I sometimes find myself craving for a certain song from U2’s No Line on the Horizon. I rarely get this organic, unexplainable urge to dwell into such odd-funky-cryptic rhythms like the ones entangled in their latest album, still, now I’m obsessively listening to the song that bears its name.
My first encounter with it was Get on Your Boots, and, I must say, I was mainly perplexed by the confusing mixture of tunes, patched and sewn altogether in a manner that seemed to defy any logic or artistic sense. The new release was carrying the signs of a great disappointment and I immediately acknowledged the challenge the guys brought to their fans, but also the comments these new songs would stir up. However, I could not dismiss my favourite band’s new album based on a fade glimpse onto one particular song. So, for the first time in my life, I sat down listening to an entire album not because I simply wanted to hear some music, but because I wanted to understand its intricacies and the contradictions that baffled me in the beginning.
I don’t remember how many times I shuffled through the songs that day. I just browsed aimlessly waiting for a line, a chord, a beat, something that would „speak to me”. And eventually, when all the hope was lost, a little miracle happened. I remember my heart beat going up when I’ve firstly heard Bono’s voice rising from the little chaos they’ve created:
„I was born…to be with you…”
And from that point on, everything started to make sense.
Magnificent is the closest to the classical U2 sound and makes me wonder whether they’ve always had a hidden love note in every album, or I’m simply misinterpreting their lyrics. The tune resembles a peaceful tribute in a humble tone, sharing the wonders of a long and cherished companionship. It could be the verbalization of a true friendship, or a deep passionate declaration of love, or even the overwhelming joy sensed when singing in front of a million people. The true story behind the lines is lost in a fuzzy description and the result is nothing more than a distilled sensation, a state of mind created through simple, well-balanced images and playful notes. The exhilarating feeling pours into your soul like a drug and sets your imagination free. This song is pure emotion and encompasses a wide range of personal experiences, touching people at a deep inner level. It’s one of the things I like most in U2’s songs: creating a powerful feeling, without displaying any additional narrative details that might distract from its main purpose. It somehow reminds me of Starring at the Sun, but that is simply a personal connection.
The next song, Moment of Surrender, made me pull out a piece of paper from my desk and start taking notes. The enthusiastic beat of the album breaks down to a slower pace. A sad hymn emerging from the dullness of everyday life, from the mundane gestures that neither wipe out the pain, nor reveal it. Of course, they have a story behind it, the one of a drug addict losing faith, but, once again, they prove their talent of transposing emotion itself, instead of providing sad stories.
„Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me„
Wisdom prevails once more through U2’s new songs. At first, I was particularly disturbed by the intrusion of modern pop beats among their classical riffs. The sounds of underground clubs, with house and techno accents, crawled the walls into the streets, bursting into hallucinogenic rock’n’roll mixes. It finally struck me that U2 was singing about a new generation, a new man, with new problems, and definitely one whose taste in music did not meet mine. Unknown Caller revealed this to me with a simple, cynical line:
„Restart and re-boot yourself
You’re free to go
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you, enter here, right now„
Suddenly, I was feeling old, outdated. I had been constantly amazed by their ability to adapt to every generation and all the fashionable music genres embraced along the years, better yet, to incorporate new trends into their unique style. Despite all, it never crossed my mind that, at a certain point, time will surpass me, and I would become obsolete.
„And I sat there waiting for me”
Throughout the following songs, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, Get on Your Boots, and Stand Up Comedy, the tone becomes sexy, provocative and even demanding. The band seems to ally with the punks and get that party starting. Still, U2 are not some ordinary buddies, they are the older friends that teach you not to do stupid things. The wisdom is subtle and their message is profound. Encouraging love, respect, and also a light-hearted approach on life, they give a lesson about peace and friendship through powerful examples.
„Out from under your beds
C’mon ye people
Stand up for your love
God is love
And love is evolution’s very best day”
Fez – Being Born reiterates the album’s main themes. The discrete oriental influences, the recurrent motifs, the enigmatic lyrics tell the story of the inspiration and countless efforts involved in art creation. The lyrics are definitely my favourite so far.
„A speeding head, a speeding heart
I’m being born, a bleeding start
The engines roar, blood curling wail
Head first then foot
The heart sets sail”
I will not speak about White as Snow. It’s a sad story that you need to listen.
„If only a heart could be as white as snow.”
The album continues with the moderate optimism from Breathe and ends with Cedars of Lebanon, a long listing of sufferances, weakness, conflicts whispered in an alarming voice.
„Spent the night trying to make a deadline
Squeezing complicated lives into a simple headline”
Overall, the album tackles a variety of new challenges, related to both composition and style, and, I believe, succeeds in providing a fresh view on U2’s well-known subjects: promoting peace, love and friendship; fighting poverty; protesting against war. Most certainly, the album stands on its own, strongly individualized among their older pieces, and it’s far from being a pale copy of what we used to know. The daring experiments created a psychedelic infusion of pop, rock and funk with exotic notes. The inherent slight inconsistency drawn from the obvious intention of exploring as much as possible does not alter the distinguished traits of U2’s new music. Moreover, the repetitions and recurrent fragments amplify its striking impact on their audience.
I suspect they tried to humour a younger public and introduced a more vivid, easy to grasp approach. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, the beats are fast and heart warming. In spite of the light feeling it creates, this album is not a child’s play. One needs time and patience to thoroughly understand its inner mechanism, while it still remains accessible at a higher level. The rhythms are both stirring and fascinating. They simply grow on you, becoming addictive without being the kind of songs that you end up liking just because you’ve heard it over and over. They just creep open into your soul and linger there until you can feel them truly. Each time you listen, new discoveries are revealed and your perception passes onto a new state of awareness.
Undoubtedly, U2 has lost some of the fans who were delighted by their classical beats. I’m also confident that they gain a few, not many, but important. One thing is for sure, the band has evolved to a new level, and those who can’t chew on this album are simply stuck in a moment…