05 March 2009

jamming: U2- No Line On The Horizon

1. No Line On The Horizon
2. Magnificent
3. Moment of Surrender
4. Unknown Caller
5. I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
6. Get On Your Boots
7. Stand Up Comedy
8. Fez – Being Born
9. White As Snow
10. Breathe
11. Cedars Of Lebanon

I must say that I am a Rick Rubin fan and a fan of Bono’s less bombastic and more introspective moments. That said, this album, as a whole doesn’t thrill me, though it has some great, maybe even spectacular moments. Apparently back when the band started recording the record, they tapped Rick Rubin, but clashed on matters of style and approach. It seemed like Rubin wanted completed songs brought to the table and further stripped. Bono and Edge like to build songs in the studio. You can’t fault or even argue with them, they’re prolific and certainly know how to make a record. In Rubin’s stead they fell back on Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, and Brian Eno. Nice plan B. As long as I put away any notion of getting the Rubin record that never was out of No Line on The Horizon, it’s actually rather good.

The opener, title track is a good mood setter. My only concern is that after all these years, the kings of the organ-laced chant have had their throne usurped by their apprentices (think specifically: Arcade Fire and Coldplay). It’s a sad thing when that happens.

Magnificent wins the Most-likely-to-wind-up-on-your-local-megachurch’s-worship-playlist Award. That is probably a little too sarcastic, as there are some good bits to that song: “Only love, only love can leave such a mark/But only love, only love can heal such a scar.” The criticism is more commentary on the contemporary church than on U2 though.

I must speak to the couple very bright spots though…
The introspective and indeed vulnerable Moment of Surrender charms me. It is not iPod-commercial-able. It is rich and complicated and likely alludes to drugs or prostitution before a moment of clarity and self-awareness. From the bluesy opening verse:”I tied myself with wire/To let the horses run free/Playing with the fire/Until the fire played with me.” Now that’s great stuff. On the same page with Cohen/Buckley’s Hallelujah or Dylan’s I Believe In You.

Cedars of Lebanon harkens back to the Rattle & Hum biblical musical poetry. White As Snow is beautiful, liturgical, and contemplative. Even if we didn’t have the clear evidence of 42, we could be relatively certain that Bono is a reader of the psalter. As far as arena rockers and Oxfam promos go, I’ll Go Crazy…strikes some chords for me. I enjoy the vocal playfulness and the seemingly unforced message.

I’ll conclude this bit of Bono saturation with a quote I recently saw in Paste magazine. Speaking of a widowed friend who told Bono of his wife’s death by being struck and killed by lightning, Bono soberly replied, “Sometimes God uses f---ked up people like me and sometimes people that have been f---ked.” This keen but brusque spiritual insight has been a staple of Bono’s public life and music career for decades. Notes of this play through on this new album creating an imperfect but nonetheless important monument on the landscape of popular music and culture. We do well to listen to some of the themes and insight in Bono’s lyrics and Edge’s riffs, looking beyond the faults & brokenness and gathering in the hope and truth.

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