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Old 08-11-2017, 02:33 PM   #1
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I Listened To No Line On The Horizon Today

I haven't listened to this album in ages. Probably two or three years at the very least. Some of my opinions have changed, some have remained the same. I'm just some guy on the internet with opinions, but every once in awhile I like to put them out there and so here we are. (Whether anyone will read them is a whole different story!)

1. No Line On The Horizon
Since I first heard the faster version, I have always been underwhelmed with the album version. I wish there was some sort of middle version that is fast, has the keys of the album version, and has the finished lyrics. I am of the unpopular opinion that this song would not have made a good single as it is. I think its counterpart would have made a better single.

2. Magnificent
This has always been one of those songs that everyone loves. I don't love it. I think it's okay. Maybe it's just the musician in me saying, "I would not have made these choices," regarding some of the chord changes and chord voicings. It just doesn't click with me now and it didn't then either.

3. Moment Of Surrender
This song is amazing. It reminds me of Unforgettable Fire era U2, which is one of my favorite eras of U2. Every time I heard "ATM Machine" I shake my head. But now it's with a smile of "Oh Bono..." instead of being grumpy about it. The slide guitar is amazing. I wish I could coax that guitar tone out of my setup. Reminds me a bit of Jimi Hendrix at the end of the All Along The Watchtower solo from his studio version.

4. Unknown Caller
I remember liking this song when it came out. I now think it's just okay. Hasn't aged well musically for me. There's nothing specifically that I can point to, but I guess it is what it is.

5. Crazy Tonight
I love this song. I think this song is this album's A Man And A Woman or Wild Honey. It is fun. Unpopular opinions and all. I think this would have been a great first single - not the remix single version. It reminds me of She's A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones. Maybe just because there's that lyric.

6. Get On Your Boots
This is a song where Bono kinda ruins part of it for me. That rap-singing he was liking there for awhile is not good. Also The Edge's solo is ridiculously bad here and a massive letdown. That said, I like the fuzz guitar better now. I just wish the bass was harmonizing with the guitar and that the notes weren't in unison (think Black Dog by Led Zeppelin). This song does have my favorite moment on the album, though: Let Me In The Sound should have had a much larger role in this song.

7. Stand Up Comedy
This song is totally a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute. I don't hate it as much as some people do, but it suffers from the lyrics the most of any U2 song since the chorus of Miami. At least to me. The music isn't terrible. It's fairly average (kinda like All Because Of You, but that song's problem was Bono's voice more than anything else).

8. Fez
My favorite song on the album. That said, the ending peters out anticlimactically and that will always keep it from being one of my favorite U2 songs. I feel like it should have had a couple more minutes at the end with a big Exit-style ending. Just a massive wall of sound that keeps getting bigger.

9. White As Snow
This song will always remind me of a Christmas carol. Nothing much else to say about it.

10. Breathe
This is U2 by the numbers to me. That's not a bad thing. I like it better than I remember liking it. Also would have been a good choice for a single.

11. Cedars Of Lebanon
The best album closer since Wake Up Dead Man. That said, it's not one I would listen to outside of album context.

In retrospect, this album's weak moments are stronger than I remember and it's strongest moments are weaker than I remember. I'd rank it in between All That You Can't Leave Behind and Songs Of Innocence on my album ranking scale. Firmly in the bottom third of U2 albums, but still solid.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:26 PM   #2
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Hadn't heard it in ages either. Figured I'd give it a spin to see if I had anything interesting to share.

1. NLOTH. Never hung with the other version enough to rightfully compare. This was always one of my favs on this album. I think it has aged reasonably well. The explosion into the 'bridge' needed some work. "Oh oh oh" seems lazy. Overall, it's simply a good tune.

2. Magnificent.
Terrible intro. Goes right into the hook. Then it just repeats musically. There is an interesting 90 seconds once it gets going. But you've heard it all by then. Biggest failure to capitalize on a great chord progression in the entire U2 catalog. Instead they just repeat it over and over.

3. Moment of Surrender
Hard to find a more overrated song in Interference history. Sure, plenty of things to like about it but it drones on too long for me. Also no dynamic to Bono's vox. He starts off belting and belts throughout. Like the worst in soul music. I like songs that go on a journey. This one walks too much in one place, much like the previous track.

4. Unknown Caller.
For me, the ultimate 'What Could Have Been'. So much potential. But really, the centerpiece of the whole thing, the Greek chorus, is what wrecks it. Everything else, perhaps apart from somewhat uninspiring Edge picking, is pretty great.

