The Capital Times ATYCLB Review

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The Capital Times (Madison, WI), November 8, 2000

by Rob Thomas

There's a moment during the second verse of "Beautiful Day," the opening song on U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, when the Edge's cathedral-bell guitar begins chiming in.

For longtime fans of the Irish supergroup, hearing that sound is like getting an unexpected letter from an old college friend.

The Edge's guitar defined U2's sound as much as Bono's thrilling voice, but had been muted and restrained in the 1990s as the band smeared techno and disco across its vision.

It's back in full force on All That You Can't Leave Behind, an album that finds U2 returning to straightforward, heartfelt rock. It's a joyful and welcome return.

Aside from a couple of uninspiring tracks (especially the plodding "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"), this is a strong and very unified album.

"Beautiful Day" is an appropriately big-canvas U2 song, an expression of optimism from a narrator who has nowhere else to go but up. The inspirational "Walk On" could have been lifted directly from the "Joshua Tree" sessions, with its ringing guitars and big choruses.

"Walk On" is dedicated to Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi, but the actual lyrics are devoid of any political content.

In fact, the lack of political or social themes may be the biggest disappointment of "All That You Can't Leave Behind," coming from a band whose "New Year's Day" and "(Pride) In the Name of Love" effectively married emotion to politics. Perhaps it's too hard to write a catchy chorus around Third World debt relief.

Instead, the tone of the album is more along the lines of "Wild Honey," which relies on an infectious acoustic strum to propel thoughts of an exuberant youth.

U2 seems to be going for a general tone of optimism, rebirth and idealism, rather than any specific messages.

Some may miss the direct commentary on contemporary issues, others who have accused the band of preachiness may welcome the change.

But to unabashedly celebrate such positive themes in a year when greed and aggression rule the pop charts may be the most radical thing U2 could ever do.

Copyright © 2000 Capital Times. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 8, 2000 4:55 AM.

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