The Drama You've Been Craving
Monday Nov. 13, 2000
U2's 'Inspiration Music'
The great Irish rockers want you to feel something.
By Michael Goldberg
Am I the only music journalist who dug U2's Pop?
All the reviews I've read of U2's latest, All That You Can't Leave Behind, are positive. So positive that according to some of them, this is U2's first great album in nearly ten years.
My memory may be failing, but I do seem to recall plenty of raves when Pop (and Zooropa as well) shipped. Way back in 1997, many writers applauded Pop as a brave move forward into the land of what was, for a few moments, being called electronica.
Rather than finding yet another "greatest thing since..." accolade for All That You Can't Leave Behind, I'll call it a worthy indeed extraordinary follow-up to Pop. The album finds the group re-emphasizing some of its classic trademark sounds (particularly noticeable in The Edge's guitar work). In keeping with the importance of electronics in the work of co-producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (who also produced Achtung Baby, The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire), U2 continue their electronic experimentation here as well.
Most importantly, Bono still has a lot to say, and his eloquence has only improved.
I've listened to this album 25+ times so far. All That You Can't Leave Behind sounds like a great U2 album that will still sound good years from now.
My Kinda Poetry
Bono writes nearly all U2's lyrics, and they're my kinda poetry. "Touch me, take me to that other place," he sings in the wonderful opening track, "Beautiful Day." What I especially love about his work is that he's focused on the big, big picture. He wants to be moved. He wants to feel things. He'd rather risk it all for love and have his heart broken than settle for some safe, emotionally distant arrangement.
U2 make inspiration music. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" proclaimed that material gain wasn't going to get you the answers. Whatever your success, you'd still need to look hard for the things that really give life meaning.
Back in the day, The Joshua Tree was my soundtrack as I headed to the country to shake off the day-to-day, hoping to look beyond the next week or month. It was the background music of trying to see where I was headed.
And when my wife and I took a trip to Death Valley, an amazing place for putting things in perspective, it was Achtung Baby we listened to.
When I hear songs such as "Beautiful Day" and "Kite" off the new album, I remember how much of my life at least since I first heard the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as a kid in the '60s has been a search for transcendence. Those bands followed by Bob Dylan, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Who, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, and on and on opened up a new "pop world" for me, an escape hatch out of the suburbs to somewhere else.
Years later, my physical surroundings had changed. I had very determinedly left the 'burbs behind; I had entered a version of that "pop world," although it looked a bit different, since by that time it had acquired media and Internet continents.
You get what you think you want, and you find that there's still a yearning for transcendence, for something beyond.
Still searching. That's what All That You Can't Leave Behind sounds like. And you can dance to it.
In The Game
Coldplay, Parachute (Nettwerk): Calling England's Coldplay the new U2 or the new Radiohead would be easy (and has already been done), but also like calling Springsteen the new Dylan back in '71, when, obviously, he was always his own man, with his own sound. And so it is with Coldplay. Sometimes singer Chris Martin sounds a bit like the late Jeff Buckley and at others echoes the young John Martyn but mostly he ends up sounding like a soulful young folk-rocker who hasn't turned cynical yet, and who can hit a high falsetto when he wants. Guitarist Jon Buckland knows when to stay in the background, and when to kick in with chiming notes that, yes, occasionally reference The Edge. You'll find the great, hooky pop-rock "Yellow" irresistible as I did it's already been a top-5 hit in England. Once you fall for "Yellow," the rest of the album will kick in, and fast.
Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.
© 2000 Michael Goldberg. All rights reserved.