U2
ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND
This page was created on January 9, 2001
and was last updated on June 22, 2005

MUSIC REVIEWS INDEX

U2
ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND
-Review by Bob Messer

DISCLAIMER: The review you are about to read is based on my opinion and my opinion alone. Agreement or disagreement is completely you the reader's decision. Your comments are always welcome.

We all know U2, the world knows U2. So let me quickly list the band mates; Paul Hewson-vocals, guitar, David Evans-guitars, Adam Clayton- Bass, Larry Mullen-drums. Don't recognize the first two names? Those are Bono and The Edge's real names.

Now on to the review! Upon buying this album I realized something, I am thirty-one!

The CD was released in November 2000 which is my birth month. Now upon listening to the album I can't help but think: I'm thirty-one, where did my U2 go?!!! U2's new album just seems to drag a little for me, musically and lyrically. Come on guys, what's the deal-e-o' I'll start with the second track, Stuck In A Moment

You Can't Get Out Of. First of all that is the longest song title I've ever typed. It drags on like the song. I think this song is supposed to be an encouraging and uplifting one. But it's length and lack of hook makes me question creation. A lot of us are stuck in a certain point in our lives. It could be our jobs, or relationships, our spirituality, or some sin of somekind. Did you know that the number one new years resolution was weight loss? My favorite lyric in this song is, "And you are such a fool to worry like you do. I know it's tough, and you can't get enough of what you don't really need now."

The next song is Elevate: Let's just move on to the number four song shall we.

Walk On seems to reflect a title track of the CD. The song deals with parting ways of two or more people. I like the lyric, "And if your glass heart should crack and for a second you turn back, oh no, be strong."

Kite is number five. I like this one. Kite is a parting of ways of sorts, but dealing this time with just two people. One is firmly grounded in life and the other flies off like a kite. "Who's to say where the wind will take you, who's to say what it is will break you, I don't know where the wind will blow." "I know that this is not good-bye."

In A Little While reminds me of a song I once wrote entitled Sunny Day.

Your typical boy meets girl but doesn't want to mess it up song.

Wild Honey is my second favorite pick. Following the styling of Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl.

Next is Peace On Earth, don't get me started Bono.

When I Look At The World has got a good easy goin' groove and a good message, to me anyway.

You should never put your faith in someone. They will let you down somewhere, sometime, they'll let you down. People are human, we are not at all gods. We can believe in gods or a God, but putting your faith in some human will always result in a fall of some kind. We are human.

Bono moved to New York. Wrote a song about it, wanna hear it, here it goes.

Grace wraps up the CD. Very, very, very good song. "Grace, she takes the blame. Covers the shame, removes the stain!" Bono is clearly depicting the Grace of God as someone personal. The last line of the song is "Grace makes beauty out of ugly things."

Well that about wraps it up- Oops! I forgot about the big chart moving hit Beautiful Day.

The soul reason one should bye this CD. Do I wake up every day and say it's a beautiful day?

"...See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colours come out."

"It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away."

Lifting shadows off a dream once broken,
Bob
www.jawbonemusic.com

ANOTHER VIEW
ANOTHER LOOK

-Review By Dan Sawyer

 

Beautiful Day.
Much more than a happy day song. Here, U2 captures the promise of hope in the midst of ugliness, as exemplified in the following excerpt: "Sky falls. You feel like it's a Beautiful Day." More to the point, it's a praise song (though not immediately obviously so). Beginning with the allusion to the parable of the sower

"The heart is a bloom/
shoots up through the stony ground"

and right on to references to Christ's birth

"There's no room/
no space to rent in this town"

and then brings it down to everyday life with talk of traffic and stress and depression, before exploding into the chorus, cause it's a "Beautiful Day." This odd dichotomy is carried right through to the bridge where it becomes painfully clear that U2 is singing about hope and joy amid despair and destruction, with a clear reference to the ultimate source of all hope:

"See the sky in green and blue/
See China [read: RED] right in front of you/
See the canyons broken by clouds
[Natural Beauty]/
See the Tuna Fleets clearing the sea out
[Man destroys nature]/
See the Bedouin fires at night
[Primitive people at one with nature]/
See the Oil fields at first light
[Industrial people raping the earth]/
See the bird with the leaf in her mouth
[the dove from the Genisis Flood]/
After the flood all the colors came out
[God's most enduring symbol of hope and promise]."