5. Crazy Tonight
It's like if you could distill the worst of 21st century U2 into one song...and then improve it slightly. Crafting the song around a bumper sticker slogan like the worst in pop or country music. Just bad.

6. Get On Your Boots
Overusing the riff. A dancey, groovy riff, treated like a punk rocker. Then transition to a cool harmony...that doesn't really fit. U2 do not understand counter melodies on these kind of pop songs anyway. Cheesy cutesy lyrics. Fail.

7. SUCk

No redeeming qualities aside from the solo or bridge section, which isn't bad aside from Bono's "soul rockin people" which would have been considered cheesy 30 years prior. The riff is not terrible but too generic for a band like U2.

8. Fez BB
"The road not taken". The whole album should have been in this spirit. Edge playing delicate muted guitar. Fantastic piano backing. Sweeping subtle melodic change here and there. Bono's yelling could have been subbed for a lyrical idea.

The harmony "lights flash..." best moment on the entire album.

9. White as..

Sorry I dozed off for a minute, where was I?

10. Breathe
"So we are gonna write this rocker, pretty killer melody, interesting vocal approach, Bono rattling off, goes into a really nice chorus progression...

But play it as a slogging 3/4 waltz".

Says it all.

11. Cedars of Lebanon

Might as well be Bono reading a nice spoken word piece over some fairly generic B-side level musical backing. This is music. Rock music. Pop music. Whatever. Not beat poetry. And then a bland harmony. You know how hard it is to make harmonies bland?

Looking back, this one and Bomb just leave me more impressed with SOI. For me it's there with ATYCLB fighting for 9th place just behind SOI and just ahead of Boy. Maybe I need to listen to ATYCLB to decide.
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:00 PM   #3
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10. Breathe
"So we are gonna write this rocker, pretty killer melody, interesting vocal approach, Bono rattling off, goes into a really nice chorus progression...

But play it as a slogging 3/4 waltz".
I think you nailed it right there why it was a poor choice for a show opener.
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:08 AM   #4
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8. Fez
My favorite song on the album. That said, the ending peters out anticlimactically and that will always keep it from being one of my favorite U2 songs.
Funny how everyone has a different set of ears (well, "funny" and the thing that makes the world such an interesting place), the fact is, the way the song "peters out" is my favorite moment. No lie. It evokes a feeling. Something. I like it.
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:25 AM   #5
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I think I've established that I'm not a fan of this record. In fact, I dislike it rather strongly. Nevertheless, I'm gonna give it another go...

Before I get into the individual songs (it likely ain't gonna be pretty!), I have to point out that the album is already almost sunk by Bono, who single-handedly ruins it with his over-singing. We get it, Bono -- you're passionate. But you don't have to wail "Oh-oh-oh!" over every longer-than-two-seconds instrumental part. Just let Edge play sometimes. Let it breathe.

Anyway:

1. No Line On The Horizon
This is a pretty good song in terms of composition, but I'm turned off by the cold, emotionless-sounding recording on the LP. Comes off kind of stiff. (And yeah, the "Whoa-whoa-whoa's!" are overkill.)

Musically, though, this isn't strong enough (for U2) to start off an LP with. Okay, "Vertigo" was cheesy in parts, but it was a kick-ass tune with a kick-ass riff. I'd rate this song as the weakest album-opening cut since... um... ever.

2. Magnificent
Akin to how the 2nd song on the previous album was the "U2-by-numbers" song, this is one of those very U2-ish sounding songs. Fortunately, it's a good song, even it's sort-of ground well covered before.

3. Moment Of Surrender
I was never impressed with this song, a bit like U2DMfan (above). I don't hate it now as I did back in 2009 -- I can hear some of its (small) merits -- but it doesn't move me at all, and the vocal (sorry, Bono again) and the lyric are a fail.

I hate to keep harping on Bono's performance, but let's compare this track with "Bad". Go play that one -- focus on the vocal -- and then play this one. It's not a pleasant comparison.

4. Unknown Caller
Ugh. At least track 3 was ambitious. This one is akin to "Walk On" in that it's desperately trying to sound like 1984-U2... the difference being that "Walk On" was actually a good, if overblown, composition.

Actually, this song has a passable melody and a nice (1984-ish) 'mood'. I like the "feel" of it. But the whole thing sounds like a U2-covers band writing a U2-ish song. It's like a self-parody.

