All That You Can’t Leave Behind
U2? You remember them, don’t you? They made some rather good records, way back when, before the high-tech rot set in and Bono pranced around in a devil’s mask. Well, this new record isn’t on the par of The Joshua Tree, or even Rattle and Hum, for that matter, but it surely is more enjoyable than Achtung Baby and that other piece of crap from that time period. Opening with “Beautiful Day,” it’s evident quickly that the Edge has found his echo units again, and the song sounds like what we remember a U2 song to sound like, except softer. In fact, the entire album is so subdued (probably in large part to the production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois) that it’s hard to imagine hearing the songs in a large arena — which is a good thing, since we’ve all had quite enough of the “Zoo TV”-type spectacle, thank you very much. These songs are more personal and intimate without being preachy. In fact, until you get to the last page of the liner notes with all the different causes Bono wants you to assist, you don’t hear an overtly political moment. All the songs seem to be about relationships at first listen, and it’s only on repeated hearings that the songs begin to relate to issues larger than two people — or as the Clash liked to say, “politics with a small p.” While U2 will most likely never command the attention they once did, or write a song as brilliant and menacing as “With or Without You,” All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a welcomed, and well-named, return to form.