U2, No Line on the Horizon

I know Bono was shooting for "future hymns" but this album sounds an awful lot like previous ones, with some interpolated actual hymns ("White As Snow") thrown in for good measure. There isn't the wildness of Achtung Baby, the experiments of Pop and Zooropa or the punch of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb; what persists is a throwback feel with that same level of lyrical complexity but a hollower style that varies widely from refreshingly ethereal to vaguely claustrophobic. I like the more contemplative pieces ("Moment of Surrender" and "FEZ-Being Born") but some are just hackneyed ("Unknown Caller" with out-of-place references to passwords and the Macintosh Finder), and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" has their classic verve but still sounds more like a soundcheck than a studio. (Strangely, it's those Steve Lillywhite-produced tracks that are the weakest artistically; you can really tell who had the reins when.) Fortunately they can intermittently find their edge with solid, harder-hitting tracks like the title and the off-kilter Middle Eastern shifts of "Get On Your Boots," and in the end it's still a good album, but it nevertheless comes off as slightly beneath their talent. The iTunes bonus tracks aren't anything to write home about either; the Crookers remix of "Get On Your Boots" in particular merely makes a pleasingly daffy track daft. (Content: S-bomb on "Cedars of Lebanon.")