U2: No Line On The Horizon: three stars.
There’s something about the release of a U2 album. Not just because the band have almost come to define the idea of a rock behemoth, but because each offering seems to take on a personality of its own and polarise opinion like no other.
You never know what you’re going to get and the anticipation of the long-awaited No Line On The Horizon was full of trepidation. Even with such classics as The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby under their belt, there are many critics who still do not consider U2 an ‘albums band’ as the outcome can be a rather mixed bag. As a huge fan myself, it pains me a little to say that No Line does fall into that category. The title track is a typically solid, anthemic start, with a hint of melancholy – basically the kind of track only Bono and company can pull off. Magnificent follows next, with all the hallmarks, and is one you can see going down a storm at the forthcoming live shows.
So far, so good. Moment Of Surrender is where the chinks in the armour start to appear however, being as insipid as it is uninspired. Unknown Caller fares a lot better, with a chorusline that could also raise the roof on tour and a guitar solo that fits the tune like a glove. After another that fails to light the fire, the misleadingly titled I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, it’s time for the familiar chart-topper Get On Your Boots which, in terms of the album as a whole, stands out as unique from the rest of the bunch.
The anachronistic Stand Up Comedy has a riff reminiscent of the late 60’s/early 70’s guitar sound the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were masters of, creating another welcome departure. Next is Fez – Being Born, which allows for that time-honoured U2 tradition - paying homage to a place where the album was partly recorded. A touching traditional arrangement, with haunting lyrics to boot, make White As Snow one of the highlights of the entire piece, but this is followed by Breathe and Cedars Of Lebanon, both of which promise much but fail to deliver.
Which just about sums things up really. No Line On The Horizon had the potential to be a great album worthy of the amount of studio time that was lavished upon it. A polished effort certainly, but this is arguably their weakest since Pop and, like the latter, is unlikely to attract that many new recruits to the fanbase as others have managed so effortlessly before it.