The, the lyrics... "Yikes" is all I can say.

5. Crazy Tonight
Nadir of U2's career. The Unforgivable Fire. I still haven't recovered from this abomination.

I never will.

6. Get On Your Boots
The forgettable fire. Does any music fan not on U2-fan forums even remember this? I doubt it. A deserved flop that they embarrassingly tried to hawk at the Grammies. Ugh.

7. Stand Up Comedy
More like "fall down tragedy". This is utter shite.

8. Fez
Finally, something half-decent! At this point, however, the album is already a lost cause and even a "With or Without You" couldn't rescue it, let alone a fairly interesting mostly-instrumental.

9. White As Snow
I used to quite enjoy this one, but I listened to it recently and it bored me. Still, quite good lyrics and Bono finally doesn't over-sing. Nice performance.

10. Breathe
I still don't know what to make of this one! The most schizophrenic U2 song. Starts off with cool intro -- then, the guitar riffing with piano sounds great. I'm ready for (finally) an awesome U2 anthem! Whoo-hoo! Then... Bono starts talking/rapping. Ugh. What the hell is he going on about here? Even if it makes sense, I cannot get past the hipster pseudo-rapping and the cockatoos. Put a sock in it Bono. Then, the song gets better again suddenly with the shift into the bridge before the chorus, which is awesome. The chorus itself is great, too. Coulda-been-should-been. But the Bono rapping again... ugh. Edge's solo is one of his most boring, ever.

Never mind. I'm so confused by this song, it gives me headache to try to even understand if I like it or hate it.

(I have a suspicion this song was probably awesome before they, as usual, re-worked it to death about 5 million times until they sucked all the life out of it.)

11. Cedars Of Lebanon
I love this track (despite that one clunky "got out from a tank" rhyme that blows). But it's really suitable only as LP-closer and certainly does not save this album. It's like eating some really nice pumpkin pie after a meal of nothing but brussel sprouts and rice cakes.



I mean, I just don't get what they were going for on this record, and I don't think they do, either.

Pop -- although compromised by commercial considerations -- was clearly their "electronic, post-everything irony" album, whether you like it or not. That's what it was. All That You Can't... was their pop-soul album. I get that. Atomic Bomb was their middle-aged loud-rockin' album. I get that. But what was this?

Again, I suspect that if they'd had a hard deadline of say, spring/summer 2008 or something, this would have been a much, much better album. But they worked it to death and lost whatever soul it had, and also its vitality.

(Also, would have been better if they'd turned off Bono's mic on about half the songs. Love ya, Bono.)
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:50 AM   #6
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9. White As Snow
This song will always remind me of a Christmas carol. Nothing much else to say about it.

Funny you should say this, as I've always thought it sounds a bit like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:56 AM   #7
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Funny you should say this, as I've always thought it sounds a bit like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
Your ears aren't deceiving you. It is based on that, which is acknowledged in the song's credits.
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Old 08-12-2017, 09:01 AM   #8
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Your ears aren't deceiving you. It is based on that, which is acknowledged in the song's credits.

Thanks for the heads up. I was unaware they acknowledged that.
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Old 08-12-2017, 11:10 AM   #9
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5. Crazy Tonight
Nadir of U2's career. The Unforgivable Fire. I still haven't recovered from this abomination.

I never will.

7. Stand Up Comedy
More like "fall down tragedy". This is utter shite.
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:16 PM   #10
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1. NLOTH. Good album opener (could have used it to open live on 360, too), something U2 forgot on their latest album. Still - particularly live - I preferred that riff when it was part of The Fly.

2 . Magnificent ; a modern-day U2 by numbers that works. 90's U2 (drums/bass/synth), 80's U2 in lyrics and 00's accesible writing.

3. MOS. An album has a problem when it peaks this early. 21st century gospel, and arguably their best work in the 00's. Great lyrics, excellent vocal (a prime example how much difference a truly invested Bono can deliver, see also Cedarwood road ending on SOI) and a cutting Edge solo.

4. Unknown caller. A better chorus away from a very good song, and a nice sequel to the story of MOS.

5. Crazy tonight. I enjoy most of U2's pop natured songs, and this is no exception, minus the dreadful falsetto squeaks. Would have fit on ATYLCB better than here though.

