This was the second-most-highly anticipated
album of the year. Number one goes to Radiohead, of
course. Nineteen ninety-sevenís Pop left a bad taste
in the mouth of more than a fan or two. Fortunately, as long
lasting as U2's great albums are, their weak one's go away
rather unceremoniously. Gone is the Fly. Gone is that damned
disco ball lemon. Gone is the techno-repertoire that never
quite fit. What remains are fairly standard songs in structure
and style. It's a return to form. Along with the return to
form is the return of their old producers, Daniel Lanois and
Brian Eno. Even Steve Lillywhite is back in a somewhat limited
When I first heard "Beautiful Day"
I was thrilled. It's a great song. One of their strongest
ever. It's infectious and has a nice kick to it in the chorus
and the trademarked Edge guitar on verse two is wonderful.
It's a U2 song that you can turn up and have fun with. I heard
the single ages before I heard the rest of the album. Would
the rest of the album hold up? Well for the most part that's
a resounding yes.
The third song, "Elevation", is another
very strong cut. It's as good as anything on Achtung Baby.
"Walk On" is another song that will remind you of
vintage U2, without any anthem feel. In fact, like on the
Meso-U2 era there are no anthemic themes here. The only change
is the guitar sound is not quite as shimmering as before.
It just seems to be a stylistic change. "Kite" has
some heavy studio treatment on it. It's the slow song. It's
All that You Can't Leave Behind's "One."
Except it's more bittersweet. The simplicity of many songs
on this album is surprising, given the last couple albums
of excess. One of the more striking examples of this is "In
A Little While." Simple and soulful. The ethereal backdrop
of "Peace on Earth" is a thoughtful song about,
It's not The Joshua Tree. But it's not
Pop. This is a very good album. All That You Can't
Leave Behind implies a bare essentials approach. It's
return to simpler songs (almost Spartan) and playing and writing
as a band has paid off in spades. With the dismal state of
music these days, will anyone care? Strip off your layers
and give it a chance.
1. Beautiful Day
2. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out
4. Walk On
6. In a Little While
7. Wild Honey
8. Peace On Earth
9. When I Look At The World
10. New York