Volume 94, Issue 38
Tuesday, November 18, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Disc of the week
Nearly four years after the travesty that was Pop, U2 have returned with All That You Can't Leave Behind, their finest album in over a decade.
Pre-release hype positioned the album as a return to the sound of the band's classic, The Joshua Tree. Upon listening to the album, this statement reveals itself not to be true. What has changed is the quartet's experimentation with cutting edge technology, which has now taken a back seat to the songs themselves. The loops and synths are there to augment, not dominate. It's still a modern sounding record, but unlike Zooropa or Pop, now the sound is not the point, the songs are.
The first single, "Beautiful Day," is marvellous. With an airy feel and a huge chorus, it already deserves a place among the pantheon of U2 classics. "Elevation", which opens with Bono shrieking like a man possessed, is a slick rock track with a very cool bridge. The ballad "Peace On Earth" is a wonderfully refined piece of political protest, while "Wild Honey" may be the band's clearest attempt at a Rolling Stone's style rocker.
Every track has been mixed to amazing levels of clarity, an effect which, when combined with the band's continued electronic dabblings, makes U2 appear like the first fully realized rock band of the 21st century.
As good as All That You Can't Leave Behind is, two tracks stand head and shoulders above everything else. "In A Little While," is pure soul; a cool little number that features a wristy guitar part, a knotty shuffle beat and the grittiest, most impassioned singing of Bono's career. Appearing halfway through the record, it is truly unexpected.
The second piece is the album's closer, "Grace." A slow burning tribute to a remarkable woman, it reveals a new level of delicacy to a band not known for its ability to write subtle, sensitive numbers. Completely without bombast, it is simply a glorious piece.
Aaron St. John
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