U2's Latest CD Relaxed And Satisfying

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The Winnipeg Sun, October 27, 2000


U2's Latest CD Relaxed And Satisfying

by Darryl Sterdan

New U2 albums normally come loaded with as much extra baggage as Zsa Zsa Gabor on safari.

Ever since these Irish post-punk rockers bought into their own hype back in the '80s and started to act like a Very Important Band, they've been obsessed with making Terribly Meaningful Albums filled with Bold Artistic Statements. Like Achtung Baby and Zooropa's use of chilly electronica as a commentary on mass media. Or Pop's reliance on disposable dance music as a pronouncement on consumer culture. Or that giant lemon they emerged from on the PopMart tour, which symbolized ... well, actually, we don't know what the heck that was supposed to mean. We're not even sure Bono could decipher that one. Which makes us wonder: Is all that junk -- the zealous righteousness, the high-concept production, the sheer stultifying gravity of being modern rock's self-appointed conscience -- as tiring to U2 as it is to us?

After hearing their 12th album All That You Can't Leave Behind, something tells us that the answer is yes. And that U2 have finally decided to do something about it. Simply put, they've decided to lighten up. Musically, thematically, emotionally, spiritually, you name it; All That You Can't Leave Behind finds Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry shucking off their messianic mantles, crumpling up the position papers and getting back to where they once belonged -- at the forefront of guitar-based arena rock.

To go with the cover pic of the band toting carryons in an airport, on All That You Can't Leave Behind U2 are travelling light. Recorded in Dublin and France with the aid of longtime running mates Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, these tracks jettison off-putting electronic murk and ironic high-gloss techno for more earnest, soulful sounds. In this era of computer-driven hip-hop, bone-crushing rap-rock and empty-calorie bubble-pop, it's almost quaint to hear musicians playing actual melodies on real instruments.

Leadoff track and single Beautiful Day is typical of the disc's vibe. Edge's scratchy, signature guitar lines jangle and ring above the snappy rattle and hum of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen. Yes, Eno's swirly synthesizers are plentiful, but mainly as tasteful accompaniment and background atmosphere -- subtly textured backdrops for the band to paint over.

For the most part, U2 steer closer to the earth tones of Joshua Tree than the day-glo tints of Pop. Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, with its Memphis-soul groove and emotive vocal, could be an old Al Green cover. Similarly, the slippery guitar lines and unadorned melancholy of In a Little While and Grace recall the rainy-night soul of Brook Benton or Otis Redding. In a rootsier vein, there's Wild Honey, a fluidly loping acoustic strummer Wilco wouldn't be ashamed of. And at the rockier end of the scale are the buzzy, funky Britpop of Elevation and the smoky tom-tom thumper New York. Whatever the setting, though, Bono sticks to the unpretentious program. You won't find much of his pointed preaching and philosophizing on religion, war and poverty n these grooves. Instead of acting globally, he's thinking locally, urging us to embrace the joy of a Beautiful Day, offering a simple wish for Peace on Earth, and reminding us repeatedly that to reach a brighter future, we have to leave the darkness of the past behind.

Obviously, it's a message U2 have taken to heart. Natural, unforced, relaxed, organic, free-flowing, sincere and satisfying -- All That You Can't Leave Behind is all that and more.

Copyright © 2000 The Winnipeg Sun. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 27, 2000 5:33 AM.

Plastic Bono Band Bounces Back was the previous entry in this blog.

Even For A U2 fan, It's Slow, Flat And Missing The Spark is the next entry in this blog.

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