Title: TBC | Expected: TBC
Tom Doyle, Q magazine
As if to spotlight the pace with which U2 are close to completing their as-yet-untitled 12th album, Q's phone call to Edge is delayed by half an hour while he lays down an acoustic guitar overdub at the quartet's Dublin studio on a new song called "Get On Your Boots."
"Then we can put the mix to bed," the guitarist sighs with satisfaction. So this album is being completed as we speak? "Yeah. It's happening live in real time. It's totally frantic."
Having effectively abandoned their initial plan to work with Rick Rubin (although some material has survived), U2 took the unusual move of bringing in their long-time producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as co-writers early on. "We thought, If we're all writing together we'll get more stuff and it'll be a more fruitful use of time," Edge says.
Experimental writing sessions held last year in Fez, Morocca, yielded numerous new songs. Some -- with the introduction of local musicians -- bear a distinctly North African flavour. A visit to the World Sacred Music Festival enhanced what Edge calls the "religious-sounding" tone of a few of the tracks. "But we don't want to be musical tourists," the guitarist states. "We came back with a certain flavour and influence of that trip and a sense of freedom."
As time went on, the music grew ever more diverse and spontaneous. "We wanted to give it some variety," Edge says. "There is some dark, heavy stuff but there are also some lighter things. Some we've really had to sweat to get and some just came so easily." Work-in-progress highlights include "f--k-off live rocker" "Breathe"; "For Your Love," which Edge says is one of his best-ever riffs; and the aforementioned "Get On Your Boots" ("Eddie Cochran with barbershop harmonies").
Other notable tracks include the eight-minute-long "Moment of Surrender" and "No Line on the Horizon," inspired by a distortion box called Death By Audio recommended by ex-Secret Machines guitarist Ben Curtis.
Opinion is currently divided as to whether the album will make a pre- or post-Christmas release. Anticipation couldn't be higher, however, with mixer Steve Lillywhite having already proclaimed the record "their best yet."
"Trying to weave it all together into a coherent collection is the challenge," Edge admits. "But, yeah, it has the potential to be our best."
Copyright © 2008 Q magazine.