This song, like the others on this CD, are much more than they appear.

Stuck in a Moment I'll skip because one of those writing in before me did a wonderful job.

Elevation:
Here is another song you have greviously wronged. There are basically two ways to hear this song. One is as a basic, sexual, erotic and rapturous song about lust and love and obsession and elation. The other, is to hear it as if a charismatic preacher were singing it to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus, and it works well both ways. The tipper is once again the bridge:

"Love, lift me out of these blues.
Won't you tell me something true?
I believe in you."

Bono, a man who reads history and the Oxford Companion to Literature for fun, has always honored the historic poetic tradition of addressing God as Love personified in his music (ex: Love Rescue Me, Rattle and Hum, 1987). And, even if it had nothing to do with God at all (which I don't buy), a song like that about sex is a beautiful thing in and of itself. After all, didn't God make sex to be that powerful on purpose?

Walk On has already been adequately defended.

Kite:
Bono and the Edge both have talked since the early eighties about what they perceive as the end of Rock and Roll, and their mixed feelings about it. This song is a love song from the band to the fans, bidding farewell from the old hard-edged electronica and rock&roll sound with the promise that the band will still be around

("Who's to know when the time has come around/
Don't want to see you cry./
I know that this is not goodbye").

And, just in case you missed it, they makes an oblique reference to the critics who always raz them for changing their tunes on every album

(Like a kite blowing out of control on the breeze./
I wonder what will happen to you/
You wonder what has happened to me).

And, just in case you're really not getting it, they throw this in at the end:

"Did I waste it?
Not so much I couldn't taste it.
Life should be fragrant Rooftop to the basement.
[which is, BTW, a beautiful philosophy IMHO]
The last of the Rock stars
When hip-hop drove the big cars
In a time when new media
Was the big idea.
That was the big idea."

Now, Peace on Earth and When I Look at the World.
The two are a matched set, one following right after the other. Both are prayers, one of anger and one of surrender. Peace on Earth is the hopelessness of a pacifist who is desperately hurting at all the pain he sees around him, and the pain he has participated in, begging God almost sarcastically to help him out.

"When I Look at The World" is nothing less than the fruition of all the sentiments and heartaches we glimpse in "Peace on Earth." It is the cry of a desperate soul who is worn out from too much care but wants to do more, wants to love more, wants to be Christ to the world around him, but can't.

"So I try to be like you
Try to feel it like you do
But without you it's no use
I can't see what you see
When I look at the world"

It's the cry of the Christian who is frustrated with his human frailty, who can discern right from wrong but is helpless to do anything about it. Who desperately wants to be with God, and is impatient with how slow things unfold on earth, but knows that he must wait on God. So he closes the song like this:

"I can't wait any longer
I can't wait till I'm stronger
I can't wait until dying
To see what you see
When I look at the world.
I'm here in the waiting room
Can't see for the smoke.
I think of you and your holy book
While the rest of us choke."

And then, plaintively, completes his prayer thusly:
"Tell me, tell me
What do you see?
Tell me Tell me
What's wrong with me?"

Haven't we all asked the same question from time to time. It's more than a song about losing faith in people, it's a song about clinging to faith in God and coming to a point of maturity of thought where you know you can't change the world, but with the spiritual and emotional maturity that is wounded by the pain and evil in the world. Simply beautiful.

Anyway, sorry if I jumped on you a bit at the beginning, but this is one album that deserves vigorous defense.
-Dan

List Of Songs:
1. BEAUTIFUL DAY
2. STUCK IN A MOMENT YOU CAN?T GET OUT OF
3. ELEVATE
4. WALK ON
5. KITE
6. IN A LITTLE WHILE
7. WILD HONEY
8. PEACE ON EARTH
9. WHEN I LOOK AT THE WORLD
10. NEW YORK
11. GRACE

BULLETIN BOARD (rules)
MUSIC FORUM
PAST COMMENTS PAGE 3
PAST COMMENTS PAGE 2
PAST COMMENTS PAGE 1

U2
Subject: U2
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003
From: "jeanette"

I love both of these albums. I need to listen to more of them. I\'m a singer song/writer also. My website is:www.parsadanian.com
You\'ll hear all 12 of my songs on my site. My husband is a Pastor of the church of the living word of God in L.A. 4427 W. Pico
Blvd.

God bless you. My CD is also on Amazon.com under \"I love you for who you are\".

