Sunday, 1 March 2009

U2 ON THE LINE

A Youthful U2
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PUSHING THE 'HOPE' BOUNDARY

A new album from U2 has by now (their 12 th,) become something of a global event as the Dublin based group have withstood the vicissitudes of the pop/rock industry better than most. For three decades Bono, Larry, Adam and the Edge have played together in a band and have produced some of the most sublime and uplifting music in that often over hyped and tedious genre. What makes the output of U2 tower above their contemporaries is the positivism and spirituality of their songs along with the dramatic and often anthemic quality of the music. The individual band members attitude to the whole business is also refreshingly frank and lacking in the breathtaking arrogance often associated with so called super group Rock stars. As to their new album ‘No Line On The Horizon’ on first hearing there are two stand-out tracks, ‘Magnificent’ and ‘Moment of Surrender’ both of which contain the teasing ambiguity of some of U2’s finest. In ‘Magnificent’ Bono in a Psalmic mode cries out “ I was born to sing for you / I didn’t have a choice / But to lift you up / And sing whatever song you wanted me to / I give you back my voice / From the womb my first cry / It was a joyful noise”. He is one of the few top performers today who can in a largely secular world ,get away with writing such explicitly faith based lyrics , largely I think because no one doubts that these are emotions strongly and sincerely held. The strength of U2 and probably the cohesive force that has kept them together for so long is their shared Christian experience, from those early Charismatic Prayer meetings of their adolescence right up to Bono’s continuing campaigning for third world debt cancellation and marshaling of heads of state to combat poverty in Africa. Adam to my knowledge does not share the bands Christian beliefs but obviously their friendship over the years has forged bonds on different levels.

Bono's on his knees again !
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On ‘Moment of Surrender’ Bono sings “At the moment of surrender / I folded to my knees / I did not notice the passers-by / And they did not notice me.” In fact on stage Bono spends a good deal of time on his knees, one suspects as a homage to the King and indicative of where the singer sees himself in the scheme of things. Bono’s ego seems of gigantic proportions as he struts about the stage and with almost prophetic urgency delivers the U2 repertoire to rapt concert goers, but he is most aware of the pitfalls of living the rock and roll lie. Recently in an interview with the Irish Times he recounted meeting someone at a party, “This guy, who I thought sort of liked me, came over to me and starting telling me what a ****** I was and how much he hated me, and how he had always hated me right from the very start.” The Edge arrives and says: “That’s no way for U2’s drummer to be talking to you.” The yin and yang of U2 look at each other and dissolve into laughter. Whatever about on a personal level Bruce Springsteen once observed on Bono the artist, “"His voice is shot through with self-doubt. The constant questioning in Bono's voice is where the band stakes its claim to its humanity and declares its commonality with us: 'Here we are, Lord, this mess, in your image.'" Maybe it’s this vulnerability coupled with their acknowledgement that this isn’t all there is, that make U2 such an indispensable voice in these recessionary and gloom ridden times.

The boys lash it out under the Lincoln
Memorial at Barack Obama's Inauguration

Certainly in this country at this time our staple news diet is full of dire economic predictions, job losses and pay cuts so much so that many people I know have stopped listening to the daily news, for them could I suggest replacing the audio void with large helpings of ‘No Line On The Horizon’ or in fact any of U2’s previous dozen offerings over the last 30 years. The Celtic Tiger generation may at last realise that they still haven’t found what they’re looking for, and perhaps there’s more to this ‘Kingdom come’ business than meets the eye ! John Waters in his review of the new album enthuses “With No Line On The Horizon, they have achieved something that, oddly, stands with one leg in the shallow, concentrate-version of U2 that the world has taken at face value for a decade, and one leg in a future as exciting as anything they have hitherto allowed us to glimpse. If, as we have previously noted, music is prophetic as to the drift of wider reality, then this album may be the most hopeful thing you will hear all year.” And ‘hope’ is the one commodity that they don’t deal on the Stock Exchange, so grab it while it’s flying and let the music lift you higher !
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Gerard O'Shea

14 comments:

Lucinda said...

I havent heard their new album yet but I agree that the output to date has been awesomely inspiring. One of my favourite U2 songs is the upbeat Beautiful Day.

Mike said...

Wow, that first pic was very old. Hardly remember what they looked like back then.

Alec said...

I would rate the new album as one of their finest,Moment of Surrender will be a new classic. Cover artwork left me cold though .

Mike said...

Alec,

Thanks for the review. I'll give this one a listen.

Lisa said...

On repeated listening No Line On The Horizon yields rich rewards. Incredible to think that they are still on the cutting edge after 30+ years.Well done boys for still allowing us "into the sound", this life at least is truly blessed by the privilege.

Tony said...

Excellent review!

Deirdre said...

Live in Dublin and be taxed in Amsterdam, and tell the Irish Government to spend your tax on the 3rd world. A little bit Irish don't you think !!

Dew of Hermon said...

Irish indeed I suppose, but in their defense their not perfect yet !John Waters interestingly addressed this issue in last Sundays Mail if you can get to see it.U2 are probably more like a corporation now than just four guys in a band, which makes it all the more remarkable that they still are capable of making really authentic music. But then I'm biased and such is the zeal of the fanatic ! Now that I think of it I'm a bit Irish myself. - Gerard

Deirdre said...

Don't get me wrong I like U2's music, I always have, they make good music. But that's all it really is, music, entertainment. It gets a little complicated when a music man (Bono) becomes a Politition, Ambassador, Saviour and conscience of the world. Then we hear than what they really are is a corporation and flit from country to country like all the other multinationals avoiding TAX, profit being the name of the real game. I think many years ago Bono would have scoffed at this kinda carry on. Middle age and money do funny things to men.

Dew of Hermon said...

I'm glad we agree on the music Deirdre, and I take your point about the corruptive nature of vast wealth. Whether Adam, Bono, Larry and the Edge have succumbed to their indisputable fortunes is unproven, I think.I'm glad your on my case, the Dew needs a clear critical voice and I hope you continue to contribute whenever you feel the need. -Gerard

Deirdre said...

Thanks Gerard, I will put you on my Blog list

Deirdre said...

You will be glad to hear that I invested in the new album today. Really excellent music as always. Are you going to the Concert in Croke Park? €20 will get you a ticket. Bono must feel guilty what do you think?

Dew of Hermon said...

I think Bono probably did what Dev did one time, he looked into his own heart and knew what the people of Ireland wanted ! !Seriously I'm glad you're enjoying the album and you'd never know I might see you at Croker.

Ralph said...

It’s not if I believe in love / But if love believes in me