No Line On The Horizon

USUAL DISCLAIMER: new song, opinions and details may change, yada yada yada.

“For the first time since Zooropa” is a phrase I’ve had to use a few times for NLOTH, and for me that can only be a good thing. Except on this occasion, where it’s merely an apparent thing – for the first time since Zooropa, there’s a title track on the album. ’tis a rather spiffing one, though – it bests “October”, competes with “The Unforgettable Fire” but, if we’re honest, doesn’t beat six and a half minutes of sung and babbled ad slogans.

In a weird way, this happens to have U2 inverting their usual dynamic; the chorus is actually decidedly small-scale here, five distinct words, a low affirmation that doesn’t need to be loudly asserted (indeed, that’s perhaps a sign of confidence that slips four tracks later with the line Listen for me, I’ll be shouting) – what does need shouting about, it seems, is everything else – the love of a good woman, the desire for escape from drudgery, a reach out towards as much possibility as possible. To be fair, this song doesn’t do much more lyrically than the typical U2 song tends to, but the key here is the economy of it; I get more of an impression out of this, and more concrete detail, than “City of Blinding Lights” (to pull a random example), despite it being about two-thirds the length. And starting the first of many, many wordless vocals on this album, Bono flips a usual “oh” into something new by inflecting a sort of pitch bend on it (was he listening to Ikonika at the time? Probably not, but hey, we can but dream for the still-currently-rumoured Songs of Ascent).

As for the music, perhaps my desire to proclaim this song as great-but-not-a-classic originates from the mood of it; there’s a rushing, a feel that it should be soundtracking an epic camera pan over huge, flat and starkly emotive landscape, and I’ve made my views pretty clear on that sort of music. Nonetheless, this isn’t a straight re-write; this could not have come pre-1991, as the guitars here are the most abrasive that the Edge has played this decade. The drumming is suitably urgent too; in fact, if we’re totally honest, the only core band member who seems to get occasionally lost in the fuzz and the fury is Adam. Eno, of course, gets in most noticeably with what seems to be a twitching shiver of a noise during the verses, sounding not unlike some of the whirrings and scrubbings from Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile (this isn’t the only place NIN seems to show up, incidentally; see, for instance, “Get On Your Boots”‘ vague brotherhood with “Discipline”).

Overall, then, “NLOTH” happens to be a damn good opening track, albeit not really in the realm of greatness. Still, there’s a sense that this may be the most adventurous opener to a U2 album since, well, the previous title track, and this can only be a good thing; what’s even better is that there’s little to no dropoff in standards over the next three tracks, which happen to be the longest too. Hell yes.

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~ by 4trak on March 17, 2009.

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