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February 24, 2009

CD review: No Line on the Horizon by U2

bono, u2, no line on the horizonIf you're a U2 fan, you might read several different reviews of the new album, No Line on the Horizon. But I'll bet none of those other reviews were written in less than an hour.


(The "bam" is the link).

Bono, Edge and crew have put together a pretty adventurous album. It's nowhere near as good as their classic albums from the '80s, but I like it better than the last one, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

I was just surprised they released "Get on Your Boots" as a single. It stinks ...

There are better tracks to release, such as "Magnificent" or the title track.

I read some reviews from papers and blogs in the U.K., and they couldn't stop fawning over No Line on the Horizon. Gimme a break. Yes, listening to this album is refreshing, considering how focused and almost formulaic How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was. But it's not the second coming of the Joshua Tree.

Either way, I think I could really get used to this kind of speed-reviewing. Aside from the pains in my chest (which I chalk up to stress), I think it helped me pick an opinion and go with it. There's a certain ... clarity to it. It's raw. It's unfiltered.

I spoke this morning with a buddy of mine who edits a music magazine, and he said he likes to drive at twice the speed limit while blasting whatever album he's reviewing and yelling his review into a tape recorder. He's my hero.

(AP photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:32 AM | | Comments (24)



Your speed reviewing belongs with the reviews of bars, clubs, restuarants and Broadway shows on openning night. A mighty fair exchange, several months effort give the fewest possible minutes and attention of a reviewer.
I trust in a month or two you will return to review it again.

I've not heard the album proper.

Wikipedia reports that the original sessions were produced by Rick Rubin and are still in the can (intriguing teaser). Also Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois were heavy involved in the song writing as well as producing.

By the way Chris Sligh loves "Get on Your Boots". I think it's promotional video is liability.


I loved Joshua Tree, but really... I wish they would just stop making music now.

Klip, I think a lot of people agree with you. Not the band, though.

GDA, sometimes we've got to make the best of the time we're given.

Sam, huge U2 fan here. Trying to get up to Letterman next week to see them. I agree with you on the "Get on your Boots". Ugggg.....worse than "Discotheque" for a 1st single. This album meanders too much. Although "No line on the horizon", "Breathe", & "I'll go crazy..." are the strongest songs. None are better than standard album cuts. There are no stand alone hits like "Beautiful Day" or "Vertigo" with the last two albums. I understand stadiums in Europe this Summer, then arenas for the states in the Fall.

Do any of you remember being throughly enraptured with any of "their Classic Albums of The 80's" a week before it was released?
As far as I can see there has been no time to get to know the album and have it's virtues unfold with several listennings, rather like pronouncing that a new born wont rise above being average on the day of their birth.

There must be a certain hell continually competing with your past accomplishments, having an audience that acts like Mike Love of The Beach Boys, who was famous for continually telling Brian Wilson with every new song that showed any change or growth, "Don't f**k with the formula".

This is almost like the post about Led Zepplin reuniting and people didn't want them to because they didn't want their frozen image of their seventies past tarnished, like their performing life ended forever with "Coda".

Klip - I hope nobody ever tells you to pack it in because you're not as good as you used to be at something you love doing, like maybe your paramour.

Stop wining, only U2 fans can accurately give correct comments on U2 albums. Since when was U2 in on the prevailing style of music at any time an album was release? none, not in the joshua tree, not in the achtung baby. Once and for all, get this. U2 doesnt do stereo type and easy safe releases, thats a thing for the playing safe bands and artist who cannot afford to experiment. U2 was never a album band, but a concert band. Success of Joshua and Achtung are accidental.

So please, stop wining

Roger, since music is art, there is no "right" or "wrong."

That said, I think you've got some pretty skewed logic. I think the person most suited to reviewing an album is the most neutral. Fans will usually give positive reviews, even when the album doesn't merit it.

sam has a good point. saying that only "U2 fans can accurately gauge the album", is like asking a catholic priest what he thinks the best religion is.

being a dedicated U2 fan doesn't make someone's opinion wrong by any means, but it should be understood that a certain amount of bias comes with it.

as far as the album goes though, i haven't heard anything from it yet, and don't really have high hopes for it. "how to dismantle.." was not good, and the whole faux dance vibe thing they had in the 90's was crap as well. that being said, last year metallica managed to make a decent return to form, so it's not like it's impossible for U2 to do that as well.

(ironically enough, the letter i had to enter into the "field below" was U)

you morons do not know how to listen to music. stand out tracks? you want beautiful day and vertigo over and over again? get some damn musical intelligence. Joshua Tree was their last best record? What? Have yo0u heard of Achtung Baby? You are dumb.

I love the first five songs - reminds me of "Passengers" - kind of ambient, somber, spiritual, and hopeful all in one. I wish they would have kept with that mood and feeling the rest of the album - it feels like a forced change in mood with Get on Your Boots and it just doesn't fit. The songs that follow, in my opinion, don't capture the magic of the first five, though a couple get relatively close. Maybe over time the second half will grow on me (I'm sure it will - I've only listened to the album about 6 times straight through).

All in all, I'm very happy and surprised - they really took a chance here and while they don't hit the "magical" mark all the way through, they sure do with the first half which is very very rare for any artist - it's just with U2 it is almost expected. Atomic Bomb rarely had that magic, All You can Leave Behind had it a little bit more, but No Line has it more than either, in my opinion.

What exactly is "wining" and how do we stop doing it?

