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The new U2 album track by track

8 Comments 26 February 2009

“No Line on the Horizon”
The b-side to Boots, this is the better song of the two and a decent album opener with Bono screaming against a droning wall of sound, and an undercurrent of 50’s sci-fiesque whistling guitar. A great marriage of sound and lyrics as the soundscape opens up with a crash of the symbols and simple piano cords. The momentum building verses on this opening track mirrors the approach on Kings Of Leon’s ‘Knocked Up’, even if this track’s drone’s a bit dirtier. So far, promising…

Which makes you think that U2 had been adhering to the High Fidelity rules of a mix tape, i.e. starting well then taking it up a notch. Magnificent really is the best song on the album by a mile. Opening with a churning deep bass and flourishes of electronica, The Edge comes from left field and opens it up with a wistful solo. Larry Mullen’s drumming machine-guns into every chorus. Old school euphoric U2 but none the worse for it.

“Moment of Surrender”
A gospel hymn with the boys joining Bono in a chorus that’s slightly reminiscent of Stuck in a Moment. The tune is waaaay too long at over seven minutes and despite efforts to relate to us plebs (ATM machines ftw) there’s little on offer here to sustain the interest.

“Unknown Caller”
The lowest point of NLOTH so far. An intro not unlike a few bars of the riff from ‘Walk On’ leads into contrived lyrics and a punctuated chorus that sounds like Bono telegraphed the chorus lyrics to the rest of the lads. Plenty of “Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh” cheap hooks to hide the lack of anything going on here.

“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”
Fairly safe middle of the road stuff, only notable for Bono’s breathless falsetto towards the end of some lines which sounds a bit laughable to be honest. Bog standard pause and key change before the big chorus. Forgettable.

“Get on Your Boots”
Great riff – awful lyrics. This sounds like U2 playing QOTSA whilst Bono sings Homer Simpson’s attempt at updating Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. Sound wise this one packs the punch sorely missing from some of the other tunes in the album but the lyrics really are cringe-worthy. Despite my hatred for chorus’ straight from the Kaiser Chief’s School Of Music* “You don’t know how beautiful you are” is stuck in my head and will be one for the crowd during the tour. The drum solo ‘let me in the sound’ bridge is pretty poor.

“Stand Up Comedy”
Listening to this one make you wonder if this originated in the sessions with Rick Rubin because this sounds like a soft(er) rock approach to Chili Peppers-lite funk. Plenty of struggling for love tokenisms. There’s an interesting echo effect that isn’t explored enough and lyrically it’s refreshing to hear Bono take the piss out of him self with the Napoleon comparison. By and large it’s another dud.

“Fez – Being Born”
AKA the ‘We’ve been abroad with Brian Eno can’t you tell by our sound?’ song. Faint echo of the ‘let me in the sound’ line from “Boots”. Darker and a lot more experimental that what went before it with a fragmented intro that lasts a minute before breaking into a scatter shot drumming and almost sonar-sounding guitar that chimes. About a minute and a half in a more orthodox guitar rhythm comes in. The style of singing sounds detached and the whole thing is very dreamy. But while there is a host of ideas here it never quite comes off as you’d hope, it feels like it is building to something that never comes. It’s still good to see the band at least trying to detach from a typical U2 sound.

“White as Snow”
A haunting piano and organ sounds that pave way for a slow paced repetitive riff that evokes ‘For The First Time’. Horns kick in half way through, heralding a trembling guitar bridge before returning to the original riff but nothing about this resonates. Another average song, the realisation comes that with only 2 tracks to go this is more filler than killer stuff.

Rolling, rollicking drums, crashing symbols and rust sounding strings lead in this one before guitar and piano take over. The singing is rushingtogetothenextword paced before a typically big U2 chorus punctuates the whole thing. The strings and drums return to introduce The Edge’s solo. At this stage, especially after a few listens, I just want to go back to the first two tunes.

“Cedars of Lebanon”
A spoken word dull effort that sums up everything that’s wrong with NLOTH while petering the album out towards its withering end. The chimes in the intro is overwhelmed by the drum and guitar combo. Falsetto vocals in the chorus and by the time the album comes to a close you’ve forgotten this track, along with a few others, already.

The whole thing is too long and not adventurous enough. As I said on Jim Carroll’s blog, at times I can’t shake the feeling that a younger / more audacious band would have fleshed out some of the ideas that are pushed to the background in favour of a typical U2 sound. Even after several listens, ‘No Line On The Horizon’ and the stand out track ‘Magnificent’ are the only two really enjoyable tunes on the whole LP, though “Boots” and “Crazy Tonight” are the type of songs to ignite a crowd regardless of their obvious flaws. At 55 minutes or so 11 tracks have to be good to sustain the interest and there just not enough ideas here to do that, U2 resort to too many cheap hooks. The ‘whoa’ count on this one is something else and there’s nothing much that packs a punch or makes any kind of lasting impression. Overall it is a disappointment and will soon be forgotten once the rabid hype dies down. The title of this album suggests that this band will continue ad infinitum, but lets hope that their journey from this point will travel the less-traveled path.

*Lesson 1 from the Kaiser Chiefs School Of Music: An easy and economical way to write a catchy chorus is to just repeat the same line over and over again. Why waste time thinking of new lyrics?
See: – RubyrubryrubyrubyRUBY
– Oh My God I Can’t Believe It,
– I predict a riot, I predict a riot.
Alumni of note include Scouting For Girls of ‘You’re so lovely/Elvis isn’t dead’ fame.


- who has written 132 posts on Guess List.

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8 Comments so far

  1. Wow. I could not respectively disagree more. But it’s completely subjective. Here’s my full review:

  2. Uh, did I say “respectively”? I meant respectfully. 🙂

  3. Had a few listen myself today as well and yours is pretty much along the lines of what I was thinking too.

  4. Drew says:

    what are those two bars on the front of the case? Looks like scratch and win!

  5. Brilliant track! I enjoy listening to it!


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