Rhythm & Views


I'm writing this after the third night of U2's full week of Late Show With David Letterman appearances, and I assure you that the band's TV renditions of the songs from No Line on the Horizon pale in comparison to the actual album. Encoded into the files that make up No Line on the Horizon are profound aural expressions of the human experience; the songs are much too big for the tiny interior of the Ed Sullivan Theater, or the confines of a television screen.

No Line on the Horizon follows big, time-tested U2 themes--The Edge's crystalline guitars against Bono's lyrics of love and hope. Everywhere on NLOTH are tensions between surrender and action, suggesting perhaps that this is the defining pressure of our historical moment. On "Get on Your Boots," it's action through surrender: "The future needs a big kiss," sings Bono. "I don't want to talk about wars between nations." On "Unknown Caller," computer metaphors suggest surrender through action: "Restart and reboot yourself, you're free to go."

But then there are much more optimistic anthems--"It's not a hill, it's a mountain," cries Bono on "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight," "but I know we're going to make it all the way to the top"--and much more subdued ballads: "Yesterday I spent asleep," begins the last track, "Cedars of Lebanon." The focus is this tension, and it's a big one; hence, NLOTH is a big record, bigger than one or 100 listens can contain.