I heard the song "Breathe" for the first time this morning and I had the most unusual thought. To me it sounded like a song that Coldplay would perform. I know, alot of people think that Coldplay stole their sound from U2 but I thought "Breathe" sounded like a track that belonged on "Viva La Vida".
As someone who has listened to U2 for 25 of my 31 years alive, I would initially say these songs are not one of their finer efforts. I have only heard "Get On Your Boots", the title track, and "Breathe" but I did not have the same initial reaction that I had to the first time I heard "Vertigo", "Elevation" or "Beautiful Day". Those were songs that I liked instantly. I can tell that if I'm going to like this CD, it is going to be an acquired taste.

I agree 100% with Rock! This album is a very good one and yes, Get Your Boots On should not have been released as a single, but I think they were trying to appeal to the same people that liked Beautiful Day and Vertigo.

What exactly is "wining" and how do we stop doing it?

hmmm, wining may be the act of consuming fermented grape beverages? not sure I WANT to stop that!

i believe they were looking for "whining" "to make a high pitched, plaintiff sound."

This reviewer disagrees

First time I listened to the album I thought the first 4 tracks were very very good a different sound with magnificent melodies from the edge and adam. Crazy is just ok, the rift kinda sounds like a former u2 rift but its still great cause its U2. Boots isnt one of my favorites but it's still listenable if you want to listen straight through. Same with stand up comedy. Then comes Fez its a total different sound but its flows through your mind just as good as one of the first 4 tracks you felt so good about. White as snow is kinda hard to listen to but theres always that one song you have to get use to and then you can understand or feel it. breath ranks above boots and crazy but im still trying to understand it. Now Ive heard bad reviews from my fellow U2 fans about cedars..the last track. The way I feel about my band the greatest band in the world is infinite. if you are a U2 fan you should already know their last tracks are always something a little different. Either it has a strong message a good slow sound...or Johnny Cash. this last song has two outta 3.

Overall the album starts awesome just so you will stay to hear the rest of the message.

This album is one of the boldest U2 has made. If you've noticed how all the music made these days are made to be negative and bring our consciousness down. but bono is telling you otherwise and so thats why I feel as its strong and bold. hes telling us to get up stand up and the strongest weapon is loooooove. haha

U2 have recently made it their MO to release one of the weakest tracks as the first single (Vertigo, Beautiful Day,etc). A u2 album can not be decarled good or bad until you have had a chance to digest it. This writer most likely listened to it once, didn't hear the next "where the streets have no name" and declared it a failure. Get over it. The joshua tree is dead. The band has done some amazing work since that time, but they are not a band to go back and recreate the same formula. If they were, they would be Bon Jovi.

Either you like the album or you don't. Most comparisons to prior work are dubious at best. And the retard who said they shouldn't have made anything after Joshua Tree is a nostalgic idiot. God forbid artists move on and evolve. If they always sounded like Joshua Tree they'd be boring as hell. I like the album, if anyone doesn't, that's cool, that's their opinion. But the way some people flaunt this opinion is retarded. So it doesn't float your boat? Fine. That doesn't automatically make it crap.


I've not heard this album
Most of the albums I have deepest affection for were albums that I had a lukewarm first reaction to but was able to find something new in each listen until it became evident what all it's virtues are, enriching the experience.

I've had albums I played a handful of times when first purchased then filed for a period time and when out of curiosity pulled out played made wonder why I didn't get it and not like it before.

A lot of tracks that made or would have made great singles often made a flashy first impression but ultimately show their weakness over time and frequently don't age well and become tracks that in the long run I often by pass.

I realize when the album is by an act or performer with who you have a past with, that sometime you have to junk preconceptions and treat it like you never heard anything by them before. A though call when you tend to buy recordings on spec precisely because you have that past familiarity.

The longer the period of time that passes between when the recordings are made the more likely they have absorbed and assimilated new or different influences that result in something akin to re-invention or at least catching up with changes in to approach or various aspects of their performance and presentation.

Ergo my issues with the notion of speed-reviewing on the pre-release/day of release of an album, which for a band without the stature of U2, is often the kiss of death for record company promotional support. These days the company likes for the first weeks mega-sales and have small interest if an album may be a consistent seller with modest weekly sells over years like those of someone like Brian Eno.

U2 TV appearance, They are supposed to be on The Late Sow with David Letterman every night this week.


You make some interesting points. A lot of the albums I most admire I came to appreciate over time. But there are plenty of albums I've loved since the first time I heard them. Revolver by the Beatles and A Go-Go by John Scofield/MMW are two that immediately come to mind. As a kid, I rummaged through Pops' record collection, pulled out Revolver, put it on and never stopped loving it. In college, my friend told me about A Go-Go, and I knew right away it was a classic.

If this was U2's first album, or, say, a debut album by a band I'd never heard before, I would say it's a strong first showing. A little bloated and gratuitous for a first album.

This is an album by one of the biggest bands in the history of rock and roll. So it is impossible to judge it without considering their previous albums. I doubt very seriously if "Get Your Boots On" or any of the songs on this album would be hits if they weren't coming from U2.

And don't even get me started on Rolling Stone's review. Pitchfork and the other snarky indie critics have their Animal Collectives and Rolling Stone has its U2s and Bruce Springsteens. Five stars for this? Gimme a break.

Amen Sam. Let's be honest Jan Wenner plays favorites (Jagger, Bowie, Springsteen, U2) with RS' reviews. Even if it is a David Fricke, take the review and subtract 1 1/2 stars across the board.
The album is growing on me, strong, but not a great effort. Whoever compared it too "Passengers" needs their head examined.

Half of your "review" is a review of your review. Stay on topic.

Side bar: Revolver by The Beatles,
Robert Freeman's original graphic (he had designed and photographed the previous five albums for their English release starting with the famous half lit photo used for "With The Beatles) uk / "Meet The Beatles" us) before being replaced by Klaus Voorman's.

Sorry Brian for committing the misdeanor of abandoning the original topic, but it is a blog as Jenn has reminded me on occasion.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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