All That You Can't Leave Behind


Interscope Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


"Now this is what should have released instead of Pop," an average U2 fan may say after listening to U2's latest release. After Zooropa, U2 made a half-hearted promise to fans that their next album would be more guitar-heavy and more back to their roots. Actually, Pop caught U2 fans so off-guard that many didn't allow the album to sink in. I still say that Pop was a good record, but I, along with many U2 fans, rejoiced after hearing All That You Can't Leave Behind.

U2 is now on a label that nourished the careers of such rebel rousers as Nine Inch Nails, 2Pac and Marilyn Manson. And in a way, U2 strangely fits in Interscope's lineup, because the band is rebelling against the current musical scene by getting back to the basics with All That You Can't Leave Behind. While the title of the album is somewhat of a task to get through, listening to the album is no problem at all.

"Beautiful Day" makes it clear that this is U2 straight outta The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree era. The ringing guitars of The Edge and the crisp playing of Larry Mullen are both evident 30 seconds into the first song. One more thing about U2 is back with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 All That You Can't Leave Behind: optimism. In the swoony ballad, "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," Bono sounds like the romantic schoolboy of lore. He hasn't sounded this unabashedly romantic since "One."

While U2 spends a lot of time looking in the past, musically and lyrically in All That You Can't Leave Behind, they do tweak their sound in the experimental fashion that made Zooropa and Pop worthy additions to their catalog. The bouncy, club-type groove of "Elevation" actually would have fit as a b-side to anything off of Pop.

Fans of old-school U2 may jump the gun and declare All That You Can't Leave Behind a masterpiece. It's a great album, but some songs almost sound too familiar. "Wild Honey" and "Kite" are so-so numbers that are not quite as powerful as some of the other tracks on the album. You almost wish that the band would shake things up a bit and go Achtung on us and make us say, "What the hell are they doing in that song?"

Perhaps my two favorite songs on All That You Can't Leave Behind, "Walk On" and "New York," have the elements that have made U2 a great band, in ALL phases of their career. "Walk On" has Bono's soulful voice pierce through the dense sonic arrangement, however, The Edge does manage to get in a guitar hook that will stay with you while driving to work, while showering, while walking your dog while...argh! it's the hook that won't let go!

And "New York" sounds like Bono is fitting himself to take over as our generation's Sinatra. When he croons, "New York," you can't help but compare, but he injects so much sarcasm and irony into the chorus, you remember that these guys have always had a cheeky sense of humor.

All That You Can't Leave Behind may not be enough to put U2 back at the top of the pop charts again, but judging by the first couple of week's sales, its obvious that the new approach is a welcome approach for fans.

As much as I like All That You Can't Leave Behind, I can't help but feel a tad skeptical. For more than 20 years, U2 have made a policy of not listening to what the critics say or even fans for that matter. Listening to this album, you can't help but wonder if the band did this album to appease the fans. Who knows, the band may have wanted to do something even further left field than Pop. However, the inspired emotion of Bono's lyrics and the freshness of Mullen, Clayton and The Edge's playing should put those doubts to rest.

Either way, I'll still listen to Zooropa and Pop, but I'm damn glad that All That You Can't Leave Behind is now in my CD player.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B-


© 2000 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.