Even For A U2 fan, It's Slow, Flat And Missing The Spark

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The Edmonton Journal, October 28, 2000


Even For A U2 fan, It's Slow, Flat And Missing The Spark

By Sandra Sperounes, Journal Music Writer

CD: All That You Can't Leave Behind
Artist: U2
Label: Island/Universal

Sounds like: The morning after an all-night bender Best tracks: Beautiful Day,
Elevation, In A Little While
Rating: ***

Aaaargh! This is undoubtedly the toughest review I've had to write. Having been a huge U2 fan for more than half my life, I want to love All That You Can't Leave Behind. But I can't. Rolling Stone may call it a "masterpiece," but after half a dozen listens, I still find it slow, flat, and missing much of U2's characteristic spark. Even Bono's lyrics, albeit biting and critical, don't seem to make the transition from the printed page to song.

All That You Can't Leave Behind was supposed to be a return to U2's 1987 masterpiece, The Joshua Tree. There are similarities. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois are back at the helm, and gone are the computerized gimmicks of U2's last two albums. But also gone is the passion and intensity found in such singles as I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, With or Without You, and Where The Streets Have No Name.

There are, of course, a few flashes of brilliance: In A Little While is a soulful number featuring The Edge's slow, burning guitar, while Elevation is a sexy tune.

As for the other nine songs on All That You Can't Leave Behind, they tend to meander along before displaying a hint of former glory: the blazing guitar during the chorus on Beautiful Day, the eerie, barely audible opening of New York, and the momentous final chorus of Walk On: "All that you make/All that you build/All that you break/All that you measure/All that you steal/All this you can leave behind."

Not that we should be calling for U2's retirement just yet. All That You Can't Leave Behind doesn't fail because Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr. are too old or rich or comfortable. On the contrary, the foursome sound like they really didn't know what they wanted to do with this album. Or maybe Bono was too busy eradicating Third World debt.

Bono and the boys have never been consistent with their recordings. Joshua Tree was followed by Rattle and Hum (1988), a lacklustre, pompous recording. Undaunted, U2 bounced back to release one of the grittiest albums of 1991, Achtung Baby.

Following that pattern, it only makes sense that All That You Can't Leave Behind is disappointing. But it also means U2's next album should be astounding.

Copyright © 2000 Edmonton Journal. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 28, 2000 5:01 AM.

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