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Heard at the Laundromat

March 6, 2009


Tonight, I went right for the kool-aid– the new one by U2. ‘No Line on the Horizon’ is an album that I didn’t want to like (which I’ve puzzled over for awhile, and concluded that it is a combination of reactivity to a failed relationship and a general sense of repentance for being such a rabid fan a couple of years ago– I’ve been a fool, and I’ve been a tool), but it is a really hard album not to like. True, U2 have built a career by making Christians feel like lyrical insiders, and therefore more smug than they already were, but the music is so strong and wears really well. Hate Bono for his idealism and advocacy and apparent Messiah complex, but the kid can really sing. And the rest of the boys can carry a tune, too.

‘Magnificent’ is already over-hyped as a transcendent worship song, but lines like

This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

get me misty. And the song itself is formulaic, but pretty perfect: anthemic and dynamic, with reflective sections opening right into soaring crescendos.

Other lyrics of note:

A shitty world sometimes produces a rose

and

it’s not if I believe in love,
but if love believes in me

Any band that so openly sings unabashed praises to heaven while unapologetically dwelling on the hard side of life gets my respect. Chris Scharen is right: U2 is founded on a Theology of the Cross. Which is all the more remarkable since they started when triumphalist theology was at its apogee, and they’ve been fabulously wealthy and famous people for all of their adult lives.

There are certainly some bad lines (‘Unknown Caller’ is particularly cringeworthy) and flat songs. And ‘Go Crazy’ is full of cliche, aphorism, and overreaching (“shout at the darkness to get sparks of light”), but it works, somehow. Overall, this album is worth the effort and the wait. It’s got lots of musical references to their earlier work, and incorporates some Moroccan instruments and moves. And I’m loving the heck out of them on Letterman this week. Fortunately, I got the folding done in time to hurry home and catch their performance of ‘Beautiful Day’ to close the show.

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2 Responses to “Heard at the Laundromat”

  1. Ken Tennyson says:

    I did finally get it downloaded, it sounds like I may enjoy it (I hope to get some focused time to listen today). Now if only I could figure out how to pronounce triumphalist in the middle of a self-referential story I would be a happy man…

  2. shane magee says:

    mmm. LOVE u2 but this album is a grower for me rather than an instant hit. btw, think bono may have “borrowed” from bruce cockburn who said it SO much better: “kicking at the darkness till it bleeds daylight”.

    LOVE that line!

    :o )

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