no line on the horizon…or to be more specific, stand up comedy’s bassline in five words…

reprinted from my tumblr blog, originally posted 2012

So let me begin by being perfectly clear about something – I really, really did not like this album on first listen. I mean, I literally listened through once and put the damned thing away for weeks.

Now, as I’m sure you know from reading this blog that I’ve been a U2 fan for an age. You would also think by now that I would recognize the signs of this band at their most brilliant. And to be perfectly candid, my reaction to No Line on the Horizon was nearly identical to that of Achtung Babyand Zooropa – Which was; “Oh my god, what the f@%& have they been smoking?!”  And that these two albums now rank in my all-time top five, should have been the final tip-off to keep listening when it first came out until the light-bulb came on. But no.

To let you in on an even bigger secret, I hated this record on second and third listen too. And it was with that third listen that I put the disc away.

For a year…

Actually, for more than a year…

It wasn’t until by some rather odd trick of luck or fate or divine intervention that this album happened to come up in some rather peculiar shuffle mode right after listening to the aforementioned Achtung Baby. It was in this totally random sequencing, that this disc did something amazing…it finally clicked and absolutely connected with me on an emotional and visceral level. It was like a completely different album from the one I’d heard over a year previously…

Now, perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was in an entirely different head-space by this time. It was now the end of July, 2010. I was about to leave for my only sister’s wedding, I was newly single and to hear these discs back-to-back made No Line seem to be the logical next chapter to that 1991 masterpiece. The Moroccan feel, the driving bass and drum and a post-midnight Joycean Nighttown vibe that is reminiscent of tracks like Mysterious Ways and So Cruel.

And while I know that I might get a lot of flak for this, I would argue that Cedars of Lebanon is one of the strongest closing tracks they’ve ever written. Now, I generally have difficult relationships with closing tracks on U2 albums (which will certainly be the topic for another post), but this tack seems a very fitting end to this particular musical journey.

So while this album is, in my opinion, one of their strongest, there is one track that really personifies this work – Stand Up Comedy.

Don’t laugh. I’m not kidding.

Lyrically, it’s full of great visuals and rich in thick Irish hyperbole. Sonically, it is got a depth that reminds me of tracks like Until The End of The World or Zoo Station. But really, the crux of the track for me is in the bass (aren’t they all?!). That in rock and roll, the bass, the rhythm, is the sex of the music and in the case of this song, the bass is like an orgasm on four strings – especially in the bridge section. It’s like a popsicle on a hot summer day – it just melts all over the place.

IMG_0159I know that a lot of so-called “real” bass players really rag all over this guy about how his playing is “too simplistic” and that he “sucks” because he doesn’t fuck about with the flash and the 45-note runs in a face-melting solo that would make Geddy Lee weep. But to me, that’s just such bullshit and jealousy from a bunch of guys who just don’t get it. The point has been made (and missed by guys like these) that U2 is, in fact, a band and ultimately, it’s the band ego that the four members serve. At the end of the day, it’s what’s best for the song that wins, not how many different notes the bassist can fit into the span of two bars.

So haters to the right…I’ll be in my spot, down front, stage left, thank you very much.

Adam Clayton photo: Lily Alexander 7.23.11

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