Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Off to Dublin

I am off to Dublin for a few days today. In a few hours I will be there. I just need to perfect the art of cramming all my toiletries into an A5 sized plastic bag, since I am not checking anything in! I read the advice on the Manchester Airport page, and I think I am sailing a little close to the wind, but I have graded my stuff in order of what I can ditch if I need to, so wish me luck! Ha ha.

This trip has been made possible by Sue, who invited me to stay with her while she house sits for a friend in Dun Laoghaire. We have a lovely, cosy home to call our own for the time we are there. And there is even a cat!!

Tonight we are going out to eat at La Strada, our favourite restaurant in Dun Laoghaire, and one we have visited many times. Tomorrow we are eating in, and then on Friday, our new favourite place in Dublin, the Town Bar and Grill. A tad more expensive than most places we go to, but the food and the ambience is well worth the money. Well, if you don't go when there is a party on as we did near Christmas last year. Then, it is a nightmare and you can't even hear yourself think! You can't even hear yourself burp though, which is quite handy!!

So, I will be updating my blog when I get back. Cheerio!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

U2 - No Line On The Horizon - Album Review

I think I am long overdue a review of this album. I gave my first, early impressions of it, but I was kind of putting off going into any depth because I have still been getting to grips with it. Not that it is hard work, but just that I am allowing it to wash over me gradually. I didn't want to rush my thoughts.

Prompted by a friend's email to me with her thoughts, I wrote back to her with mine. A little shambolic and jumbled though they were, I think they are as close to an in depth review of the album as I am likely to get in the coming months, as I have a lot of travel coming up (during all of which I will have my iPod earphones jammed in my ears with NLOTH on!).

So... I thought I would simply paste my email to my friend. So hope you enjoy my rambling about NLOTH. I have edited here and there to cut out anything irrelevant and to make it suitable for my blog.

I have been trying to formulate my thoughts on the album into some sort of cohesive sentences, because at the moment it seems more instinctual for me to like it, rather than intellectual, if that makes any sense. I kind of sense what is being conveyed, but it's more of a silent language at the moment. The music is uppermost in my mind (more on that later) and I am trying to make sense of the lyrics - which incidentally I think are some of the best that Bono has ever written.

Sometimes I am loathe to try to analyse what Bono means when he writes, because as you know, writing is so objective/subjective, and the meaning can be easily disguised. Here on this album, Bono is kind of hiding behind the "third person" (technically he is still writing in 1st person POV), and this is something a writer can easily do. Pretend it's a character and you can get away with anything. If you show your heart or your hand too much you can say it's not you. I think that, despite the characters he uses a little in this album, these are some of the most personal songs that he has ever done.

I like this album better than The Joshua Tree - and I LOVE the Joshua Tree. That album will always be an absolute classic, and it showed a band (and moreso a man) maturing, turning from a boy to a man. Both in ideas and in voice. But, even though the Joshua Tree spoke of worldly things, they were only worldly things that Bono was just on the cusp of discovering. Joshua Tree was, for me, the onset of a journey into discovering life. Writing about a bigger world that was to be explored. His songs were passionate and objective, but only from the point of view of an outsider looking in. A relative youngster (he was only 27!) Now, Bono has explored that world, and his lyrics are more intense because they come from a direct experience he was only touching on before. When he talks from the point of view of a war correspondent, he is really talking about his own experiences. Mourning lost youth, and past loves, and talking about futility, and war, and the way the world is. And religion of course... God is always there. I have no religious beliefs, but have always been in awe of other people's. Especially Bono's. I mean, it can't be the bunkum I think it is, if someone like him believes it! Right? I respect his views, and marvel at the strength it so obviously brings him.

There is such beauty in his words... at times on this album just hearing them brings me to tears. Most notably on Magnificent: Only love can leave such a mark/Only love can heal such a scar - the profundity of that. The contradiction of love. It scalds and soothes. And Bono laid bare… From the womb, my first cry was a joyful noise.

