No Line Horizon…no thanks.

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flickr photo: tammylo

I’ve been streaming the new album, No Line Horizon, from the U2 MySpace page in advance of the release tomorrow. I’ve been listening for a bit more than a week. It’s been heartbreaking.

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve written. I don’t know how else to process the jumble of emotions than through callow pith and…the unpleasant awakening at the end of any long standing relationship is never easy. Especially when you could see the end coming, but didn’t want to acknowledge it. I’m quite sure Bono, the Edge, Larry and Adam will never read this; no reason for them to, but I want to tell my side of the story.

Why? Why this?

I think I’ve fairly well documented my savage U2 fanaticism, but since Achtung Baby, the savagery has been marketly less ferocious. Dare I say that Achtung Baby was their last true adventure. I am conscious that my statements may amount to heresy coming from a U2 fan (for more than 28 years), but if truth cannot be spoken to those we love the most, then with whom can we share the truth?

Up to and including the release of Achtung Baby (minus the exception of the self-indulgent Rattle and Hum), each album was a fresh piece of artestry. Boy, October, War, Under a Blood Red Sky, Unforgettable Fire, Wide Awake in America and Joshua Tree scythed a path through the packaged crap commercial radio and MTV shoved at us. The live performances, like the ones captured on Under a Blood Red Sky, or Wide Awake in America displayed the quartet’s socially conscious center in stark contrast to the sacchrine infused commercial radio of the day. In 1985 when the world paused to notice a famine crisis, U2 towered over the lollipop gang of pop musicians at Live Aid and cemented their place in the hearts of many. It was a springboard to the Joshua Tree. The success of which nearly excuses the overindugent Rattle and Hum movie soundtrack. Nearly.

The first signs of trouble, Zooropa.

Since Zooropa, U2 has slogged in a creative sludge of uninspired sameness.  To be sure, there have been moments of unabashed genius, “Beautiful Day” for instance. But for each notable single, there is a doppledanger. “Beautiful Day’ spawned “Vertigo”, from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. And for every album there is a fraternal twin Zooropa and Pop, All That You Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Now, if the pattern continues (dear Lord, U2 has become predictable) No Line Horizon can only mean there is more of the same to come.

I suppose I could go into more detail about the multiplicity of the albums and music, but it’s as uninteresting as the albums themselves. U2 stopped experimenting. Stopped growing. From Zooropa moving forward the four boys from Dublin put down their instruments and huddled together over a sequencer in a DJ booth. Please, cut the electronica crap.

So it was with absolute boyish exhuberance and reinvigorated pride I listened to the first track, “No Line Horizon.” Fresh, driving, building in the same vein as The Joshua Tree’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” without mimicry. The next song “Magnificent” took a u-turn to revisit some of the recent filler; I can’t even remember the names of the songs, but they have little for which to distinguish one from the other. You’ll know what I”m talking about when you hear it. And then No Line Horizon disintegrated.

The unspeakable horror

“Force quit/And move to trash” – “Unknown Caller,” No Line Horizon

Now, I call bullshit.

It is indefensible to use Apple OS user interface nomenclature as a lyric of a song. No defensible argument at all. They might as well start wearing hosery and singing Neil Peart lyrics from Rush’s A Farewell to Kings. Or Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.”

Where is the “One?” Where is the “Stories for Boys?” Where is the “Electric Co?” Where is the passion? The committment? The experiment? The adventure?

That was then…

On April 19, 1981, U2 played at The Agora Music Hall (now the Newport Music Hall) on the Ohio State University Campus in Columbus, Ohio. The show was a stop on the Boy Tour – two days after my birthday. I was in junior high school. Most afternoons I would bike over to campus to the used record stores. I spent hours listening to crazy clerks ranting about comic books and crazy music. The only thing I wanted for my birthday was a ticket to the U2 show. Instead I wound up grounded for heatedly protesting the injustice.

In the years that followed “Bad (Live)” off Wide Awake in America was a personal salvation. I still have the holes in my ears from my sophomoric need to imitate Bono. To stand out. To be heard. To be understand and be understood.

This is now…

“Restart/And reboot yourself” – “Unknown Caller”

Really?

I spent about an hour with “Get On Your Boots.” Something nagged at me and it wasn’t the Led Zepplin “When the Levee Breaks” drum loop, it was something far more sinister that tickled my long dead memories of MTV dross.

I was knocked over when the song echoing in my vacuous skull drug up the 80s melody from Escape Club’s Wild Wild West. The crappy ass song in all it’s glory woven into the fabric of U2’s smash single. I can’t listen to it now.

Not for me. Not anymore.

For the first time since 1981, I’ll take a pass and not purchase the U2 release. I can only hope that U2 is intending to distribute the album similarly to Trent Reznor or Radiohead – either free or let the fan choose how much money to pay for the album.

I’ll admit my sentimental leanings; I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt. I’ll Tivo David Letterman this week and pray that the stage show is more…nah, I have to accept it’s over and let the good times be what they were; good times, great songs.

28 years later.

Man, do I feel old.

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