Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Every album U2 has released since the turn of the millennium have touted the album as " a return to the classic sound". As if Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop were So Terrible that the only way U2 could redeem themselves would be to go back and release another The Joshua Tree. I enjoy that their best 21st century work (which is much fewer and far between than their 90s output) is instrumentation that you can imagine from the 1980s but engineering and production techniques that they learned in the 90s.
All that said, No Line On The Horizon could absolutely be the album that followed The Joshua Tree, and that would be great.
I mentioned in the description of All That You Can't Leave Behind that the best intro track U2 has done in the 21st century was "Vertigo", but "City Of Blinding Lights", which I've used as the first track for this reimagined album, is the most "Where The Streets Have No Name" song U2 have created in twenty years. It's not derivative, it just has the same basic structure. And I love it.
There are four different songs that went into the creation of "Fez (Being Born)", and they come together to form a very Unforgettable Fire style song, with the let me hear the sound motif being laid down for a later appearance on the album.
"If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" is the type of 21st century pop rock ballad U2 have been continuously writing. I think this is their greatest success at that attempt. The lyrics are the generic bumper sticker wisdom that Bono has been jotting down since Achtung Baby but it doesn't feel as stilted as it often did on All That You Can't Leave Behind.
I heard a different mix of "Breathe" at some point before No Line On The Horizon came out, and I did Not enjoy it. But they apparently remixed it "80 times" during the album's creation. Well, good work. I much prefer the album version of the song. The guitar and the bass line are all Achtung Baby, the piano is very October, and the vocals are super All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Bono's favorite lyrics from "Miracle Drug" are freedom has the scent / like the top of a newborn baby's head. I think that speaks a lot to why I prefer the music of latter-day U2 to their lyrics. The story behind the song is actually extremely cool, but I didn't know about that until after I finished typing the last sentence. It's about a kid they went to school with who was paraplegic. When doctors discovered a drug that allowed him to move one muscle in his neck, they created a device that attached to his head that allowed him to type. He then became an acclaimed poet. I like the song, but wish it was as cool as the story behind it.
I put a super abbreviated version of "Smile", as I do enjoy one of the verses, but it's mostly just repetitive and cloying. So I've fixed that.
When I did a different version of this album a few years ago, I accidentally included "Standup Comedy" and not "If I Don't Get Crazy" because I'd confused them in my head. It was a happy accident, as I've grown to like the 70s lofi rock style of the chorus.
"Magnificent" is straight up my favorite song from 21st century U2. It was their second single from the album, and I had Loathed "Get On Your Boots", I feared the album was going to be terrible, but then FNX started playing this track, and I was relieved. I adore the fuzzy guitar info, and the lyrics. Yes, they're still self-help bumper stickery, but my first cry / it was a joyful noise totally won me over.
"Original Of The Species" is a nice cool-down song after "Magnificent". If I were to do another pass at editing this album, I would chop this in half, as I love the instrumentation, but the lyrics are totally forgettable.
Similar to "Magnificent", when I heard the intro to "All Because Of You", I was hooked. The lyrics make me laugh. I like the sound of my own voice (we know Bono, we know) / I didn't give anyone else a choice (say more) / an intellectual tor-toise (what?)
"Unknown Caller" could have easily been from The Unforgettable Fire. Its lyrics are not great, but I enjoy the sound of the vocals over the track.
"Neon Lights' just sounds like it was made to bridge "Unknown Caller" to the next track. I enjoy its brevity. I had no idea it was a Kraftwerk cover until I started researching this reimagined album.
"The Hands That Built America" should never have been a single. I imagined it was used well in Gangs Of New York, but I've never had any desire to see it. This is another track that I'd edit further if I were going to redo this album.
The soaring chorus of "Always" is the highlight of the song. Another recut of this album, and this track would just be bridge/chorus/bridge/chorus without the underwhelming verses.
The unexpected duet with Green Day to cover The Skids's "The Saints Are Coming" as well as the folk song "The House Of The Rising Sun" was a song I never knew I wanted. I enjoy the combination of the band, even if it's somewhat surprising to me that Green Days guitars would be the driving force of the song, and not The Edge's.
I mentioned how much I loathed "Get On Your Boots" when it was released as the lead-in single to the album. It's maybe the stupidest song they've recorded. But I've drastically cut it, so that it's mostly a one minute song to bring back the let me hear the sound refrain. And the guitar is fuzzy and great.
The title track, "No Line On The Horizon" has Bono earnestly screeching the lyrics with a little wooooah wooooah wooooah wooooah that makes me smile.
Another contender for "This could have been released on The Unforgettable Fire" is "Moment Of Surrender". The wailing vocals here, make for an interesting tilt to this album, as Bono's voice starts the album in his playful occasional falsetto pop style but it becomes increasingly desperate as the album goes on. He really wants you to listen to his lyrics as the album gets ... not deeper per se ... further.
"Moment Of Surrender" fades perfectly into "White As Snow", a simple, almost country song. But about snow. I'm no expert on country music, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any country song that involve snow, unless they're Christmas covers.
On another album "One Step Closer" could be a closer. But I enjoy that it is the title of the penultimate song.
Choose your enemies carefully, 'cause they will define you /Make them interesting 'cause in some ways they will mind you / They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends /Gonna last with you longer than your friends is a great close to the album. The subdued "Sunday Bloody Sunday" drumbeat in the background, and the sample of Brian Eno and Harold Budd's "Against The Sky" make this a haunting lullaby about war. It would have been an interesting final ever U2 track. They could have gone out, artistically if not commercially, as relevant and fondly remembered as any band could hope for. Unfortunately, they followed this up with the free iTunes album that will be very, very briefly touched on during the final installment of the U2 Reimagined Discography.