Sound: The latest from the biggest rock band in the world flaunts touches of the experimentalism (twinkling synthesizers, electronic sounds, Eastern chord progressions) of their most avant-garde albums (Zooropa, Pop), but those daring moments are few and far between. The scuzzy guitar sounds they debuted on 1991’s Achtung Baby actually pop up more frequently. But overall, it really just sounds like another U2 album full of The Edge’s shimmery, atmospheric guitars and Bono’s soaring, spiritualized melodies.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “White As Snow” (Top 20 Songs of 2009 Candidate); “Breathe”
Medium Rotation tracks: “Cedars of Lebanon”; “No Line On the Horizon”; “Magnificent”; “Moment of Surrender”; “Get On Your Boots”
Recommended: From a production standpoint, No Line On the Horizon is a respectable achievement, even though they tend to prematurely abort their boldest musical forays in favor of more conventional (i.e. anthemic, arena-ready, soulful) U2 sounds. From a songwriting standpoint, though, this is just an average outing for U2. Granted, they have a bountiful catalogue that’s certainly hard to compete with, but they make matters worse by hiding the album’s best three tracks at the end. Regardless, No Line On The Horizon is a quality listen that’s better than your average rock album and more adventurous than U2’s last two blockbuster releases (2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind), but it’s not an essential release for the band.