No Line on the Horizon - Review
I'm hatching some plot, scheming some scheme" - U2, No Line on the Horizon
In the U2 song Electrical Storm, Bono sings, "You're kept awake, dreaming someone else's dream." He alludes to the recurrent dream theme again in the new album, No Line on the Horizon. However, despite Bono's assertion on the title track that he's "dreaming the same dream," the only part of NLOTH that's repetitive is U2's musical brilliance and ability to remain relevant.
If there is a dream theme in No Line on the Horizon then it's the theme of the dream locale - a place familiar in dream life, yet completely foreign in the waking world. It's a familiar/unfamiliar syzygy. At times the album is almost reminiscent of October era U2. Almost. Almost, because just as soon as the tracks begin feeling like home, as soon as the words, "Hey, I know this," come to mind, the dream familiarity ends and the track slips down an unknown path - "Unknown Caller" being a perfect example. No Line on the Horizon manages to break new ground for the band (check out "Fez Being Born") while simultaneously keeping the faith of U2. NLOTH is part gospel, part machine gun blaring, and part chorale - but no matter what form it takes, it still carries the U2 musical signature fans have come to expect, which, as NLOTH proves, is the stamp of genius.
Some reviews are comparing the album to Achtung Baby or Zooropa. Comparison is the first place many reviewers and fans like to go, however, No Line on the Horizon doesn't lend itself readily to any comparison. "It's like ... but not really" is about as close as one comes to finding words to describe this amazing, bold piece of artistry. Part of the reason the album is so difficult to describe is because of its exquisite, elusive, mystic resonance. It soars, whispers and roars simultaneously. For example, near the end of "Magnificent" Edge's powerful, sea-swelling guitar riffs and Bono's falsetto vocals merge into one instrument - there is no way to sort out where one ends and the other begins.
Even tracks' arrangement keeps the listener on the seat's edge. The experimental, non-linear "Fez Being Born," is followed by "White as Snow," a simple ballad exploring the complexity of war. The catchy title track comes with "Moment of Surrender" biting at its heels, in anything but a playful manner. "Get On Your Boots," the single that strutted the Grammy stage, is followed by "Stand-Up Comedy", where we're told to "Stop leading God across the street like a little old lady." This album that demands to be heard as a whole, not as sound snippets.
For those craving a little more "face time" (ear time?) with Larry, Adam, and Edge, they will be happy to hear that one of the ways in which No Line on the Horizon breaks convention is by having no less than three tracks featuring a full minute of pure music before a peep is heard from Bono. The effect of the focus on the instrumental brilliance of NLOTH is that it gives the album the effect of truly feeling like a collaborative effort. Every member is fully present and fully represented on every track - Larry and Adam may even be at the high point of their careers. Edge is, once again, a force driving the band toward its signature sound. And Bono's vocals, well, they aren't lazy. He's pushed himself to his vocal limit - the result is astounding. But even better than Bono's vocals is the fact that on this collection every member is center stage - everyone's a front man.
In short, No Line on the Horizon can be summed up by quoting Larry from Rattle and Hum, "It's a musical journey" - one that's usually found only in dreams.
No Line on the Horizon - available on CD or MP3 from the Amazon links below:
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