One of the best songs lyrically for me (at the moment!) is “I’ll Go Crazy”. This track literally erupts with genius! Humour abounds along with pathos. Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot and The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear brushing shoulders with The sweetest melody is the one we haven’t heard and is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?

Lots of other gems on the album… a couple that spring to mind now are Where a lovesick eye can steal the view and If only a heart could be as white as snow.

I need to explore the lyrics more. But I will finish on the subject by saying that I can not find any "dodgy" lyrics on this album. And that happened on the last one, and on subsequent songs that U2 were involved in (I won't mention the songs here, but they know who they are!!). Lyrics "thrown in" at the last minute it seemed. Easy, clichéd rhymes and bad grammar for the sake of fitting them into the song in the alloted space. I always feel cheated when that happens. It doesn't happen on this album. All the lyrics are relevant and true. Even the "cockatoo" lyric. All part of a bigger genius. You don't have to look far for the sense in these songs.

Moving on, musically and vocally, I find this album breathtaking. Bono’s voice soars and the guitar roars. All those fun clichés we heard are made real on this record - Bono is singing like a bird and the Edge is on fire!! This album is pure U2 (in parts so utterly recognizable that it’s like you have come home) but it's U2 on steroids! The title track is the most amazing thing… U2 venturing out into something new, and proving that they can be relevant, and ground-breaking, in their own right.

I love all of the tracks… the only one I really skip is “Boots” but then I always skip the first single off an album. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a great song. But I’ve listened to that enough. I thought there was going to be a track I hated, and indeed, when I first played the album there were tracks that were great contenders for that title, but I genuinely love them all. They are so diverse. The music is in parts uplifting, in parts soothing, thought-provoking. This is exactly what I wanted. Music of power, and poetry, and sensual, caressing vocals.

My one fear before the album was released was that it would be like the previous two. That it would have a few great songs but no cohesion, no sense or message that I could discern. But this album flows from beginning to end and it makes perfect sense to me. Even if I could not explain it to anyone else.

As for how this album will translate to the live environment. I think that already we can see the crowd-pleasers, the sing-alongs, the songs that move you to tears. I hear reports that the bassline in Magnificent can be felt in your chest! I look forward to that! Can you imagine the hysteria that will erupt when the first strains of that song are heard? I can’t wait to sing along to “Crazy” and “Breathe” and to cry at “Moment of Surrender”…..

A fitting title as we surrender ourselves again to the joy of a U2 show!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Eyeliner on the horizon....

Come July, I will be seeing the above vision in real life! Hope so anyway... hope that Bono does not decide to ditch the eyeliner by then.

So far we have tickets for Nice, Dublin, Wembley and Glasgow.... more to come tomorrow with any luck. Sue will be doing the honours again :) Wish her (and me!) luck!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

And the favourite song today is....

After almost a week of playing the U2 album and having it in my head almost all of the time, I have decided that my favourite track is "I'll Go Crazy...". I just can't stop singing it. Love the lyrics, love the many layers (layers are something that they do well on this album). It's just an amazing song for so many reasons.

Even after seeing Snow Patrol at the MEN Arena in Manchester last night (fabulous gig!), the songs in my head were still U2 as I went to sleep! Just goes to show that right now, everything is revovling around U2.... thoughts of the tour dates and tickets, and the new album still fresh and new and exciting.

Having said that, though, the Snow Patrol show was wonderful. Lots of singalong moments, and at one point Gary Lightbody ran off the stage, and ended up on the steps in the middle of the auditorium, singing "Run" and playing his guitar while some woman "volunteered" to hold his microphone! It was wonderful. Everyone sang along and Gary was laughing throughout. A very "feel good" part of the show.

For the encore they played the last three tracks from their new album (the three having the subtitle "The Lightning Strike") while a video played on a giant white screen in front of the stage). A lovely moment.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

No Line On The Horizon - Review

This weekend I went to stay with my friend, Sue, in Carlisle, where we got together with another friend - Dawn - to buy and listen to the new album. It was quite an occasion, and apart from the tracks we saw performed on various television programmes in the week that led up to the release, we had not listened to any of the album. So we were all on the same page as we sat to listen. I wrote down some thoughts on our very first listen, and have included some of them in this review, which is written after I have listened to the album a few times. I know that my thoughts will change frequently, so I might post about this again in a few weeks.

