1. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
The long awaited, (three years), follow up to the Pop album, which had its fans, but even more detractors. “U2 brought back producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois who had produced a number of the band's previous albums.
The album was a great return for the band after the experiment that was Pop. The band even remarked that they were "reapplying for the job ... [of] the best band in the world.
“All That You Can't Leave Behind has sold over 12 million copies, received wide critical acclaim, and won seven Grammy Awards.” “The songs "Beautiful Day", "Walk On", "Elevation", and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" were all successful singles.” “In 2003, the album was ranked number 139 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (U2 WikiPedia , 2010).
2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. Beautiful Day – From the opening seconds of this one you know it will be a change from the discotheque sound of Pop. The reverberating guitar and then that blast of sound that just catapults the band back onto the stage of rock history; really can be felt in every way on this song. This song just lifts you, no matter what your mood may be when you hear it. All the elation and power this band has mustered before this album, comes back in all its glory within this opener. One of the best opening songs in history. It is an opening sound they have tried to duplicate with each successive album, but this was special after the long hiatus and the disappointment of Pop. It is still one of my favorite U2 songs. It is one of those classic songs written with lots of new effects and sounds while still maintaining all the power you were used to hearing from this band. They serve their fans the proof that they are back and here to stay at the top of the mountain. The cold dry spell is lifted. The lyrics reveal a new world as the band discusses cities and stops all over the planet. The video that came with the single also tried to capture the power of a world on the rise of a new millennium.
2. Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of – Then the drums blast through and a slow contemplative song bursts forth. I don’t agree with this as the second song. I always thought Elevation with all of its magnificence would have kept the power from Beautiful Day going. They would do that with the next album, but with this one they slowed things down. Stuck In A Moment… is still a good song with powerful lyrics and Bono’s delivery of those words is one of the best in many an album. This is a very lyrically driven song with few musical highlight moments. The drumming and guitars are solid, but this is Bono’s shining star and he delivers brilliantly as always. “It’s a long way down to nothing at all” is one of my favorite lines in the song. The trumpet section provides some of the only instrumental highlights. Luckily we are heading back to the power and glory on the next song.
3. Elevation – Those quiet almost glass – like sounds before the bass, drums and blasting guitar electrify us again. The power is back! The walls of the house reverberate with the plethora of sounds coming at you from all the nooks and crannies of the thin air. A psycho – electro blast of atomic power chords. New sounds from one of the best bands in the history of rock. They clearly set new ground with some of the new sounds on this one. “Explain all of these controls”, yes, there are so many sounds on this one that you cannot take it all in during one listen. “The goal is elevation”, always thought it was with this band and this one brings it back into full view. A cosmic land mine of a song. Many bands are still trying to capture the magic of this one. Grinding guitars, power drums, bass that just rips at your ears and the vocals that…well….elevate.
4. Walk On – Tambourines and Bono almost whispering the lyrics to open this song. The first real power ballad on the album. The Edge’s signature chords bringing back memories of Rattle and Hum, Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree. The lyrics really touch deep into our sub consciousness. The power of the acoustic guitar blended with Edge’s launching riffs are a real highlight. The piano comes and goes at just the right time and helps provide the warmth missing from Stuck in a Moment…
5. Kite – The almost orchestrated opening to this one prepares you for the most dynamic and powerful lyrical song on the album. Taking us back to the power and majesty of the Unforgettable Fire on this one. “Something is about to give.” “I can feel it coming.” “I think I know what it is.” “I’m not afraid to die. “ “I’m not afraid to live.” “And when I’m flat on my back, I hope to feel like I did.” The lyrics are some of the best on any U2 album. “Who’s to say where the wind will take you.” “I know this is not goodbye.” “There’s a kite blowin’ out of control on the breeze”, then the Edge steals the show with a solid riff, before Bono blasts back with “I’m a man, I’m not a child!” Don’t fear - fear! The message is loud and clear at a time when many people were worried about the turn of the millennium. Would cars still run, computers crash, the power systems around the world shut down, etc. The time when new media was the big idea.” The world which we live in today. A big, bold song for a new millennium.
