The new U2 record is pretty lousy, and that's lousy news for us all—devout fans, professional detractors and the defiantly indifferent alike. Your personal emotional investment (or lack thereof) notwithstanding, the rising tide of No Line on the Horizon's overwhelming artistic/economic triumph would have lifted all boats, would have trickled down to the grateful masses, would have delivered enough stimulus to reverse our inexorable slide toward the Greatest Depression. No other band wields power this awesome anymore.
And we all tried really hard to make this work. The boys appeared on national television, like, 50 times—and your friends and mine in the music press rained down the five-star reviews and "Good Lord, it's their masterpiece!" cover lines. (Rolling Stone and Q, disrespectively.)
Like General Motors, a new U2 album is too big to fail—too much auxiliary talent (Eno, Lanois, Lillywhite, Corbijn, etc.), too much expectation, too much accumulated goodwill. But accumulated goodwill is all it has, merely aping "classic U2" as opposed to evoking or improving it. These new songs will remind you of other, much better songs, but in a way that only makes you want to go and listen to those other songs instead—and then fret over the fact that they're quite possibly older than you are.
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