No Line On The Horizon


Interscope, 2009

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Now this is more like it. It only took U2 sixteen years to get it right. As their 12th studio album, No Line On The Horizon completely leaves their last three efforts in the dust. Sure, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb won the Grammy for Album Of The Year, but we all know Green Day really should have won for American Idiot. I must be one of the most patient and forgiving U2 fans around, because when I encouraged my fellow DV staff members to write reviews for Horizon, there weren’t many who took me up on it.

At least I can find some consolation in all the other magazines that have given this album perfect marks. Bono and company are clearly giving it their all this time out, looking age dead in the eye and kicking it squarely in the teeth. There is a pervasive “f-off” spirit all over this record. From blistering rockers like “Get On Your Boots” and “Stand Up Comedy” to the defiant rally-cries of “Unknown Caller” and “Breathe,” there are more exciting and upbeat tracks to be found on this one than on any other U2 release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ace producers Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Steve Lillywhite are back for yet another go-round with the band, and even they seem to have found a few new tricks up their collective sleeves. I’ve always admired how fully U2 devote themselves to crafting the best songs and capturing a distinct vibe for each album. Their newfound creative spark is the most evident on the songs that don’t necessarily sound like anything they’ve ever attempted before -- especially “No Line On The Horizon,” “Magnificent” and “Fez – Being Born.” Slower songs like “White As Snow” and “Cedars Of Lebanon” are a bit awkward and don’t really gel cohesively with the other material, but that is a minor quibble when you consider the strength and power of the album as a whole.

For his part, Bono pushes his vocal as far as it can possibly go on the gospel-tinged “Moment Of Surrender” and the urban-flavored “Breathe,” (which leaves him completely breathless and spent by song’s end). It’s no wonder it took U2 five years to record these eleven complex tracks. The hard work shows and it pays off handsomely. These are not easy songs to sing, let alone to play live. Returning to open-air stadiums is a smart idea, though, because this is one album that demands to be heard outdoors, echoing far-off in the distance.

This material is so dynamic and so unique; I just might have to catch their concert when it comes around. It would be my very first U2 show, though I do wish I could have seen Zoo TV and PopMart in person. Oh well, I guess it’s never too late to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to their reputation as being the best live act in the world.

If other upcoming albums are as good as this one, then 2009 should prove to be a banner year indeed. For the time being, U2, the throne is yours and yours alone.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+



© 2009 Michael R. Smith 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, and is used for informational purposes only.