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All That You Can't Leave Behind

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: All That You Can't Leave Behind

Artist: U2
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 2000

Review by LarryG
3½ stars out of 4

All That You Can't Leave Behind is a triumphant return to form for U2. It's most similar to The Joshua Tree, though it lacks the soaring, earnest ballads, like With Or Without You, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Achtung Baby's One, which brought U2 huge success but also led to them being labeled as pretentious and humorless.Those labels probably inspired the cynical attitude and harsher synth dominated sound they had for much of the 90s. They've discarded that sound and are again making thoughtful songs with a clean, rich sound, based around The Edge's evocative guitar. All That You Can't Leave Behind is more modest than U2's passionate, energetic early work. U2 are older with less of a need to prove themselves. Bono is still idealistic but he's also grounded and relaxed.

All That You Can't Leave Behind is fairly mellow but very enjoyable and easy to listen to. U2 and their long time producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno construct a rich, often breathtaking aural atmosphere. Beautiful Day is Bono's admonition to see the world's beauty. The Edge's classic ringing guitar, his and Lanois' backing vocals and Eno's keyboard textures create an uplifting sound like that of Where The Streets Have No Name or The Unforgettable Fire's title track. Bono is a gifted singer and he has a charming, modest vocal grace on the CD. On Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, he gently offers his support to a person in need. Walk On salutes Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Prize for her brave struggle against the repressive Burmese government. Bono sings, "you could have flown away, a singing bird in an open cage who will only fly for freedom." Walk On reunites U2 with Steve Lillywhite, who produced their first three records. Unlike U2's strident early political songs, Walk On is subtle. Over Edge's glistening guitar line, Bono's vocal is appealingly restrained. Bono is still idealistic but expresses it more quietly. On Peace On Earth, all the pain Bono's seen leads to a simple request. As on much of the CD, Bono refers to his faith without becoming preachy or heavy handed. Eno's keyboards delicately help create a poignant mood. Throughout, the band show a mature confidence and keep things simple. Relaxed keyboards give Stuck In A Moment the easy feel of an r&b classic like People Get Ready. In A Little While and the playful Wild Honey are love songs with a timeless quality. Elevation has the edgier feel of recent U2 songs like Until The End Of The World or Zooropa but the music and Bono's silly lyrics about a woman who elevates his soul don't let things get too heavy. New York also sounds like some of U2's recent work, shifting from minimal synths to a crunchy chorus. New York rocks hard and is fun. Bono sings a goofy lyric about being overwhelmed by the big city, like he's never traveled before.

All That You Can't Leave Behind is one of the best records U2 has ever done, certainly their best since Joshua Tree. The songs are consistently solid, and sound good, with strong support from U2's very good rhythm section. The band keep the songs minimal and don't overwhelm their simple beauty. Sometimes the music is so mellow that you might miss the band's old passion. And if Bono's old persona was too sincere for you, you might have a problem. Bono is still sure of himself and not always as deep as he thinks. But I think he's found a great, mature balance. Bono still cares about making the world a better place but he's more subtle and less self righteous. The warm, inviting music fits his idealism and helps his lessons go down easily.



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