Typically I am very respectful of the sacredness of a new album; I usually wait until I have bought the actual physical object and am holding it in my hands before I listen to it on my CD walkman (my preferred format for premiering a new disc) but my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give a full listen to U2's new album No Line On the Horizon as they are currently streaming the full ablum on their myspace.
Here are my thoughts so far,
After two albums of playing it safe and making with the anthems and straightforward rockers, U2 have made their most ambitious album in over a decade. In fact, this is probably their most 'experimental' album since 1993's Zooropa. Sonically, No Line has a lot in common with Zooropa; the tempos are slower the bass and drums more prevalent and both owe a debt to techno, trip-hop and electronica but whereas Zooropa sought to actively avoid sounding anything like what people had come to expect from U2... or even a rock band for that matter... No Line gives us plenty of Edge's tradmark guitar chimes (and his more recently perfected crunch). By no means is this an 'easy' album. There aren't a lot of straightforward anthems or singles, the lead off single "Get On Your Boots" is a great example in that it doesn't have a proper chorus... Instead it gives us a refrain of "You don't know how beautiful you are" that sounds more like a pre-chorus, it builds us up for a soaring follow up that never really comes. In fact, it seems as thought the musical bit that should have been the chorus is used instead as a coda. There are exceptions, of course, "I'll Go Crazy if I don't go Crazy Toinight" is an out and out pop song that has almost Prince-like vibe to it; the band's answer to "Let's Go Crazy" perhaps?
Lyrics are, typically, the last thing that hit me about an album and Bono has had his share of chringe-worthy lyrics over the years but a line that went something like "I'm running down a train like the stations of the cross" from the gospel tinged "Moment of Surrender" imediately caught my attention as being pretty good.
There are a lot of surprises here, not the least of which is the Zepplin-esque guitar groove of "Stand Up Comedy". It seems that, while the last two U2 albums put together a good collection of tunes, with No Line the band are attempting to create something that is intended to viewed as a cohesive whole where the sum is greater than the parts (something I fell they accomplished, almost by accident, on the last two albums, particularly All That You Can't Leave Behind). I like what I've heard so far... I'm still not sure if I love it. It is definitely an album that requires digestion.
I'll let you know more once I've had the opportunity to listen on my Walkman.