Wednesday, January 21, 2009

U2 straps on 'Sexy Boots'

I still remember the radio premiere of U2's "The Fly" on Radio 1 in England back in 1991. At that point, I liked them just fine but I wasn't a huge fan. But "The Fly" was very different from anything else on the radio at the time. The single ushered in a thrilling period of successful experimentation over the course of three albums (four, if you count The Passengers side project).

Unfortunately, the relatively poor selling "Pop" -- a hugely underrated record --- made them more musically conservative in their silly quest to maintain their status as "the biggest band in the world." The past two albums each featured a clutch of great songs (among them, "New York," "Kite," "Vertigo," "Crumbs from My Table," "City of Blinding Lights") but there was a lot of filler, too, and the Eno-vation of the 1990s had evaporated.

But I get a sense that they're rediscovered their creative fire once again. In a December 2007 interview, Bono hinted that the new album would include "trance influences" and a "dancefloor shock," but also stated that "...there's some very hardcore guitar coming out of The Edge. Real molten metal. It's not like anything we've ever done before, and we don't think it sounds like anything anyone else has done either."

In November, The Edge said: "It sounds like a U2 album but it doesn't sound like anything we've done before and it doesn't really sound like anything that's happening at the moment."

The latest Rolling Stone, which includes a track-by-track guide to "No Line on the Horizon," says the album has the loudest and fastest songs U2 has ever done and it says that some of the songs reclaim the experimentation of their "Achtung Baby" through "Pop" albums. Hoorah!

So, all these years later, comes the first single, "Get on Your Boots." Much like "The Fly" it seems to be a statement of intent (a similar strategy to Coldplay's recent "Violet Hill" and Keane's "Spiralling") than an attempt to showcase the album's most crowd-pleasing tune. If I were to compare it to past U2 songs, I'd say it's "Vertigo" meets "Fast Car" meets "Discotechque." Strange, yet catchier with each listen. Hear it here.

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