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No Line On The Horizon

Keep on Moroccan in the free world

Rating: 8 / 10

Stuart Clark, 26 Feb 2009



It’s a testament to the band’s staying power that a U2 album is still a global news event – as opposed to, say, a Rolling Stones record, which everybody knows is just an excuse to go out on another Greatest Hits tour.

As Bono told Hot Press a couple of years ago, it’s the young guns like Franz Ferdinand and The Killers (not to mention Kings Of Leon and Fleet Foxes) that they’re competing with, rather than dadrockers whose best work is a good 20 or 30 years behind them. Which isn’t to suggest that they’ve fallen into the trap of being middle-aged family men trying – and failing horribly – to sound like they’re down with the kids. Far from it.

No Line On The Horizon is a mature, tender, reflective record of great musical variety, depth and beauty that could only have been made by four people who’ve experienced just about everything that life can throw at you.

Anyone judging the album by ‘Get On Your Boots’, a big funky beast of a song, with Bono hitting notes that a 48-year-old has no right to, will have forgotten how U2 like to tease with their lead singles. The collection’s only other ball-busting, out and out rocker is the title-track, which lives up to the “Buzzcocks meets Bow Wow Wow” billing it’s been given by its author, who mixes metaphysics with mischief-making as he recounts: “She said, ‘Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear’/Then she put her tongue in my ear.”

If that line’s playfully throwaway, on the rest of No Line On The Horizon Bono is as lyrically dexterous as he’s ever been.

“From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise… only love, only love can leave such a mark,” he proclaims on the aptly-titled ‘Magnificent’, an eclectic mix – inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Magnificat, no less – of mournful Roy Orbison guitar, Killers-style synth stabs (this musical magpie lark works both ways, Brandon!) and anthemic flourishes which recall the likes of ‘New Year’s Day’ and ‘Pride’.

You’re still digesting all of that when up pops ‘Moment Of Surrender’, a gospel-flavoured seven-minute epic that rides in on an orchestral wave, and includes such evocative cinematic couplets as: “I was speeding on the subway/Through the stations of the cross/Every eye looking every other way/Counting down ‘til the pain would stop.” If U2 were trying to conjure the same spiritual vibe as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Abraham, Martin, John’ they’ve succeeded. ‘Moment Of Surrender’ is a big, sweeping track in the vein of ‘With Or Without You’ that’s certain to become a U2 classic.

The first reminder that Fez, in Morocco, was the birthplace for much of the album – and that Brian Eno was among the midwives – is provided by the birdsong and looped Arab percussion at the beginning of ‘Unknown Caller’, which also finds Bono giving his falsetto another impressive work out.

Things get even more experimental on ‘Fez – Being Born’, a wonderfully intriguing song of two halves that starts with disembodied voices, FM static and other ambient weirdness before giving way to Edge’s trademark chiming guitar. Unconventional, but it works.

Listeners looking for autobiographical insight, meanwhile, should proceed immediately to the Will.i.am and string section-assisted ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’, a real grower which features such revelatory lines as “There’s a part of me in the chaos that’s quiet/And there’s a part of you that wants me to riot.”


Rating: 8 / 10

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