"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Age FEBRUARY 3, 2009 - by Bernard Zuel
STEPPING OUT, WITH A TOUCH OF ADVENTURE
As much as can be discerned from one listen, U2 no longer feel the need to sound like "classic U2", the imperative which energised the 2000 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, but stymied their last album, 2006's more ho-hum How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
Producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois bring their characteristic touches to the backing vocals, the scurry of background sounds (this will be a great headphone experience) and the creation of atmosphere even in almost punkish rock songs. The oblique album cover in one sense represents this album's regular avoidance of the obvious.
But Eno in particular also brings his preference for not repeating tropes and it seems the band are ready to play, taking excursions into wide open road desert songs, cocky denim rock and moody dark corners as well as the odd distortions of tracks such as the first single, Get On Your Boots.
Now it's not as if U2 have re-imagined themselves: there are familiar, stadium-ready rock numbers and there are electro-influenced numbers. But there's an oddness to many tracks which speak of adventure rather than comfort.
The Edge takes centre stage with a mix of aggressive and tuneful guitars and Bono's lyrics seem occasionally to have been put through the random mixer, which is no bad thing when it comes to someone with very familiar pathways. It is indicative of an album which may reward long-time attention rather than seek immediate affection.