With its long-anticipated release, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, U2 delves into its past hoping to recapture the rock `n’ roll fire that once propelled the band to international fame. U2 has a history of innovation and constant experimentation. All That You Can’t Leave Behind is not really an experiment for U2, but a search and rescue mission for the band’s ’80s rock roots.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind delivers plenty of the delay-filled guitar riffs and powerful vocals that have been missing from U2’s recent releases. The album’s intoxicating first track, Beautiful Day, could find a happy home on any one of U2’s earlier albums. This may be a U2 hit for the new millennium. Beautiful Day meshes the band’s rock roots with its early ’90’s explorations to create a remarkable sing-along tune that will undoubtedly see a long stay on the radio waves.
U2’s hits have always been tinged with a pop sheen. All 11 tracks on All That You Can’t Leave Behind are slickly produced and have hit-single potential. Tunes like Walk-On and Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of are first-rate rock songs that borrow from the style of past U2 hits.
Some may criticize U2’s lack of invention on this CD, but experimentation may not be what U2 fans really want. Varied opinions of edgy, innovative albums such as Zooropa and Pop may have influenced the band’s decision to return to what it does best – rocking out.
It would be hard to argue that U2 falls short in its attempt to make a great rock album. Bono soothes the mic with In a Little While, creating a smooth atmosphere of soul with a hard edge. Walk On is old-school U2 at its best, with the feel of With or Without You and a fresh hook.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a return to the basics, sort of. This album is not the work of a band that is maturing but rather one that has fully matured. U2 mellows out a lot on this record. Listeners should not be fooled into thinking this album is The Joshua Tree. The album still has a distinctly U2 feel and plays straight through without a hitch. Bono may have traded in his vinyl and taken to wearing plaid golf pants, but somehow it works.
Missing the fiery anthems like Sunday Bloody Sunday, this album addresses basic themes like love and the search for happiness. Devoid of the in-your-face social commentary that has followed U2 in recent years, the album offers songs like Wild Honey and Grace that work to give the listener a feeling rather than a message. Other tracks such as Kite, in which Bono plays with the ideas of fate and mortality, are more introspective.
This album represents a reconnection for U2. The band hopes to reconcile with past fans who missed the boat on Pop and long for the U2 of old, the U2 that released powerful albums like War and The Joshua Tree.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind is also a chance for U2 to connect with a new generation of rock fans, which hinges on young listeners’ willingness to embrace a kind of rock lost in the past.
If it is possible for U2 to rekindle its past success, this is the album to do it. All That You Can’t Leave Behind can act both as a worthy addition to a U2 collection and a base from which to start. Either way, All That You Can’t Leave Behind may be what U2 is looking for right now to bring the band back into the spotlight – moderate-rock tunes with driving guitar and, of course, plenty of Bono’s obscenely high-pitched wails.