U2101 – No Line on the Horizon

It isn’t often that the members of U2 feel so moved by a single song, or like a song so much, that they choose to name their album after that song. It’s happened, of course, but now that I think about it, in most of those circumstances, it wasn’t so much that the band were so enamored of a single song, it was more like they felt a concept was so important that it was worth naming both a song and an album after that idea. Such was the case with 2009’s “No Line on the Horizon.”  Unfortunately, the album that bore that title didn’t sell as well as the boys would have liked, so material from that record often gets overlooked nowadays. I wonder how much that lack of confidence from the band plays into fans’ feelings about the album…a lot of fans that I know would place No Line on the Horizon in their bottom two or three U2 albums. I feel that No Line… is overlooked and underappreciated. It is one of the band’s most spiritual albums, with lots of interesting ideas and a good spread of musical feelings, from rocking to somber.

One of the more rocking tunes on the album is the title track. The verses to “No Line on the Horizon” contain one of the greatest melodies that Bono has ever sung, I believe…aggressive and ferocious, but mournful and bittersweet at the same time. That melody is perfect for the subject matter, as Bono sings about a “girl” he knows…not Ali, I don’t think, but a fictional construct who loves the intellectual and the carnal in equal measure. She waxes eloquent on the irrelevant nature of time before doing something much more erotic with her tongue.

“No Line on the Horizon,” despite being a highlight of the album that it is taken from, and being an up-tempo rocker, was played at less than half the shows of the 360 Tour…once in an unexpected but cool acoustic arrangement. I think that that is a real shame, as the song translated very well to the live arena, especially the section of whoa’s that came in the middle of the song. The audiences would join in on that section with relish, and attendees and those who listened back after the fact could all feel the powerful emotion in the room at the time. I was glad that a live performance was captured for the DVD from that tour, and also that another live performance was included in the batch of live music that was released from U2.com for the annual gifts in the years that followed. To be honest, I know that the guys who make the decisions about what to play on a nightly basis, especially Bono, have less than glowing feelings for No Line…(the album), and I know that they must have had their reasons, but I think that they made a mistake in not playing the title track more frequently than they did. At least the song was preserved for the ages on the aforementioned CD and DVD. Like I said above, it is a great concept and a fantastic song.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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