6. Boots. Should have discarded everything and use "let me in the sound" part as a chorus for a new song.

7. SUC. Not sure why this didn't get airtime live. Edge chanelling his inner Jimmy Page, and not as bad as some would have you believe. Remember Boots is on the same album...

8. FEZ Toss UF and Zooropa era U2 in a blender and this would be the result. Good but not the great some would have you believe.

9. White as snow. * for borrowed melody.

10. Breathe. What's not to like ? U2 lays off the 4/4 tempo for once, Bono is loose on the delivery and Edge makes a strong showing.

11. Cedars of Lebanon. Pop era U2. The strongest closer since Love is bindness (that is until Troubles came along).

All in a 3 part record but not really an album, nor a song collection as strong as U2 can make at their best.
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Old 08-12-2017, 09:14 PM   #11
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Moment of Surrender and Fez-Being Born are as good as anything they've ever done. I love the group singing and the sounds on these two.

Magnificent is pretty good - I wonder how it would have fared opening the album or as lead single - but it's too repetitive and doesn't build enough as it goes. Edge's solo on the album should have been the same thing he played live.

Unknown Caller, White as Snow, Breathe and Cedars of Lebanon are interesting enough. The rest I can take or leave.

I would have liked the whole album to sound more like Soon - more mature and with more texture. Heck that track should have been on there, too.
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Old 08-13-2017, 07:29 AM   #12
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I still love the album, and have since the day it was released. By far my favorite post-Pop U2 album.

1) No Line - a really great mix of experimental and Pop. I wish U2 spend more time in this space. Great song.

2) Magnificent - I'm still a big fan, especially of the lyrics (although I tend to have positive feelings about Bono's more Christian-y lyrics, so I'll admit my bias). On one hand, it's not super inventive by U2 standards, but the layered-ness of it still really stands out to me. And I love the bass.

3) Moment of Surrender - basically perfect, "ATM machine" notwithstanding.

4) Unknown Caller - I've gone back and forth here. The chorus does sound awkward lyrically, unlike previous versions of the song, if I remember correctly. But I love the chanting in abstract, and the overall lyrical picture is still intriguing to me.

5) Crazy Tonight - I enjoy it. Some lyrics are questionable on the surface, and the bit of falsetto is godawful. I think there's some existential dread about meaningless life in this song, fittingly masquerading as a throw-away pop song, which is at least interesting to me.

6) Boots - Should have NEVER been a single, but it's a great album track. Super textured sound on the album and, again, lyrics that I think go a little deeper than they appear to on the surface.

7) Stand Up Comedy - Not particularly great, but the hate for its is overblown.

8) Fez-Being Born - Gorgeous.

9) White As Snow - Gorgeous

10) Breathe - One of my favorite songs to make me feel better.

11) Cedars of Lebanon - I like the idea, but it just feels a little flat in execution. I tend to wish that The Troubles took spot 11 here.
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Old 08-13-2017, 10:36 AM   #13
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No Line on the Horizon is probably in my Top 5 of U2's albums. It's definitely not flawless, but that is it's charm. I would place it above both Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree, but that is only because I wasn't cognizant of U2 back when those other two came out, so I don't have as much invested in them. Obviously, those others more well-crafted works of art. I can still be objective despite my feelings to the contrary. All That You Can't Leave Behind and Pop are my # 1 & 2.

I think Larry is the MVP of the album, especially on Magnificent and Breathe.

The album should have included Soon, as opening song, followed by Fez-Being Born. Breathe could have ended the whole shebang.

White As Snow is almost hymnal. It's like a quiet walk after a Summer storm. It's nostalgic for more peaceful times. In the face of adversity, it is a calming smile. U2 needs to write more songs like this.

Unknown Caller has some interesting lyrical ideas. It's an exhortation to peaceful resignation. Edge steps up his game here.

Stand Up Comedy and Get On Your Boots are jumbled mishmashes. I don't mind them, but they are filler. And, sadly, not the kind you never think about but still enjoy when you hear. "Let me in the sound" is one of the catchiest sentences Bono has come up with. Should have been left solely in the opening of Fez though.

Moment of Surrender is hypnotic. I wish we'd gotten the full original version. I wouldn't have minded another couple of verses. MoS should have been the first single, too. Enough with the fluffy rock song that doesn't represent the new avenues of creative expression to be found on the album. The song also probably has Bono's most ardent vocal take on a U2 album since the 90s.

Cedars of Lebanon feels like a b-side. But I guess it fits the loose concept story of the album.

