A friend gave me U2’s latest album, No Line On The Horizon, which, I have to admit, is growing on me (after I had sort of decided I was done with them). What’s struck me most is Bono singing with the abandon he used to have, while his lyrics have taken on a somewhat trite, Tony Robbins “You-can-do-it”-type cheerleading vibe.
We knew this was coming, of course. From the “A woman needs a man/like a fish needs a bicycle” from Actung Baby and the Jenny Holzer-esque truisms of The Fly, this sort of sloganeering was inevitable. I think Bono is truly surprised when a gem comes falling out of his mouth during an interview, and he’s absolutely unafraid to scoop these saliva gems and shoehorn ’em into a song.
And when you never stop talking, there’s bound to be more than a few lyrical keepers. From the wordy-ass titled I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight:
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot
The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear
I’ll be shocked if those don’t end up on Tour t-shirts. It’s redeemed by the best chorus they’ve written since Pride, as well as an amazing bridge.
Then there’s the religious-salvation-as-sensuality vein:
You can hear the universe in her sea shells
Not sure if I can defend that one. Not sure he’d want me to.
Stand Up Comedy has some cleverness:
The DNA lottery may have left you smart
But can you stand up to beauty, dictator of the heart
I can stand up for hope, faith love
But while I´m getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady
Stand up to rock stars, Napolean is high heels
Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas
Pretty sure Bono’s taking a shot at himself and Prince at the same time with that high heels line; it’s a keeper. Ready for the up-with-people, believe-in-yourself lines? Shit yeah:
You don’t know how beautiful
You don’t know how beautiful you are
Walk out into the street
Sing your heart out
Despite all this, no matter how much I wanted to write ’em off, I have to admit, the new album takes a number of chances: the sing-song Dylanisms of Breathe, the trying-to-fill-Red-Rocks shout of No Line, the Elvis Costello “Pump It Up” vibe/dark chorus of Get On Your Boots.
I was also surprised by the soul of Moment of Surrender. I was expecting him to break into his Velvet Dress-mumble instead of that howl. Nice.
I think these guys may go the distance. They’re some tough, relentless bastards. I would love to hear what Bono actually do some storytelling at some point, rather than chasing shiny tin-foil lyrics down dirty dead-end alleys. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised yet again. I can see ’em, like the Stones, performing in their sixties just ’cause they love it.
(Oh, by the way, Magnificent is goddamn awful. It’s the Even Better Than the Real Thing of this album.)