ATYCLB Review

| No Comments, November 8, 2000

by Pete Pruden

Eager to simplify after the restlessness and experimentalism that characterized much of the group's output during the 90s, Irish rockers U2 recruited the all-star production team of Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno and entered the studio with a back-to-basics philosophy. The result is All That You Can't Leave Behind, a work that revisits the sonic palette of earlier classics The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree.

The stripped-down sound of All That You Can't Leave Behind is complemented by vocalist Bono's wistful and reflective lyrical themes, which give the album a tenderness and warmth missing in recent U2 releases. The meditative closer "Grace" finds divinity embodied in a woman. The Byrds-like "Wild Honey" is a straightforward slab of jangly pop pleasure. Best of all is the melodic gem "In A Little While," which finds Bono's ever-powerful voice scratchy, vulnerable, and endearing-this is perhaps the best love song of U2's venerable career.

Despite the gentle, relaxed feel of All That You Can't Leave Behind, by no means has U2 gone completely soft: the echo-laden opener "Beautiful Day" and the crunchy "Elevation" crackle with energy and spunk, reminding listeners that this band still knows how to rock. The contributions of Lanois and Eno, who have worked with the band before, should not be underestimated; the two producers have masterfully captured the nuances that make U2 such an enduring talent. The level of sonic detail on this disc is impressive, and is best heard through headphones or a great stereo system.

If there is any weakness in this record, it is the lack of anything revelatory or groundbreaking-U2 seems to have forsaken exploratory zeal for competent professionalism and craftsmanship. Although not a masterpiece, All That You Can't Leave Behind is an accomplished, mature album from one of the pre-eminent bands of this generation. Perhaps, U2 still hasn't found what it's looking for, but Ireland's best-known group seems to be settling into rock 'n' roll middle age with dignity and grace.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 8, 2000 5:13 AM.

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