be pleased he's so easily distracted.