6. In A Little While – Slow guitar before beat box sounding drums and a nice melody and rhythm builds to support Bono’s powerful voice driving those serious lyrics. A nice, sit back and relax kinda song that has a beat which would be perfect for slow dancing. Bono’s singing really captures the power. An instrument in its own right. The bell or glockenspiel effects bring back warm memories of Hendrix’s Little Wing. “Bono has noted in live performances that it became a gospel song after he heard that Joey Ramone, the iconic front man of the legendary punk band, The Ramones, listened to this song as his final one on his deathbed” In A Little While, 2010).
7. Wild Honey – My second favorite song on this album behind Beautiful Day. This takes me back to the 70s and the days of my youth. Bono captures the feeling so well in that time when being out in the fields was much more fun than sitting inside next to a computer. We all appreciated the nature that surrounded us and waded through it in all its glory. We were young and full of all of life’s mysteries. The guitars and vocals are perfect, set to an awesome melody. The Edge really sets the background tone well along with the acoustic sounds rolling out of the speakers. Only an acoustic could have captured those primitive feelings so well. The perfect spring/summer love song. “I’m still standing…where you left me.” “Are you still growing wild, with everything tame around you.” That line captures the theme of this one so well.
8. Peace on Earth – Piano and keys slowly open this one. Then the lyrics open with this powerful statement, “Heaven on Earth.” “We need it now.” “I'm sick of all of this hanging around.” A powerful statement in every note and word of this song. An almost Christmas – like opening, musically. Lyrically driven song with a few keys, acoustic, some drums and electric guitars. “But hope and history won't rhyme.”
9. When I Look At the World – Building, grinding guitars before another burst onto the scene moment. “When you look at the world, what is it that you see?” Another powerful song with lyrics that force you to contemplate where the world is in history. Bono’s voice is as powerful as ever delivering the message encompassed in the lyrics. The drums keep perfect time with the keys and electric chords in the background. Great rhythm and melody to accompany the vocals. The guitar solos take you away and at the same time add to the far off effect in the lyrics.
10. New York – Guitars and drums to open this song. Grumbling lyrics that try to sum up the state of one of the world’s largest cities. The power chords soar and rip at the air as the drums keep pace and the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York rhythms ring through the air. This song brings back memories of the Bono/Sinatra duet from 1993, coming so close after Sinatra’s passing in 1998. The lyrics really bring home the power and attraction of this famous city. “I hit an iceberg in my life.” “But you know I'm still afloat.” “You lose your balance, lose your wife.” “In the queue for the lifeboat.”
11. Grace – The power of this song is magical. “Grace, it's a name for a girl.” “It's also a thought that changed the world.” Slow bass and guitar with tambourines and soft drums for percussion. A quiet closer to make you think and bring back the hope that has been so well associated with this band, despite the obvious pain they have taken on throughout their career. It could be a good statement for this band. The final lyric truly captures the power and magnitude of the band so well. “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This was a game changing album for this band. The experiment of Pop, though interesting, was too much for their loyal fans. I actually like much of Pop and I enjoyed the experimentation, but I did also wish for a return to the style that made this band so complete as artists. The fans wanted a rocker and the band delivered. They were back at the top of the charts and in the hearts of their fans again after this album.
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
I still listen to it often. Not as often as I did in 2000 and the early 00s, when the music scene was full of rap and other non – rock elements. This album carried me through that rough period until four years later when How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb? came out.
Rating: 9/10 – Although this is a fantastic album, it is a transitional album for me. HTDAAB was full of more favorites for me. This one did help reassure me that rock was still alive and could come back, but it was not as powerful as their former catalog and they have since eclipsed this album with two giants.
Reviewed by Prof on April 30th, 2010