The Miami Herald ATYCLB Review

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The Miami Herald, October 27, 2000

*** (3 stars out of 5)

All That You Can't Leave Behind

By Howard Cohen

A telling title for this return-to-roots CD might be Act of Contrition. Here's a group that soared to the top of the rock heap on the wings of 1987's The Joshua Tree, a spiritual-based and organic (and in retrospect self-important) album. Not long after Joshua Tree, U2 revamped its sound by diluting the guitar and simple songwriting approach in favor of trendy electronics and overly accessorized tours, culminating in the garish Pop Mart Tour three years ago. One admittedly superior album resulted, 1991's Achtung Baby, arguably this hallowed group's high point.

But the title of the new one, All That You Can't Leave Behind, is truth in advertising, too. The four members of U2 are no longer ornamenting and obscuring their past, choosing instead to reinstate classic rock instruments on instantly accessible melodic songs. In some ways, primarily the attention to well-crafted mid-tempo rock material built on straightforward production, Leave Behind recalls early-'70s albums like the Rolling Stones' Goats Head Soup (minus the vulgarity). Song-for-song this is U2's most cohesive collection to date.

This agreeable 11-track set feels effortless. Leader Bono sums it up as early as the second track when he sings, "There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard / I'm just trying to find a decent melody," on Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of. Catchy melodies abound, none better than the gently insinuating low-key Grace that closes the CD. The swinging acoustic accented Wild Honey, the whisper-and-roar musical motif of New York (Bono in "mid-life crisis") and the CD's single concession to modernity (the hip-hop-electronica spiked Elevation) are good too.

Some debits, though: It's difficult to overlook the strain in Bono's passionate but increasingly frayed voice, and the group's rhythm section, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton, will never rank as one of rock's tightest. But on All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2's experience shines through the flaws. The music feels timeless.

Copyright © 2000 Miami Herald. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 27, 2000 5:11 AM.

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