Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ATYCLB Review

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 3, 2000

Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

'All That You Can't Leave Behind'
2 1/2 stars

A welcome retreat from the hollow bid for dance-floor credibility that made an embarrassing electronic mess of "Pop," the oldest anthem rockers in the world ease you into "All That You Can't Leave Behind" with the throb of what appears to be an electronic heartbeat. But it isn't long -- a minute, maybe less? -- before the men who gave the world "Boy" are rocking like they've rarely rocked before, with Bono out front crooning -- with that old-school Bono passion -- about what a beautiful day it is and how you shouldn't let it slip away.

As anthems go, it's nothing short of anthemic.

But to tell you the truth, it's when they pull it back a notch and let you hear the ache and tenderness in Bono's voice as he implores his lover, you, the Lord, whatever, "Touch me/Take me to that other place" that "Beautiful Day" emerges from behind its wall of richly textured bombast as a work of unassuming beauty.

It's not all anthem rock. On "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" -- the '80s, perhaps? -- the band turns soulful on the road to church with Bono swearing, "I'm just trying to find a decent melody," to which the only sane response is well, you've found what you were looking for. On "Elevation," it's back to the club, only this time, the dance move is choreographed with an eye on conviction. Bono goes all Barry White on the spoken introduction to the yearning Bon Jovi-esque ballad, "Walk On." And the Edge goes double duty on guitars and strings on "Kite," another moody ballad.

"When I Look the World" scales the heights of U2's most majestic work. But the album's emotional center, "In A Little While," is miles removed from the anthemic world of the Joshua Tree -- a gorgeous, pleading hunk of Memphis Soul, with Bono's gritty vocals sounding every bit as raw and urgent as the best of Otis Redding.

Lyrically, the album has a tendency toward self-motivational sloganeering, positioning Bono again as the Anthony Robbins of stadium rock. "You've got to get yourself together," he urges. "You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it."

And to his credit, Bono makes it sound a whole lot more convincing than it looks in print.

But unlike Jesus and/or Sting (who's got this tantric sex thing going on when he isn't off saving the world), he can't do miracles. Not even a singer as great as John Lennon could rescue a moment as hokey as "They're reading names out over the radio/All the folks the rest of us won't get to know/Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda/Their lives are bigger than any big idea."

Make me puke, why don't you?

On "New York," the album's weakest cut, the singer proves he's no Lou Reed.

And no, that's not a compliment.

What matters, I suppose, is that the older fans will celebrate the fact that "Pop" is now behind them, while the generation Bono hoped to conquer with his techno reinvention -- the serious kids -- will continue to listen to Moby or Radiohead (or anything new and exciting) instead.

Copyright © 2000 PG Publishing. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 3, 2000 5:18 AM.

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