U2 Tone Down The Tempo

Feb 18th, 2009 // 18 Comments

TITLE: No Line On The Horizon
WEB DEBUT: Feb. 18, 2009
RELEASE DATE (U.S.): March 3, 2009

ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: The 12th studio album from Ireland’s biggest rock export is another Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois collaboration, and perhaps to be in tune with the more somber end-of-the-decade mood, it’s a slightly grayer take on the band’s big-epic-everything sound, with the tempos generally staying in the “mid” range. The real mix of “No Line On The Horizon” is a little more plodding than the version that serves as the B-side to lead single “Get On Your Boots”, while the one-two jab that follows, “Magnificent” and “Moment Of Surrender,” seems to be Bono’s attempt to show that he crate-digs at Dublin record shops for mid-’90s dance 12-inches. Those two tracks amount to nearly 13 minutes of Horizon‘s 53-minute running time, and perhaps they would have served the rest of the record better if they’d been placed later on the album. Because of that slow start, and the U2-on-33 feeling that pervades the songs that follow, it’s hard not to listen to Horizon feeling that this album was recorded while everyone was kinda distracted (perhaps by the problems plaguing every corner of the globe?). I guess that makes it in tune with the times—who knows, perhaps this album was actually designed to be listened to on shuffle with the rest of a listener’s record collection while multitasking.

THE BEST TRACK: Aside from the alternate mix of the title track? OK, OK—”Stand Up Comedy” will probably sound great on the radio, thanks to a siren-call guitar solo, a gasping-Bono vocal line, and ridiculous Messiah-complex lyrics (including a line about “helping God across the road like a little old lady”!).


  1. dyfl

    Yeah, I am listening now. I am a big U2 fan. I am not a big U2 fan right now. Sigh.

  2. Anonymous

    I’m assuming you don’t agree with the 5-star Rolling Stone rating?

  3. Maura Johnston

    @2ironic4u: baaahhahaaha

  4. Dick Laurent is dead.

    Finally, a U2 album with artwork as bland and uninspired as the music inside!

  5. Lucas Jensen

    @dyfl: It’s perhaps their Around The Sun. Not a good thing. I like it better than that because at least the production is decent. Thing is, I always like U2′s slow songs. Not so much here.

  6. Anonymous

    @Maura Johnston: I’m sure their next record will be a “return to form” or whatever and RS will play the “No Line On The Horizon was weak but U2 is back to rocking!” card.

  7. Maura Johnston

    @Lucas Jensen: OUCH

  8. Chris Molanphy

    @2ironic4u: Thx, you beat me to it.

  9. Moff

    You guys are weird. I mean, I know this was a one-listen verdict, but “Stand Up Comedy,” Maura? Really? And if there is anything majorly wrong with this album (and it is assuredly not the absolute masterpiece fans have been hoping for), it’s not the first three tracks.

    WEIRD. You guys are WEIRD.

  10. A Roach

    I’m mixed on this– certainly better than their last record, Atomic Bomb was turly horrid.

    At least they’re trying to break out of that manufactured/crystalized U2 sound– and Eno certainly has a nice touch on some of the songs.

    I just cant shake the fact that half the record (particularly the first two songs) sound just like “Until the End of the World.” I like that song a lot, but part of the reason it was so great was that it was a straightforward, dark rock song in the midst of all the weirdness of Achtung Baby’s first half– just doesnt work as an anchor for a whole album.

  11. Charlie Kerfelds Jetsons Tee

    This is a hell of a lot better than I thought it’d be after hearing “Get on Your Boots.”

    Some nice production. Awful lyrics, though.

  12. Maura Johnston

    @jackinup: dude, the one-listen verdict is part of our m.o. here. i fully admit that my opinion may change, but one listen is more than a lot of people give to records in these crazy-paced internet-filled times.

  13. Anonymous

    U2 are back….this is certainly their most non-commercial sounding album since Passengers in ’95.The biggest band in the world can’t win no matter what musical direction they go in…if they keep it safe they get trashed for having no balls…if they open it up and take risks like they have done on this one…they get trashed for trying to be something they’re not…I won’t give this 5 stars but I’ll cerrtainly give it 4…the title track being the only misstep the alternate version of the title track would have worked better.

    Maura you should know better than to rate a multi-layered album like this after listening to it 1 time…c’mon now

  14. Anonymous

    You guys are crazy. I’ve been waiting for an album like this from U2 for years. Stand up comedy is the worst song on the album (acutally it’s the only one that isn’t that good). The album is amazing. Unknown caller is brilliant… I’ll go crazy is an instant classic (wait and see), NLOTH is right out of Achtung Baby. What more could you ask U2 to do. I’m just glad they did it. The last two albums they made suck compared to this one (and I liked them).

  15. Moff

    @Maura Johnston: LEEEEAVE MAXIM ALONE!!!!!1!

    @A Roach: The riff in the title track is lifted straight from “The Fly,” actually, but I’m pretty sure it’s intentional. “Cedars of Lebanon” incorporates a Brian Eno piece, and “White as Snow” is set to the music for “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” so maybe they’re playing around with this reappropriation stuff?

    Here’s the Eno track, if that link doesn’t work:

  16. Moff


  17. Moff

    @Maura Johnston: Poor Maxim. They’re never gonna live that down.

    @A Roach: The riff in the title track is actually lifted straight from “The Fly,” so exactly that I think it must be intentional. And since “White as Snow” is set to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Cedars of Lebanon” actually directly incorporates a Brian Eno piece, I wonder if the whole appropriation thing is kind of a leitmotif? (Or, alternately, they’re just getting old, although I will never admit it.)

    Here’s that Brian Eno song:

  18. Moff

    @Moff, Moff & Moff: Oh, this is embarrassing.

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