U2 - No Line On The Horizon
The intense publicity barrage leading up to the release of No Line On The Horizon made it seem like the band was equating the release of its 12th studio album with the Second Coming. Hype is dangerous - it is ammo to detractors and can elevate expectations of supporters beyond what any album can deliver. What about this one?
Even before its release (3/3), many critics wrote that No Line fell short of the gushing pre-release claims from the inner circle. We don't disagree, but still find the album audacious and bold - and credit the band for breaking new ground and challenging expectations - things few bands want to do, and a band as big as U2 does not have to do.
This album is as transformative as The Joshua Tree, but by virtue of slinging the band in the opposite direction - away from refinement and back to the urgent and sometimes dissonant sound we heard when they first burst on the scene. Brian Eno, Steve Lillywhite and Daniel Lenois deserve a great deal of credit for making this return to earlier form sound fresh and innovative.
With the exception of a few artists, an earlier generation of Rockers largely rests on it laurels, fulfilling the greatest hits expectations of fans. Even nostalgia has some relevance. Most U2 contemporaries packed it in long ago because the music they made in their prime was too vacuous for anyone to even be nostalgic for. Credit U2 for hanging tough and resisting the temptation to kick back and rely on its back catalogue to fill arenas. Whether you like the album or not, admire the fact they are willing to challenge themselves and their fans by pushing forward.