31 August 2000
Track by Track Guide to the New U2 Album, All That You Can't Leave Behind
By Larry Flick used with permission Billboard, 09.30.00
"Beautiful Day" (U2, Bono). The project's lead single, "Beautiful Day" is an instantly recognizable, immediately memorable U2 rocker -- replete with a big, booming chorus, lushly layered harmonies, and ringing guitar riffs. Lyrically, Bono says the song is about "a person who loses everything and has never been happier. It's a song about taking stock of the important things in life."
"Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" (U2, Bono, the Edge). A sweet, understated rock ballad that deftly explores the angst and ultimate emotional rescue from depression and sadness. Bono glides into a smooth, gospel-inflected falsetto during the bridge, adding a retro-soul flavor to the tune. "We wanted it to have a real Philly type of flow to it," Bono says. "Musically, it has that shuffle-in-the-street sound that feels so great and old-fashioned in the best possible way."
"Elevation" (U2, Bono). An acidic kicker that's mildly reminiscent of the tripped-out tone of earlier albums "Pop" and "Achtung Baby," in that it deftly intermingles forceful rock elements with jittery hip-hop-derived beats and a swirl of distorted guitar/keyboard lines.
"Walk On" (U2, Bono). A classic U2 love song, featuring meticulous, clanging guitar-work from the Edge and yearning, worldly words of love by Bono. Lines like "A singing bird in an open cage / Who will only fly for freedom," as well as the tune's arena-friendly chorus, render it a natural single contender. "It's one of the songs that people seem to have an instantly positive response to," Bono says. "It's going to be a lot of fun to play live."
"Kite" (U2, Bono). An orchestral opening flourish segues into a languid rock-ballad arrngement, leaving ample room for Bono to deliver one of the more impassioned vocals heard on the album. The Edge punctuates the track with deliciously intricate lead guitar riffs, while Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen underscore the track with taut, insinuating rhythms that provide motion without overpowering the innate intimacy of the song.
"In A Little While" (U2, Bono). The club-savvy team of Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher makes a post-production cameo on this notably low-key, pop-splashed gem. Bono wails with ample soul, while Stannard and Gallagher put their natural rhythmic intuition to fine use.
"Wild Honey" (U2, Bono). A pleasantly simple, acoustic-framed pop strummer on which Bono is at his most earthy and romantic.
"Peace On Earth" (U2, Bono). This track is a firm reminder that few bands can get as intensely philosophical and political in their music as U2 does without coming off hammer-handed. Rather, this epic composition succeeds in examining the woes of the world within a structure that also includes a firm, insinuating melody and an infectious hook. A beautiful, heartfelt song that effectively references Sophocles' "The Cure At Troy" as translated by Seamus Heaney.
"When I Look At The World" (U2, Bono, the Edge). A perfect companion to "Peace On Earth," as the band launches into a rumbling, militaristic beat that is fondly reminiscent of its 1984 anthem "Pride (In The Name of Love)." In the end, however, this tune doesn't have the same white-knuckled attack. Instead, this song (one of several on which the Edge contributes lyrics) simmers, relying more on a quietly guttural power than heady screams and proclamations.
"New York" (U2, Bono). An undeniable love letter to one of the world's most famous cities, penned from the wide-eyed perspective of a European seeking the so-called promised land. Encased in a slow-building rock framework, "New York" is a clever, often amusing ditty that tempers its ardor with a fair amount of realism.
"Grace" (U2, Bono). A soft, subtle closer that nicely counters the sonic blast coursing through much of the set. Everything about this song is intimate and quietly emotional, as Bono cleverly intermingles vivid metaphoric images of a woman named Grace shouldering the weight of the world with sharp lyrical images of grace as a state of being.