I’ve been listening to the highly anticipated upcoming U2 album No Line On The Horizon, which is due to drop March 1st. It represents quite a change for U2 in some significant ways, though there are several instances where you can tell they’ve tried to put some of their classic sounds into it.

Here are my thoughts, per track:

  • No Line on the Horizon–  unexciting to me, gets more interesting as the song goes on.  Almost sounds like Pink Floyd in parts, unconventional drumbeat, not typical of U2.
  • Magnificent–  good groove, this is starting to sound like U2.  A mix of synth and guitar: a little ‘Killers’-inspired maybe?
  • Moment of Surrender–  lots of Hammond organ and chord changes, very nice relaxed down-tempo, Bono sounds great. I can hear this one in a stadium.  My favorite so far.
  • Unknown Caller–  Atmospheric, ‘natural world’-type intro.  Simple structure, and fairly anthemic.
  • I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight–  Doesn’t do much for me, but some good old-fashioned Edge guitar (they shouldn’t try to supplement that too much with other crap).
  • Get On Your Boots– driving bass and Edge riff which sounds like a toned-down contemporary version of AC/DC rock n’ roll with some 70’s classic rock vocal style in the chorus.  Just okay; using this as the first single does a huge disservice to the album.
  • Stand Up Comedy– more gritty, loose snare, and do I hear brass?  A little more Dave Matthewsy until the chorus.  An instant crowd-pleaser, I think. My new favorite.
  • FEZ – Being Born– completely different.  Electronic sounds with Arabic influences.  Several interesting changes.  Keeps the attention!  (I think this song will be one of the most talked about on the album: a key example of how some middle-eastern musical structures are fusing with western music in a contemporary way.)
  • White As Snow– First really downbeat song on the album.  Picks up a bit after a while with a simple old-fashioned minor-key melody.
  • Breathe– Opens with a tom drum-driven classic rock beat which is soon joined by a heavy guitar riff.  Not bad, but unoriginal and kinda boring.  Gets a little more interesting, musically, at about 3:15.
  • Cedars of Lebanon– Bono sings a simple, speech-style rambling melody over a toned-down band and muted, rhythmic picking guitar. Nice way to finish, but does it really sound the way I want U2 to sound?

Some of these songs will be instantly recognizable for years to come; others not so much. Maybe three would work well in a U2 live show, and – after all – those are the ones that really matter.

Hear U2 perform these songs for five nights straight on the Letterman show on CBS the first week in March.  (Letterman’s never given one band an entire week before.)