March 5, 2009

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U2, No Line on the Horizon
Interscope Records, March 3

Five years after U2’s last album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the floorboards for a release so monolithic as, you know, a new U2 album, have been eaten through by serious mid-sized indie labels and a quantum increase in the prevalence of iPod gadgetry (ironically enough, one of the singles from HTDAAB, “Vertigo,” backgrounded a pivotal iPod commercial).

Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois serve as producers for this new one, as usual pronounced as evidence that U2 have hit a watershed moment in their creative biscuit-crux, blah blah blah. If Bono wasn’t so busy intrepidly haranguing “advanced” countries to send their goodwill dollars to impossible dictatorships and talking up war criminals like Paul Wolfowitz, perhaps he’d have sucked it up, gone for the throat and allowed someone like Steve Albini to whip his band of creampuffs into shape, but instead we get a double-stack cheeseburger meal (and don’t believe a word of the advance press insisting that this commercially calculated non sequitur is some sort of world-stopping bonding between electro, hard rock and hip-hop) consisting of U2 trying Clinic/Raveonettes indie-skronk on for size (the title track), bumming out the War-era faithful yet again with more Van Morrison-nicked gospel-blues (“Moment of Surrender”), revisiting the very worst of ’80s-techno (“Get On Your Boots”) and saying to the world, “Hey guys! We listened to a Strokes album!” (“Stand Up Comedy”). One of the many ironies is that the writing of the best, most-U2-like song aboard, “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” was tweaked by monolithically important ex-Black-Eyed-Pea will.i.am. D+Eric W. Saeger