In the late 1970s a small group of high school friends – Larry Mullen Jr., Dave Evans, Paul Hewson, and Adam Clayton – joined together with the simple intention to make music. In the course of making that music they would eventually change the history of rock.
With their 10th studio album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, U2 has crafted soul, rock and a waft of spiritual enlightenment in 11 packed tracks. They have diverged from their progressive pop sound of the late 1990s to come back to the roots of who U2 is: passion and beauty. Apprehensive to brand such a magnificent album with a long title, U2 reveals to the buyer that their is a outward theme on the cover: beauty, love, life and death.
“We just have to find beauty in unexpected places. Their is beauty to be found in everyday things … but really, its about being honest and real with people. Just keeping it real,” said Bono in a recent interview with Dublin’s BBC.
Focusing around a person who has lost everything and has never been happier, the first single “Beautiful Day” set the stage for a monumental album of rock, rhythm and insightful lyrics on Oct. 9, 2000.
People in the entertainment business have been stating that the new album is a return to the old U2, reminiscent of the days of “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” which emulate pure passion and unadulterated music. They are correct in terms of the mood of the album and the ability of it to elevate one’s soul. The music touches a basic part of each person that listens to it. And, this album is a progression from the last, presenting a similar mood with new music.
This album is full of crisp guitars and lyrics that get the heart beating faster and speak about intangible human experiences. Having so often written his lyrics on the spot while recording, Bono found writing lyrics before entering the studio an introspective process making things more clear in U2`s music.
“We wanted to write songs … just tunes. We love pushing the envelope but we wanted just to make tunes that want to make you get out of bed in the morning,” said Bono.
The song “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” is a heartfelt tribute to INXS’s Michael Hutchence who committed suicide in 1997. The track holds a sense of unbridled fear for the uncertanties of life but delight for the unknown. This spirit is seen again in “Kite” and “Wild Honey.”
Comparatively speaking, “Wild Honey”, although an excellent track, is the weakest on the album. It does not fit the mood of “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” Although it is a weak track musically, there is depth in its lyrics.
“Elevation” is the quintessential track, epitomizing the feel of the album. The quick song is a far cry from hollow leaving the listener overflowing.
On a more serious note U2 has developed a sense of passion for life’s highs and lows. “Walk On” delivers a message of perseverance through persecution. The song’s inspiration is Aung San Suu Kyi, a politcal patriot who is under house arrest in Burma.
U2 has a history of politcal commentary in their music. In the later tracks on “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” they use the music to question whether their past comments have made a difference in the world. At the same time they pledge, through music, to continue remarking on world conflicts. “Peace On Earth” leads the listener into a world of ever changing politics and doubt in the fact that individual people can make a difference in the struggle for world peace.
“When I Look At The World” questions people’s motivations for analyzing the world while “New York” analyses mid-life crisis’. U2 ends their spiritual journey with “Grace,” showing that beauty can be found in life and love.
U2 has delivered a powerful punch of beauty, relentless passion and substance both musically and most of all, lyrically with “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” The musical muse has blessed the band with an album exploring feelings about purpose and beauty. Their wild passion for life is reflected, culminating in an amazing accomplishment for any band going into the 21st century.