U2 Saves The Best For Last POP All That You Can't Leave Behind

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The Globe and Mail (Canada), November 2, 2000


U2 Saves The Best For Last POP All That You Can't Leave Behind

Robert Everett-Green

U2
Universal
Rating: ***

It happens all the time in architecture. The architect starts with an assessment of real human need, figures out a few good ways to satisfy that need with the materials at hand, and then gratifies his vanity by wrapping it all around a big splashy atrium.

That's not a good way to make a building, or a pop album. Like an atrium, the big dumb pop anthems that crowd the opening of All That You Can't Leave Behind will get some people's attention, though the best way into U2's newest album is through the back door.

Play the disc in reverse order, and you find a string of groove-based, intimate meditations that are built to human scale, but that easily ramp up to something universal.

Grace, the very last track, is a love song of sorts, but it also plays on the broader implications of the name till the glimmering guitars feel like an escalator rising into transcendence.

Peace on Earth wants to go the same way, but can't help following the detour marked out by the real state of the world, while reflecting on how this could all be different if beautiful words were always true. The irony is subtle, and the thought is effortlessly fused into a tuneful structure that is both warm and freshening.

Wild Honey looks to the small moment for the large feeling, smartly capturing the kind of summery essence sought in more addled fashion by kd lang on her Invincible Summer disc.

And In a Little While pulls the band towards soul music, as Bono sketches his vocal line in sharp confident strokes over a plain-vanilla guitar groove spiked with scratch beats.

After that, welcome to the atrium. Walk On is a cynical stride down the middle of the road, with Whitney Houston waiting, somewhere, for the chance to do a cover. Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of plays the soul card all wrong, and clutches at the cheapest kind of pop apotheosis. Beautiful Day, the album opener, is a cheery affirmation of nothing much, a pop doodle inflated through aggressive production.

U2 and producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno should have known better. But always showing that you know better doesn't necessarily get you on the radio, and no one involved with this project was willing to indulge in that kind of sacrifice.

The result is a very good EP, soldered onto a showy advertisement for commercial pragmatism. As they say, half a loaf is better than none.

Copyright © 2000 Globe Interactive. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 2, 2000 5:03 AM.

U2's Monotonous Musical Monogamy was the previous entry in this blog.

U2 Enters A New Era With Recording is the next entry in this blog.

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