o come, o come bono

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Friday, February 20th, 2009

o come, o come bono

u2’s latest album, no line on the horizon, delivers 11 highly-anticipated tracks from what’s possibly the world’s greatest rock band. u2 and frontman bono can do little wrong, parlaying their rock star status into not only the aforementioned greatest rock band title-bearers, but also activists and global political influencers.

after taking extreme measures to protect their latest album from leaking, a full week before the release, estimates are that a couple hundred thousand copies have already been distributed online. it doesn’t take long to locate several prominent music blogs that openly offer direct download links of the album. and, naturally, i happened to locate one of those blogs…
i would love to do a full-length review of the album, but i’m not going to do that here. rather, i’ll make a few broad comments. first, the album has received, to say the least, mixed reviews. i think it mainly spawns from the lead single, put on your boots, which i can’t get away from thinking it sounds just like escape’s club classic hit wild, wild west (seriously, you need to click on this link…you’ll be a much more awesome person for watching this…). undoubtedly, put on your boots is probably the weakest track on the album. it’s weird that they chose to release that first, but it’s definitely not indicative of the larger collection.
second, it’s interesting to listen to this a year following coldplay’s amazing album, viva la vida. viva was coldplay’s first time time working with brian eno, who has been the longtime producer of u2. on no line, u2 teams up with eno (along with daniel lanois & steve lillywhite) once again. the “eno stamp” was amazingly prominent on coldplay’s album and it’s once again apparent on the new u2 album. the two albums sound like they’re next of musical kin. eno—on both projects—provided an ambience that hasn’t been present in each bands’ last couple records. it’s a refreshing blend with the rock and epic anthems associated with both bands.
finally, as with other u2 records, bono continues to deliver spiritually rich lyrics full of metaphors for love and god. bono is great at weaving together interesting and unique lyrical references to all things spiritual and this album is no different. the most strong and engaging track, quite possibly, on the album might just be white as snow, a song inspired—according to bono—by the ancient and beautiful hymn, o come, o come emmanuel. the combination of bono’s subtle delivery and the edge’s guitar picking make for a surprising and beautiful track.
i thought it would be interesting to take a listen to o come, o come emmanuel and then listen to white as snow to see the obvious comparisons and inspiration. my favorite arrangement of emmanuel is probably sufjan stevens’ version from one of his christmas albums, but i’ve chosen kevin max’s version from his album holy night (due to the similar-ish arrangement and for the fact that bono is one of max’s most important influences). enjoy.

kevin max: o come, o come emmanuel

u2: white as snow

(one final note: as a graphic designer, i just wanted to note that their sparse and serene album cover is beautifully amazing. it’s a photograph by japanese artist hiroshi sugimoto from a series called seascapes. anyway, just wanted to say it was amazing.)