Advice for fans, cynics and the vaguely interested: firstly, if you're planning to avoid 'No Line on the Horizon' on the 'strength' of 'Get on Your Boots', don't - it is the least interesting thing here. Secondly, if you're expecting the sound of a rule book being thrown in the Liffey, there are no splashes anywhere. Feeling like a journey which stops off at various points from 'The Unforgettable Fire' to 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb', this won't tell you anything about U2 that you don't know already, but what it says it says well. Sometimes very well.
For those who found '...Atomic Bomb' and predecessor 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' all about some hits and lots of misses, what's here should be stronger and more consistent. The thing that 'No Line on the Horizon' offers in huge doses is a feeling of uplift, big rock done with a play loud energy those half U2's age struggle to muster and some of the best guitar heroics of The Edge's career. Of the 11 tracks, eight are like rallying calls to get the people sitting in Row Z down the front, while the other three ('Moment of Surrender', 'White as Snow' and 'Cedars of Lebanon'), dim the lights and up the chills.
Throughout, the band and producers Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite have tried to assert each song's identity from the first few seconds with a sample, a blip, a drumroll... something to put you in a different frame of mind than you were for the last one and hook you from the off. And the longer you listen the more you hear things that remind you of the past - a nod to 'The Fly' or 'So Cruel', a guitar line which sounds transported from what they made in Slane Castle all those years ago. It's a tactic that keeps your attention and makes you want to find different things every time.
In 'Fez - Being Born' and 'Magnificent' all the classic elements of the U2 sound come together in the most striking of ways. With the smallest amount of lyrics (a good plan for the future - there are some clangers) on the album, 'Fez' uses the theme of travel as the impetus for personal change, beginning with Moroccan street sounds before taking an about turn and becoming this great life-affirming rush with the most urgent of vocals. 'Magnificent' should have been the opener (with 'No Line on the Horizon' starting side 'B'), its euphoria featuring a great guitar break-out from The Edge and a lyric firing the love right back at the crowd.
Matching the two of them for power are the three that change the mood completely. The slow set, 'Moment of Surrender', is seven-plus minutes of strings, soul singing and shuffling beats. The roots ballad 'White as Snow' harks back to the time of 'Joshua Tree' and 'Rattle and Hum' with the narrative juxtaposing the life of a solider in Afghanistan with his time with his brother back home. Closing the album, 'Cedars of Lebanon' finds a journalist thinking back on true love and the price of wisdom and knowledge. Compared to everything else, they feel like they belong on a different record.
And that feeling is the one which keeps taking up the most thinking time. U2 can't make songs sound any more colossal than they've done here, so the challenge now should be to do a darker album, take more risks, see halls instead of stadiums and hear haunting instead of happy. So few big bands these days have the ability to have you thinking about what's coming next when now has only just arrived, but that's what happens on 'No Line on the Horizon'. The title is very apt - but more for the future than the present. There should be no fear about venturing into the unknown, and no worries about getting lost along the way.