Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Three Friends, One Album And U2

I've had a few days off blogging as my good friend - and fellow u2 fan and blogger - came to stay for a few days so we could listen to the new U2 album together for the first time. There was a real glut of U2 appearances in the UK last week both on radio and TV which was a treat, so much after years of so little from our lads! Now the PR focus has moved across the Atlantic and I'm left with the new album for my U2 fix.

Debbi and I were joined by another friend, Dawn who lives close to me yesterday to listen to No Line On The Horizon for the first time. We had all been very good and the only new songs we had heard were No Line On The Horizon, Breathe and Magnificent on their UK TV appearances.

As we listened I wrote down my very first impressions and feelings about the songs and that's what I've put here. I know my opinion will change as I listen to the album more, (and I will write an updated review in a while) but I want to convey what my very first views of the album was, so here goes!

No Line On The Horizon

I'd seen the live performance of this song already on The Culture Show and absolutely loved it on there and I feel the same about the album version. This is exactly how I love U2 to be, it has the passion, rawness and energy reminiscent of Mercy, a song that's a firm fave of mine. Great insistent, almost punkish guitar. Bono's voice a bit raw and rough round the edges, breaking with emotion. When Bono sings this way it touches me deep inside, I love the sheer abandon of it. And the song really rocks.


I'd seen this live too on the BBC rooftop performance, so it was not entirely new to me. Wonderful Edge guitar work, that vintage "waterfall" effect. This for me is the most classically U2 sounding song on the album. At one point Bono's woo hoos blend into Edge's guitar very much as happens With Or Without You. Gorgeous, soaring song.

Moment Of Surrender

Back to Bono's raw singing here, he is in amazing voice on this song. It has a very strong baseline and Edge plays as I've never heard him play before. There's a blanket of sadness hanging over this song. It is very long, maybe too long.

Unknown Caller

The beginning reminds me strongly of Bad. The chorus vocals don't sound like U2, who is singing there? This song doesn't do much for me at all.

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

This song has a strong vocal, think this one will grow on me, not sure at the moment.

Get On Your Boots

I've already written about this in an earlier post so won't write more now.

Stand Up Comedy

I hear touches of The Fly at times here. Quite a rocker, could be great live I think. I found it a bit disjointed, but think it will be a grower.

Fez - Being Born

Strong Moroccan influence, the wailing intro reminds me of the iman calling the faithful to prayer from the minaret. I feel Eno's influence here is very strong. The most experimental song, not sure if it works for me.

White As Snow

This is adapted from a traditional song and that is easy to hear, I like that. Beautiful song, Bono's voice is so wonderful nowadays, rich and full-bodied like a vintage wine, but with a slight roughness to it.


I'd heard this song twice before on the Jo Whiley and Jonathan Ross shows and wasn't that keen on it then. But on listening to it on the album I am warming to it. Think it will be good live and that it will grow on me more.

Cedars Of Lebanon

I feel this song is more of an impression, a narrative than a song. It didn't really do much for me on the first listen.

So there we are, my brief first impressions of the songs on U2's album. Overall thoughts I have are that it is a brave album, it's not instantly commercial, it needs to be worked at and really listened to, it definitely is a grower. It is different to all they have done before, yet frequently there are touches of songs from their past within the new and that just seems right somehow.

It will take me time to get used to Bono writing in the third person, I am so used to him bearing his soul to us lyrically, but here many of the songs are in the third person and that feels different to me. A pall of sadness seems to hang over much of this album.

Edge's guitar work is as fabulous as ever, and we are hearing a lot of new stuff coming from him on this album. As I've mentioned before, Bono's voice here is wonderful! It has a richness, maturity and passion that is captivating.

I am pleased U2 have given us a release like this, after two good but "safe" albums I was wondering whether they had the guts to go out on a limb, were they still willing or able to experiment? This album shows us they still have the balls to be different and to show all the others how it's done. Whether it will be a big hit I'm not sure, maybe it's not commercial enough, but it certainly is a hit on an artistic level.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your first listening imperession. I can relate to much of what you said. For me this album is different, daring, not "safe", yet warm and inviting and full of emotion. When I listen to it, it reminds me of the best things U2 have ever done, but the sum of it is something completely new. And even I, ever the optimist, didn't dare to expect such wonderful new music that makes me once again proud and incredibly happy to be a U2 fan.

  2. Thanks for your review, Sue! This is a truly mesmerizing album. I hadn't expected such great music fom U2 any more, and I'm so happy that the four "old geezers" had it in them. I can't say that I prefer or dislike any particular song, everything is on such a high level that differences are only marginal. U2 have found a new emotional center, and for me NLOTH is a stunning and satisfying journey from start to finish. The way they avoided hackneyed chord progressions, cliché melodies and formulaic songwriting is marvellous - and I'm not easily satisfied in this respect. The album grows with each listening, and there is always something new that you didn`t notice before. I love the unusual strcutures of some of the songs, especially "Fez" with its hypnotic rhythm and welcome departure from the safe verse-chorus pattern. Definitely one of my personal highlights. Or the polyphonic vocal arrangements - those strands of delicately intertwining melodic lines that elevate some choruses to the sublime. Have we heard something like that from U2 before? No. I love "Unknown Caller", it is refreshingly un-U2ish. I must also say that I don't miss the old familiar U2 trademarks. HTDAAB e.g. was U2 by numbers, but NLOTH is inspired and true; the slight U2isms here and there don't bother me, but neither do I need them. The more U2 detach themselves from their past the better they get. Age chases all of us and the time for creating something new and profound runs short. No use for nostalgia and sentimentality.

    I only have one complaint about the album: it is far too short. :-)

  3. I'm so pleased you two love the album, I really enjoyed the review on your site Andy. I feel that pride in U2 as well Chris. The band test us at times, but somehow they always do the right thing in the end and make us glad to be fans of theirs!

    >>Age chases all of us and the time for creating something new and profound runs short. << That's so true Andy, and I thought of the line "Time is irrelevant, it's not linear" when I read that, U2 certainly have shown how relevant they are at this moment in time.

  4. tooka few listens for it to sink in. or for me to sink in. either way it is brilliant and unexpected and going to be a keeper. one question: how did we survive 4+ years? i know i loved WITS but i was alone in that i gather...

  5. We can't wait to see U2 and Bono when they come to the New Jersey area. I found some U2 Tour information over at www.U2TourSchedule.com along with U2 pics, bio info and more. Enjoy.