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U2 album a hit, Bono campaigning a miss: critics
Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:17am EST
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By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Irish band U2 releases its 12th studio album on Monday, and while reviews are generally glowing, critics argue that lead singer Bono's dual role as rock star and campaigning "saviour" may be meddling with the music.
"No Line On The Horizon" hits the shelves in Europe on Monday and in the United States on Tuesday, and, as one of 2009's biggest record launches will be closely watched by a business seeking to reverse deep declines in album sales.
No one believes U2 alone can save the music industry, just as no one believes Bono alone can alleviate global poverty, but there is plenty riding on the group's first album in over four years being released by Vivendi's Universal Music Group label.
An early contender for biggest record of the year before it even goes on sale, No Line has been described as the band's most experimental album since 1991, and possibly its best since then.
"Simply, what all of this amounts to is the best U2 album since Achtung Baby," wrote Q magazine at the end of a five-star review. "With time it may prove to be better still." Rolling Stone magazine also awarded it five stars, Mojo magazine four.
No Line is produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who collaborated with the band on 1984's "The Unforgettable Fire" and its biggest album to date, "The Joshua Tree," which went on to sell an estimated 25 million copies.
U2's last record, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb," sold nine million copies worldwide.
Critics say No Line, recorded in Morocco, Dublin, London and New York, marks a return to the more experimental approach of Achtung Baby and Zooropa. While most are impressed with the outcome, there are dissenting voices.
"Despite the obvious time and effort lavished on the album, it still has a patchy and somewhat perfunctory tone," wrote Andy Gill in The Independent daily.
The first single from the 11-track album, which U2 has performed at recent awards shows, is the fast-paced "Get On Your Boots," but it is the anthem-style "Magnificent" that has impressed experts most, followed by "White As Snow."
The songs tackle familiar themes of love, war, hope, and, perhaps more than ever, being Bono.
The U2 frontman has long juggled a dual career of rock superstar and A-list campaigner, badgering world leaders and businessmen to fight everything from AIDS to poverty.
There are those who feel his mission is beginning to hinder the harmony, alienating potential fans and coloring everything that U2 does.
"It's becoming increasingly difficult to hear U2's music without filtering it through your feelings about the other Bono, that strident, sanctimonious swirl of idealism, agenda and ego," J. Freedom du Lac wrote in the Washington Post. Continued...
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