U2: No Line on the Horizon

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Aidan Williamson

26th February 2009
At 18:04 GMT

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For a man who has traveled the globe, met world leaders, visited war-torn countries, conversed with people from every walk of life and studied all the great texts, you'd imagine that Bono would be more interesting.

Perhaps there's a reason why confrontational political lyrics remain the domain of aggressive punk and experimental rock, for it is impossible to imagine listening to this album and having your every belief and ideal challenged. It's far too sedate for any of that.

As such, Bono leaves the political commentary (for the most part) on the sidelines, instead concerning himself with pseudo-philosophical musings dealing with the potential for love to cause pain and joy, moments of clarity and themes of living-for-the-moment. "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", despite possessing the kind of self-contradictory song title only considered 'clever' by those still old enough to count their age on their own digits, breaks the sterility with an uplifting, yet cautionary, message chronicling the need for change and succession within the world scene. "The sweetest melody is the one we haven't heard" Bono reinforces, after declaring the imperative to give way to new generations and new ideas.

"Cedars of Lebanon" also adds some weight to the lyrical mix as it charts the work of a war correspondent, attempting to convey the true horror of what they are witnessing to their readership, far removed from the situation. Besides these few examples, most of the tracks follow the girl-->metaphor-->expansion style first exemplified on the title (and opening) track.

Line on the Horizon is the kind of album which could only be declared, with seriousness, as 'edgy' by readers of Q magazine (you know, the ones who hail Katie Melua as the voice of a generation). As with most instances of high-budget arena-rock, the album is severely over-produced, smothering a pillow over anything which could have been considered unique and blanketing it in a sheen of gloss. Any signs of individuality are as difficult to pick from the line-up a rebel during the final scenes of V For Vendetta.

That's not to say that there aren't high points and low points throughout "...Horizon". "Unknown Caller" quickly gathers kudos as it breaks into its "Go, shout it out, rise up... Escape yourself, and gravity" chorus, the group-shouted harmonies deserving of more than a passing interest. Likewise "Fez - Being Born" commences with a compelling, game-changing introductory section which eloquently combines light percussive sounds, distant and raw vocals and the ability to twist itself into new directions without losing the personality of that which has preceded it. Come the closure of the first minute, all such tack is discarded in favour of bringing the rock, but, while not as arresting as the introduction, the remainder of the song does substantiate itself as an impressive composition thanks to its creepy, surrealist tone; note-worthy lead melody lines and rolling snare drum-lines.

Third on the list of achievements is the finale "Cedars of Lebanon", a downbeat, down-tempo dirge punctuated by angelic vocal harmonies. "Magnificent" joins "Fez..." in debuting itself with an ear-grasping first section, flowing with ideas and interest. While sadly this introduction is a tributary for a song which attempts little beyond the average, the first act is enough to render it a highlight.

Lead single "Get On Your Boots" is evidence of how wrong things can go, even under strict-observation of armies of executive onlookers and production assistants. It attempts diversity with its dirty, distorted basslines and drum/vocal breakdowns, yet while it stands out from the rest of the album, it's only in the way that a person with smallpox would be conspicuous within a crowd. Sonic individuality is not enough to recommend a mediocre effort which comes across as a polished, yet inferior version of Queens of the Stone Age's poppiest moments.

So if you can bring to mind two territories marked "Atrocious" and "Compelling", then U2 are chained to the fence which separates them. The chain being manufactured by "Production Industries" and the fence being the solely owned property of "Blandness Incorporated".

Rating:  5 / 10

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