Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Line on the Horizon

I have decided to add something to my "bucket list": watch U2 perform live. I don't care where (Madison Square Garden, the steps of a town hall in Croatia, the middle of the Australian outback, a crater on the moon), I just really, really, REALLY want to watch U2 perform live.

A few weeks ago, Bono and the boys were on Letterman for 5 consecutive nights, promoting their new album No Line on the Horizon. They performed selected tracks such as "Magnificent", "Breathe", "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight", and their first single off the CD "Get On Your Boots", plus a couple of old songs like "It's a Beautiful Day". I happened to catch the latter, and for the first time in my life I finally un
derstood people who cry and faint at Michael Jackson concerts, because as Bono crooned, "Teach me now, I know I'm not a hopeless case", I actually found myself choking up.

There's something about U2 and their music that resonates in the recesses of my heart. Or, to borrow from "Moment of Surrender" (Track 3 of No Line on the Horizon), they speak
"To the rhythm of my soul/To the rhythm of my consciousness".
For the past 2 weeks, every single day at work, I have been listening to No Line on the Horizon non-stop, and I still can't get enough of it. I have a hard time picking a favorite among the 11 superb songs mostly penned by Bono and arranged by U2 and producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but the lovely, melancholic "Moment of Surrender" stands out for me, as well as the more pop-sounding "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" (Track 5). The latter has some fun, memorable lyrics:
There's a part of me in chaos that's quiet
And there's a part of you that wants me to riot
Everybody needs to cry or needs to spit
Every sweet-tooth needs just a little hit
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot
How can you stand next to the truth and not see it
I also like it when The Edge gets a chance to share writing duties with Bono, and in "Magnificent" (Track 2), the lines
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
are, well, magnificent. And from "Cedars of Lebanon" (Track 11), I love the last bit that goes:
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.
"Breathe" (Track 10) is a bit quirky lyrically ("16th of June, Chinese stocks are going up/And I’m coming down with some new Asian virus/Ju Ju man, Ju Ju man/Doc says you’re fine, or dying...") but the musical arrangement allows Bono's vocals to do some awesome, age-defying acrobatics, and The Edge gets to do some bitchin' guitar work. My brother, who's the biggest U2 fan I know, recommends listening to this album using quality headphones in order to get a full appreciation of the gorgeous depth of U2's sound. I tend to focus more on the lyrics myself, but when I made a conscious effort to pay attention to the music, I could sift through the many layers and make out Larry Mullen Jr.'s drums, Adam Clayton's bass (exceptional in "Magnificent", especially), and The Edge's keyboards and always amazing guitar. And everything-- taken apart and together-- is just so bloody good, I could cry.

I might be just speaking as an enraptured fan, but U2 are undeniable rock gods, and No Line From the Horizon comes as manna from heaven to someone sick of all the emo crap being played on the radio nowadays. From the funky "Get on Your Boots" (Track 6, perhaps the closest thing to a dance track U2 has released), to the tech-trippy "Unknown Caller" (Track 4, featuring such computer jargon like "Force quit and move to trash" and "Restart a
nd reboot yourself") right down to the haunting, half-spoken "Cedars of Lebanon" (its almost meditative tone belying the power of its lyrics), U2 demonstrates how to infuse music with meaning, how to fuse entertainment with enlightenment, and how to make an album that is both rousing and relevant. As Bono sings at the end of "Breathe":
I’ve found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it’s all that I found
My sentiments exactly.


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