Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick Takes - No Line On the Horizon

No Line On the HorizonDue to the recent leak of U2's No Line On the Horizon (the current theory is that Universal Music Australia had it for sale online by accident), the powers that be have made it available, legally, at their MySpace page.

It's a strong release, but what I find curious about it is that it isn't exactly a large musical departure for them, even though everything that's been said about it up to this point led me to believe otherwise. Sure, we get some unusually minor key feel via rockers like "Get On Your Boots" (including a midpoint drum break which reminds of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks"), but the rest is mostly a mish-mash of U2's last two albums peppered with a bit of techno a la Achtung Baby.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The title track is a space-y number with catchy sing-along bits ("Oh whoah oh whoah oh whoah oh-oooh!"). "Magnificent" begins with a foghorn inspired guitar line, is followed up by some Pop-esque keyboards, before exploding into a standard Larry Mullen drum roll and The Edge's trademarked delay-ridden arpeggio picking. And for those who truly dig songs like "Stuck In a Moment", that's here too, via "Moment of Surrender" (which has a very effective, restrained, slide guitar solo), and "White as Snow" (with horns that remind one of "Love Rescue Me"). Bono's lyrics? U2 fans are all familiar with his wordplay by now, and it hasn't gotten stale here.

What stood out to me was the excellent flow of the album. I don't think they've ever produced a record that segued so well track after track. For that reason, it's almost concept album in feel, and that goes a long way towards making Horizon a very pleasant listening experience. So kudos to Eno and Lanois for that touch, but a big minus for not caring enough that any dynamics that were in the album (and there were) are lost in the compression.

The bottom line is that this is clearly a U2 album, so it will go over well with anyone who's enjoyed the band's last two releases, but its contents aren't going to turn the music world upside-down. This is truly ok with me: they already did that in the 80s, so I don't expect it again.


Blogger Neil Davis said...

Over-compression destroys the record during the mastering process, and is forced by the record company on the mastering engineer. I'm sure the recording had dynamics when the mastering engineer got the pre-master ;)

9:27 AM  
Blogger Hollow Man said...

Thanks for your comments. This album is peculiar because it's not nearly as loud as most modern releases (many songs don't hit 100% on the level-o-meter), yet the sound seems quite compressed to me. I'll have to take a look at the sound curve for some of them to see if it clips and they simply lowered the volume after the fact, but considering that the record doesn't seem harsh to me, I suspect not. So yay for no clipping, but boo because the dynamics are scarce.

10:24 AM  

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