R.I.P. U2 1978-2009

March 04, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Governor X

Let me start this post by saying I love U2. I'm not the casual music fan who will tell you "I like old U2" because I owned a cassette of The Joshua Tree back in the 80s. No friends, I am a true believer with a collection of B-sides and bootlegs and Bono-glasses who has looked forward to the release of each new U2 CD like Christmas morning. Achtung Baby was the first CD I ever bought, I made it a point to visit the Zoo Station while in Berlin, and yes Virginia, I thought POP was brilliant. That is why it pains me so much to tell you this:

The band I have loved my entire life is dead. Something calling itself U2 released No Line on the Horizon yesterday, but its not the U2 you and I have known and loved for so long.

U2, who once produced an unappreciated masterpiece called Zooropa in a couple of months on a tour bus took five years to give us this disc of pointless recycled rock. The sad track by track rundown:

No Line on the Horizon – The album starts off pretty strong with fresh sounding guitar rock. The fact that this song actually sounds different from U2’s previous work distinguishes it from nearly everything that follows. Only after listening to the album in its entirety can one truly appreciate this fact.

Magnificent – The second track starts off trippy enough and then rips into pretty standard U2 fare. In the end, its good enough to excuse the fact that it could have been written during The Unforgettable Fire sessions.

Moment of Surrender – For the first time in the band’s history, Bono’s voice sounds truly wretched on this track. Vocals aside, I feel there is a solid foundation of a song here, but they certainly didn’t find it. Its sleepy, directionless, and pointlessly long.

Unknown Caller – The ripoffs begin in earnest with a little Where the Streets Have No Name-ish intro. They should have stuck with that because it’s all downhill from here. Bits of lyrical drivel left over from the last two CDs get mixed in with tedious group chanting to produce some sort of deformed Frankenstein of a song. Yes, there are horns and organs too.

I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight – In the city of blinding lights… Oh wait, it’s a “new” song. Yeah right. At least the City of Blinding Lights guitar ripoff sounds good. The lyrics and vocals are the real problem here. If Bono had written these lyrics when he was 15, he would have been ashamed of himself.

Get On Your Boots – The first single off the disc is a mélange of 80’s songs too numerous to list. There’s an individual line here and there that sounds OK, but the end product is too confused and pointless to be worthy of a spot on a U2 CD, much less as the lead single.

Stand Up Comedy – Bono's attempt at rapping may distract you from the fact that the music is nothing more than slower wannabe bluesy versions of Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me and Holy Joe. Truly a dreadful track.

Fez – Being Born – The first part, Fez, is basically Bono saying “let me hear the sound” over some spacey mood music. Being Born gets going with some serious guitar work, moves into Bono pining for something like its 1991, and eventually arrives at a bizarre Low-era Bowie conclusion. I like it, partly because by the end I can’t remember what a waste of time Fez is.

White as Snow – Its no coincidence that when they take a break from stealing their own music, the band can still turn out a gem like this slow ode to a dying soldier. Definitely one of the high points on the album.

Breathe – This song is pretty bad, but to grasp just how bad you needed to see them perform it on Letterman. For the first time ever, they look like an old band going through the motions. Musically it’s no different. They’re just filling out an album here.

Cedars of Lebanon - U2 has always had a little trouble wrapping their albums up, and not surprisingly, No Line is no exception. The title promises something preachy and epic (which U2 can do better than anyone), but instead we get lazy lyrics laid over even lazier drums and guitar.

Did you notice the theme? We've heard almost all of this done better before. That is the ultimate problem with No Line. It isn't the change in direction promised after the half-hearted corporate rock pre-packaged for Grammy voters and the editors at Rolling Stone that made up the previous two discs, All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. At best, it feels like reworked leftovers from those discs that left me with the impression that the band is either out of ideas or simply doesn't care anymore. Four good songs out of eleven isn't going to cut it. I could forgive something experimental that didn't quite work, but I cannot forgive U2 for giving up on themselves and their fans.

May they rest in peace.