9. No Line on the Horizon (2009)
“Stand up to rock stars, Napoleon is in high heels / Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas.”
— “Stand Up Comedy”
Everything about the protracted run-up to U2′s current release made even their most loyal defenders (Hi!) nervous: That they’d shelved everything they recorded with Rick Rubin (save for the so-so “Window in the Skies,” tossed onto the U218 compilation) and speed-dialed Eno and Lanois for help yet again. That they’d given Eno/Lanois songwriting credit for the first time on this, their seventh album together (not counting the Passengers soundtrack thing* from 1995). That Will.i.am (!) was remixing something called “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight.”
But after two fundamentally conservative records in the 00s, it’s a relief to hear U2 on a walkabout again. The only duds here are the songs aimed at radio: Inert lead single “Get on Your Boots,” that “Crazy” song. But “Magnificent” is an, er, resplendent stadium incantation. “Moment of Surrender” is seven-plus minutes of hypnotic sci-fi gospel. “Breathe” throbs and chimes like classic U2, but with a great huckster vocal like the one Nick Cave used on my favorite album of 2008, Dig!!! Lazarus!!! Dig!!!
No Line goes to some queasy places in its latter 20 minutes, and “Cedars of Lebanon” — about a war correspondent unraveling in the field — is the most despairing note they’ve left us on in a goodly while. The darkness suits them.
*U2 have inexplicably begun performing “Your Blue Room” from the Passengers album on the current 360 Tour. I guess my question here is, WTF?