U2 Is Back to Its Roots After a Decade of Trendy FlirtationsIn a return to basic rock and roll sounds reminiscent of the Beatles' discovery of a new identity in the release of their White Album, Irish band U2 reclaims all that it had abandoned during a decade of less than impressive experimentation with techno and pop beats. Their new album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, is rich in the quintessential U2 sound that brought it cult status during the '80s.
It has been 20 years since the four musicians from Dublin appeared on the rock scene with Boy, a debut album about adolescence. The releases that followed preached politics, religion and humanity through lyrics written with a sense of irony and music that left emotion unchecked. After spending the '80s trying to change the world through their music, the band spent most of the '90s taking an electronic detour during which they flirted with the trendy sounds of pop and electronic dance music, apparent in Zooropa and Pop, two albums clouded by these commercial sounds.
"It's a return to roots, even though the opening bars of 'Beautiful Day' include a drum machine and a string loop," the lead singer, Bono, told MTV. "Most of the album is like a soul record, and it's a new and fresh territory for us."
Now well in their 30s and early 40s, the band members have created an album that is described by the Chicago Sun Times as "partly retro and partly timeless." "Elevation" is fuzzy with gritty guitar undertones. Bono raises his famous scratchy voice in "Beautiful Day" and croons of love in "In a Little While."
The new U2 is relaxed and worldly wise. Bono sings, "I'm not afraid of anything in this world/ There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard," in "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." In another song, Bono sings, "In New York I lost it all to you and your vices/ Still I'm staying on to figure out my mid-life crisis."
As in their earlier albums War and The Unforgettable Fire, U2 is again promoting political activism. In a a song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who has been under house arrest in Burma since September, Bono sings, "What they got they can't steal it/ No they can't even feel it/ Walk, on, walk on." Bono received an award last February for his political activism from Rock the Vote, an American organization that promotes freedom of speech.
The band will go on a world tour next year. According to the band's manager, Paul McGuinness, in an interview with BBC Radio, the band expects to play in intimate settings, not in the stadium spectacles of their recent tours.
Boy (1980) October (1981)
War (1983) Under a Blood Red Sky (1983)
The Unforgettable Fire (1984) The Joshua Tree (1987)
Rattle and Hum (1988) Achtung Baby (1991)
Zooropa (1993) Pop (1997)
The Best of 1980-1990 (1998)
All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
by Joe Yong-hee