All That You Can't Leave Behind

  • Interscope

Amazingly, after 22 years together, U2 has recorded one of the crowning achievements of its entire career. Tossing aside the gimmicks, techno-jive, and heavy-handed production that have marked several of the Irish band's fine yet flawed latter-day recordings, the group has gone back to the classic U2 sound—full of soaring vocals, propulsive rhythms, and explosive guitar riffs.

That combination jumps out of the box the second this CD kicks in, with the powerhouse lead single "Beautiful Day." As The Edge's distinctive guitar throttle churns in killer counterpoint to the first of several mind-blowing Bono vocals, it's instantly clear something very special is going on here.

Cutting away from cluttered production, longtime U2 collaborators Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois have allowed the band to put the emphasis back on the simple beauty of the songs. The melodies here are frequently gorgeous, typified by tracks like the hypnotic splendor of "When I Look at the World" and the rich soul and lovely harmonies heard on "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." Other standouts include the inspirational "Walk On," which is dedicated to persecuted Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi, the shimmering pop splendor of "Wild Honey," and the buzzing furor of "Elevation." Most bands of such stature would have settled into complacency long ago, but U2 has turned in a disc that ranks right up there with some earlier classics like "War," "The Joshua Tree," and "Achtung Baby."

Kevin O'Hare