No Line On the Horizon

A magnificent (no pun intended) song, and when I first heard/saw this on The Culture Show (played live at HQ) I was moved to tears. It was so exciting to see that they had not lost "it" and I was incredibly excited by the energy in this song. Love the lyrics, and the guitar, bass and drums have such power. Undulating waves and the volume goes up and down, with Bono singing softly sometimes and then soaring loud at others. A firm favourite.


A very 80s-like U2 song... the classic sound, but done a million times better. When the song starts it sounds like you have come in near the middle or the end, almost like this song has been playing forever, on a timeless loop. It sounds instantly familiar and right. Great lyrics, and you can imagine this in the stadiums.

Moment of Surrender

My least favourite at the moment. The lyrics are beautiful and Bono's voice is lovely. A great song full of emotion, but I can't listen to it much because of the annoying musical arrangement, which for me, spoils it. The "popping, bubbling" percussion in the background is relentless and out of synch with the music and at odds with the song. In my initial notes I wrote: "cacophony of instruments" and that was my overriding first impression. I hope I can get over that because I want to give it a fair chance. On headphones it is much worse!

Unknown Caller

The birdsong track! Starts off sounding like Bad, which is good! Very hypnotic. Sounds like a typical U2 track musically to start with, but then moves into a strange vocal of several male voices. It alternated between this and Bono's solos, and is intriguing. I quite like it, the monotone chanting almost, mixed with melody. Reminds me of a Police song. I like the horn parts.

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

Another favourite. Like the range of Bono's voice. Brilliant, witty lyrics coupled with poignancy. A great hook and a great one for singing along to at the shows.

Get On Your Boots

It's always so strange to hear the first single when the album comes out, because it feels like it has been around forever and needs no review. Suffice to say I love it, and I think it actually fits in well where it is placed on the album. Brings some levity.

Stand Up Comedy

Wish I could read the lyrics that some bright spark decided to print white-on-white in the booklet that came with the album. Has the great line "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady." And of course the "be careful of small men with big ideas" line! Great rocker, but I need to listen to it more.

Fez - Being Born

A song about birth. Of a man? Of an album? You can hear elements of several tracks in this, starting most obviously with "Let me in the sound". A snapshot of the whole album, a record of its birth. Lovely vocal by Bono. At times you almost imagine him being pushed into the world, wailing like a baby. Love the end lyrics: "Head first then foot/then heart sets sail" The ideas are born.

White As Snow

Bono's words set to a traditional tune, so it is strangely familiar. Very typical of an Irish dirge. This is typical also of the general mood of the album, which is introspective and melancholic. The story of a man reminiscing about his youth, mourining something lost - innocence? Beautiful, beautiful singing.


Liked this a little on first hearing/seeing it on TV. Love it a lot now. I like the way it changes frequently. It starts off with a rambling Bono talking interesting gibberish (never thought I would hear the word "cockatoo" in a U2 song, ha ha). Moves quickly into another singalongable U2 song. Weirdly uplifting despite the slight menace the "rapping" suggests. Can imagine 50,000 voices taking this one and running with it in the summer!

Cedars Of Lebanon

More of a poem than a song. Reminds me a lot of "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" but without ever going into a chorus. Nothing like I imagined from the title. Pleasant but not a fire-starter!

Overall, I am more pleased and delighted with this album than I dared hope I would be. On first listen I thought... "Mmmm... it's okay, but I need to work on it." Now, I find that it took less work than I thought, and I love it all to varying degrees. Sue, Dawn and I commented that this was exactly what we had asked for. It was as if U2 had listened to our brief and delivered what we requested... a new, innovative album which has layers and layers that it is a pleasure to peel away.