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U2 Revisit the Wheel

U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
(Interscope Records)
3 1/ 2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 18, 2000

By Tony Bonyata

"I'm just trying to find a decent melody," swoons Bono on U2's latest album All That You Can't Leave Behind, a statement which neatly sums up the direction this mega-band has taken on their ninth studio release. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, as they did on their techno-enhanced trilogy (Achtung Baby!, Zooropa and Pop), U2 seem more content to merely revisit it, chiseling out the decent melodies Bono was in search of.
Leaving the beat box rhythms and aggro-synth samples back in the studio, they've retraced their own footsteps that have lead them back to their once majestic melodies and anthematic choruses, only this time without the holier-than-thou pretentiousness of their earlier years. After stripping away the techno veneer - which made their last three albums shine - what we're left with is an often pleasing collection of tunes, which as a whole falls slightly short of what's expected from these Irish superstars.
U2 Songs like "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," with it's forced gospel choral delivery and the predictable "Walk On," seem more like U2-by-numbers than fresh, creative works. Even Bono's plea for peace on the simple"Peace on Earth," seems to quietly smack of his self indulgent, lofty past.
But whatever faults may lie within All That You Can't Leave Behind , they are all completely absolved by the inclusion of one simple, yet highly uplifting number -"Beautiful Day." When Bono cries "It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away," over co-producer Brian Eno's effervescent keys and The Edge's proud guitar-lines, he has never seemed more hopeful, or believable. Luckily the sun doesn't stop shining on just that number, as they prove on the soulful Euro-funk of "Elevation," the powerful, high-flying "Kite," the longing pop of "Wild Honey" and Bono's tongue-in-cheek Lou Reed-meets-Liza Minelli phrasings on the cool "New York."
They may not be taking us anywhere new here, but thankfully they've brought along just what was needed, leaving the rest behind.

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