The title song should have been replaced with the more upbeat version. The lyric doesn't fit the grim rumble slog of the album version.

Crazy Tonight's title is obnoxiously long. I love the bouncy music and hopeful lyric. Bono's singing makes me smile - in a good way. The animated music video is the best one they've done since I can't remember.

Breathe is a blast of joy slammed directly into your soul. But I understand the criticism. But what else can you expect from Bono? He's always been an earnest fellow.

Ultimately, I really like what U2 attempted to do on this one. A shame they didn't go all the way with the moody introspection.

No complaints about Adam. Guy is solid as usual.

So, my retooling of No Line on the Horizon would be something like this. Trying to keep at least a slim thread of thematic continuity.

Soon
Fez – Being Born
Magnificent
No Line on the Horizon (b-side version)
Crazy Tonight
Sexy Boots
Cedars of Lebanon
Moment of Surrender
White As Snow
Unknown Caller
Breathe
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Old 08-13-2017, 12:44 PM   #14
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Assessing this album song-by-song is a disingenuous approach IMO because the thing is so incredibly disjointed. I would go so far as to say this is the least cohesive album I have ever heard, which despite some very solid tracks (Fez, Breathe, MoS) makes it considerably less than the sum of its parts. In that sense, Boots was a representative lead single in that it sounds like ten different ideas senselessly forced together. Frustrating is probably the best word to describe the album as a whole.
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Old 08-13-2017, 03:02 PM   #15
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Hadn't heard it in ages either. Figured I'd give it a spin to see if I had anything interesting to share.

1. NLOTH. Never hung with the other version enough to rightfully compare. This was always one of my favs on this album. I think it has aged reasonably well. The explosion into the 'bridge' needed some work. "Oh oh oh" seems lazy. Overall, it's simply a good tune.

2. Magnificent.
Terrible intro. Goes right into the hook. Then it just repeats musically. There is an interesting 90 seconds once it gets going. But you've heard it all by then. Biggest failure to capitalize on a great chord progression in the entire U2 catalog. Instead they just repeat it over and over.

3. Moment of Surrender
Hard to find a more overrated song in Interference history. Sure, plenty of things to like about it but it drones on too long for me. Also no dynamic to Bono's vox. He starts off belting and belts throughout. Like the worst in soul music. I like songs that go on a journey. This one walks too much in one place, much like the previous track.

4. Unknown Caller.
For me, the ultimate 'What Could Have Been'. So much potential. But really, the centerpiece of the whole thing, the Greek chorus, is what wrecks it. Everything else, perhaps apart from somewhat uninspiring Edge picking, is pretty great.

5. Crazy Tonight
It's like if you could distill the worst of 21st century U2 into one song...and then improve it slightly. Crafting the song around a bumper sticker slogan like the worst in pop or country music. Just bad.

6. Get On Your Boots
Overusing the riff. A dancey, groovy riff, treated like a punk rocker. Then transition to a cool harmony...that doesn't really fit. U2 do not understand counter melodies on these kind of pop songs anyway. Cheesy cutesy lyrics. Fail.

7. SUCk

No redeeming qualities aside from the solo or bridge section, which isn't bad aside from Bono's "soul rockin people" which would have been considered cheesy 30 years prior. The riff is not terrible but too generic for a band like U2.

8. Fez BB
"The road not taken". The whole album should have been in this spirit. Edge playing delicate muted guitar. Fantastic piano backing. Sweeping subtle melodic change here and there. Bono's yelling could have been subbed for a lyrical idea.

The harmony "lights flash..." best moment on the entire album.

9. White as..

Sorry I dozed off for a minute, where was I?

10. Breathe
"So we are gonna write this rocker, pretty killer melody, interesting vocal approach, Bono rattling off, goes into a really nice chorus progression...

But play it as a slogging 3/4 waltz".

Says it all.

11. Cedars of Lebanon

Might as well be Bono reading a nice spoken word piece over some fairly generic B-side level musical backing. This is music. Rock music. Pop music. Whatever. Not beat poetry. And then a bland harmony. You know how hard it is to make harmonies bland?

Looking back, this one and Bomb just leave me more impressed with SOI. For me it's there with ATYCLB fighting for 9th place just behind SOI and just ahead of Boy. Maybe I need to listen to ATYCLB to decide.
wow, I completely agree with every track review, with the exception of Boots which is so bad I can't believe it ever made it out of the concept stage.
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