March 21, 2009

No Line on the Horizon: Anatomy of an Album Review


I went to great lengths to not hear U2's No Line on the Horizon until it was officially released on March 3. Believe it or not, I resisted temptation and my first listen was at about 9pm on March 2 (it was already March 3 on the East Coast and the album was available on AmazonMP3). The first listen was at a low volume and all I did was sit and listen...no notes, no real analysis at all. The next day I listened to it pretty much non-stop. That night I got home from work and listened to it with notepad open with the intention of writing a review. I started with rough notes. I kept listening and listening and listening. I went back and forth on how to review the album. Upon first listen I would have rated it 4 stars (out of 5 if I believed in stars). That next day I started to digest it a little more. I started to hear themes and patterns. I recognized that the song structures were similar to what I'd observed in How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and "Window in the Skies". It started to feel like U2 had created an album for me...or for fanatics. There seem to be lots of hints to other work they'd done going all the way back to Boy. I'm now confident giving it a 5 star review. Here's a quote from The Mad Fishicist [posted without permission]:

"the melodies of unforgettable fire,
the guitars of achtung baby,
the rhythm of pop,
and the sentiment of how to dismantle an atomic bomb got together one night for a few beers,
but got so drunk they couldn't find their keys.

no line on the horizon had them the whole time."


And as a treat, to you few readers who still tune in, I'm including the first notepad text I jotted down on day 2.

1. No Line on the Horizon

wow great opening, feels like a preface to the journey

Verse: my favorite Bono voice register

Chorus – Simplicity

Verse: time is irrelevant…


2. Magnificent

Intro: that’s a meaty chord

Euro dance

Great riff

This will be the live song of the tour!

Very “Until the End of the World”

Edge and Larry rockin us into the chorus

Only Love – Can make such a mark, can heal such a scar

Adam’s challenging himself

I’m air guitaring…I can’t help it in this bridge/solo

I want a djembe a la The Visitor


3. Moment of Surrender

Neat little intro very Achtung Baby

Part "Love is Blindness", part "So Cruel"

Feels like "N + S of the River", might be trying to be the "So Cruel" wherein the drug is the lover.

Bono’s not cheating on the vocals, he’s selling it.

Very theatric

It’s not if I believe in love, if love believes in me…oh believe in me.

Kinda Pink Floyd -> momentary lapse of reason

Understated little solo with piano and Edge taunting us

There’s the Edge…lots of compression, just what the song needs.


4. Unknown Caller
Intro - Feels like "Walk On", birds chirping
Wow, sounds like vocals off of
War

Verse - Back to Achtung Baby
Bridge - Go Shout it Out, Rise Up
Chorus 2 – Restart and Reboot Yourself, nice

French Horn transitioning to Solo – Edge making guitar sing

5. I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

Larry nice beat

Cheesy lyrics? Bono, falsetto trying to do the New Radicals thing?

Chorus kicks – great melody, Edge ripping

Answer to cheesy lyrics “The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear” ironic lyrics?

Background melody in chorus

Strings?

BABY BABY BABY Bridge (Ultraviolet)

Another solo with Pridesqe sounds including the arena sing along anthem.

Adam winding down.


6. Get On Your Boots

Syncronous bass/guitar…bass pulls through

Ah, "The Fly" of 2009.

You don’t know how beautiful you are (You don’t know octave)

Reminds me of CoBL "Oh you look so beautiful tonight, in the city of blinding lights"

1988 sound

Larry working it.

Let me in the Sound…awesome!

Get on your boots, not get your boots on or put on your boots…interesting


7. Stand Up Comedy

DMB rhythm

Two towers

Fall down, stand up

Lyrics had to have come last

Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady

Historical references...do some research

Small man with big ideas, ha!

Humming into the bridge

Solo in the bridge

They think it’s hardcore, with a few changes it would be.


8. FEZ - Being Born

FEZ- great contrast – Let me in the sound…sounds like Great Expectations sndtrk song…look that up. [edit: "Siren" Tori Amos]

Being Born- driving intro…we’re gonna go somewhere in this song.

Layer 2- Holy… elevated (who’s playing piano?)

Verse – brought it back down, but Larry’s still driving us

Adam – nice

African sun

Chorus? Is this a chorus or a bridge? Is there a chorus? Well crafted structured. Here’s a bridge.

10 bucks says Bono wanted to have some anthemic chorus at one point but simplified it.

How would this look live?

Transistions to drop down for next song.


9. White As Snow

This takes me to Ireland or Sarajevo.

Sounds like Sinead could sing this

Good bridge (?) Lanois on steel string?

There’s Bono’s voice.


10. Breathe

Rhythm intro…

Edge + piano

Rough scratch

John Lennon sounding

3 things 3

These days are better than that

Loose electricity

Strong chorus

Can see this being incredible live

Strings

Solo pulls us into a bridge

Chorus is the simple U2 chords we’re used to.


11. Cedars of Lebanon

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s "Love is Blindness"

Intro dissolves

Great percussion

It’s a talkie

Interesting little chorus with the harmony

Return the call to home

Very Eno/Lanois sounding with strings and keys

Abrupt end, brilliant

Feels like "Promenade", but much darker



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