November 9, 2000

Gone To the Edge and Back

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Any college student who has ever lost a paper to the perils of cyberspace can sympathize with this similar story behind the music of U2’s most recent album release. Rumor has it that, with the lyrics saved on his computer, U2 lead singer Bono was lucky that his entire missing laptop was returned to him after what may have been a devastating loss for both the band and their fans. What may have been gone forever is now, as of its October 31 release, sitting on the shelves of any popular music store worldwide.

In light of the story behind the music, it is interesting that U2’s latest album is entitled All That You Can’t Leave Behind. And it is a good thing that these lyrics, as well as the band’s distinct style, was not left behind after two decades of unmitigated success.

Characteristic of U2, this album’s pop/rock sound is a classic depiction of the band’s talent as it fuses together the best elements of its ’80s and ’90s experimental endeavors. Most reminiscent of the band’s 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, All provides its listeners with a loose rock spirit that somewhat overshadows the pop dance expression of another previous album, Pop.

Entering their third decade of musical mastery, U2 expresses its ease and confidence through the flow of All’s lyrical presentation and musical assembly (which includes a transitional, yet smooth alternation of styles and sounds throughout the album). Even with the stylistic variations within their sound, U2 has settled into themselves as they become veterans of a style that they can specifically call their own. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen may have aged over time, but their musical talent has only improved and is evidenced in the quality of this album’s eleven distinct rock/pop tracks.

While U2’s music has traditionally been a vehicle for both social and political messages, All That You Can’t Leave Behind couples these messages with a debut attempt to express pure and natural enjoyment. Although the group’s style has not changed, the sense of themselves that has been thrust into the songs’ lyrics has definitely become a bit more personal and romantic in the humanistic sense. Introspective and somewhat soul-searching, tracks such as “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Walk On,” and “In A Little While,” explore the themes of love and human emotion that are heavily infused into this album.

Although sentimental and refreshing, a U2 album would not exist without the band’s thematic expressions and commentaries that are associated with their political activism and social interests. While “Beautiful Day” is a great, typical, unrestrained anthem of this pop/rock band, “New York” disengages the group from their Irish decent and places them in the melting pot of this American city.

A melting pot of sorts in itself, All That You Can’t Leave Behind leads the group into the third phase of their musical career, leaving none of their ground-breaking past behind. Borne from the good fortune of Bono’s supposed lucky save, this album is destined to become a successful part to the U2 collection. A fan before this album’s debut, this long-anticipated release has served to renew my interest in these Irish rock/pop stars. Grounded in the substance, emotion, and musical talent of the group, “you too” will not be able to leave behind all that U2’s most recent album has to offer.Gone To the Edge and Back

Archived article by Barbara Seigel