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.
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.
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 !