NRO : Part 2 - U2, Version 4.0samedi 16 décembre 2000
Source : NRO
So, the question was, How do they stay relevant to the contemporary worldaround them ? Easily, they go back to their roots. What they do best is to be aninventive, yet stunningly self-aware band crafting very good songs. All That YouCan’t Leave Behind seems like the beginning of U2’s fourth phase. On the cusp oftheir 40s now, they are, by any measure "grown up." It’s another life-transitionthat can be resisted but never completely denied. But growing up doesn’t mean youdiscard everything that came before.
Growing up is realizing that all your past experiences — good and bad — combineto make you the mature adult you are now. The opening track, "Beautiful Day"pays a quick homage to Pop by using as an introduction sample of electronicaband Underworld’s hit "Born Slippy," before an Edge guitar blast and a soaringBono vocal sends the band rocketing through an exuberant walk down the street.The album’s title comes from another standout song, "Walk On," an anthemchampioning individual spirit and perseverance. It is dedicated to Myanmaropposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who receivedthe Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday.
If one had any doubt whether U2 could remain relevant after all these years, oneneed only note the second song on their newest CD, "Stuck In A Moment YouCan’t Get Out Of" — "You’ve got to get yourself together/You’ve got stuck in amoment and now can’t get out of it." It’s not specifically commenting about theU.S. election, but the lyrics sort of fit.
The themes remain the same for U2 : love, longing, and hope. No matter how oldthey are, the optimism still burns — most likely because they still seem inspiredby true faith. "Peace On Earth" is basically a prayer. Perhaps because their beliefsare grounded in something more than simple political correctness, the band islargely able to avoid — both in music and in their public lives — the insufferablepretentiousness that plagues many other pop musicians.
While Bono is fairly clearly left-of-center, he rarely sounds as mawkish andself-absorbed as, say, Sting (where is thy death ?) or R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. Oneof the more amusing moments of recent months weeks came out of Bono’s visit toCapitol Hill to campaign for world-debt relief (his current pet project). He managedto stop by Jesse Helms office. The picture that came out of the meeting may godown in history along with the Nixon-Presley shot of three decades ago. Bono,amazingly, looks like he’s having a good time — and oddly enough, so does Helms.Bono may be a lefty, but he’s not afraid to at least be pictured with a lion from theRight.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind might not be U2’s finest album, but it is still oneof this year’s best, because it has something to say. It’s appropriate that the lasttwo songs are "New York" and "Grace." The former is, of course, about the citythat to this day remains the source of inspiration for immigrants and visitors fromall around the world — the symbol for perpetual reinvention. The latter is atantalizing ambiguity :
What once was hurtWhat once was frictionWhat left a markNo longer stingsBecause Grace makes beautyOut of ugly things
Is it about love or is it about the spirit ? Or both ? Draw your own conclusions.This album shows that rock musicians can get older and not necessarily lose their,well, "edge," their creative spark. For their fans of a certain age, U2 is a comfortingfriend who reassures that growing up need not mean giving up all one’s dreams andideals.
If this is the first step in U2’s next phase, then it will be worthwhile sticking closeby to see where this latest journey takes them.