In His Love, Jeanette

U2
Subject: Pop_Music_NL35
Date: Wed, 03 Apr 2002
From: Michele

Dear David,
You are so right about U2's album! In January of this year one of my best friends died in a car accident. I am no teenager, so I am surprised to be telling you that this album, especially the song "Walk On" has been a real blessing to me during my grief. I have listened to it many times with tears streaming down my face. The line "We're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been. A place that has to be believed to be seen." Reminds me that I WILL see Kim again; she just made the trip a little sooner. The song "Beautiful Day" reminds me to appreciate each day. Each song has a deeper meaning. I am so grateful for this album and its Christian message!
Michele in Ohio

PEACE ON EARTH
Subject: U2_All_That_You_Cant_Leave_Behind
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2001
From: "naddie"

I just heard the song peace on earth for the first time, and I was wondering if you could give me your insight on this song. From your review I can see that you probably aren't very fond of it, but I found that I realy enjoyed it, and I wanted to understand it a little better, as I am quite confused about a few things. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

VIEW FROM WITHIN THE BIZ
Subject: creed/ U2 reviews
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001
From: "benjamin hunter" benjamin@dublin.com

hey,. wuzzup, David?
I'm a thirty three year old believer, and an industry professional. I've been both a believer and in the music industry, on one side of the mic or the other, since I was 8. Having said that, I'll say that I did not "grow up in the church". In fact, the "church" *crapped* on my family quite severely when I was a child and my parents never got over it. I prefer an arms-length and infrequent relationship to my mainstream family, however nice most of them may be. I have, really, more respect for Scott, Ed, Bono, and the other guys in Creed, Live, U2, and Staind, in pretty much every way, than I have for most of the mainstream church "Christians" I have met. At my age, that's a lot of people. Real is what we must be, and seriously most of us miss the boat everytime. The difference is the maturity to see it and admit that it's there. Thank Dad for grace! I am part of a small family of believers we call "the Gathering", a very post-modern group, and employed by a national sound/stage gear supplier, both based in Edmonton, Canada. I say this to give some background for my letter.

About Creed and U2.
So what?
If the boys are believers, let 'em be, pray for 'em.
If not, then pray harder, already!

I would put Creed, Live, U2, and Staind in the same musical/lyrical catagory, myself. Beliefs aside, all four write and perform music which seeks to ask questions in a way that will get listeners thinking, and asking questions themselves. Case in point, "Peace on Earth (U2). "Jesus, could you take the time, to throw a drowning man a line, Peace on Earth". I could take about two and a half hours typing, to SKIM over the different and interconnected possibilities of meaning and the issues raised in just the chorus of this song!

CIP#2 "Epiphany", (Staind) "It's always raining in my head. Forget all the things I should have said." This song gives accurate voice to my view of my own relationship with the Father. Depth galore, here...

#3 Overcome, (Live) I pray this song. "Drive me out to that open field. Turn the ignition off, and spin around. Your help is here, but I'm parked in this open space, blocking the gates of love." nuf said.

CIP#4 "What if" (Creed) "What if your words could be judged like a crime?" Do I need to spell this one out?

I worked on the U2 POP tour a few years back and happened to meet Bono in the elevator. He reminded me of me, only different on the outside. Very decent guy. Each of these guys swears on almost every CD they make. I swear every day. None of us has it together the way we "should". Funny, none of you out there in Listenerland have it together either. Why? Because we're human and we are broken and incomplete.

Reading the reviews on your website and the petty little debates your readers get into about this kind of stuff, I was struck by the lack of depth that almost everyone displayed. Dude, we are the childen of THE embodiment of love, we need/must/HAVE GOT TO write/review/respond like we are. (the band says this, God says this, I think...) Lining everything up to Christ and His ideals is the only way to be.

Keep it up, man! It's good to see a website that professes Christ and doesn't suck.

Check out our site at http://www.gathering-online.com for an upcoming review of Scott Stapp by George Hardy, my roommate and a 51 year old ordained minister and doctor of mathemetics! He's speaking on Oct 27.

Y'all at hollywood Jesus will be prayed for, you can count on it.
blessings,
ben hunter benjamin@dublin.com
canada

ps: please post this (with my email address) if you can spare the space on your site, I'd be interested to see if it sparks any new discussions...
conciousness: that annoying time between naps...

REVIEW MISSED THE BOAT
Subject: u2
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001
From: Melinda

Thank God that the comments review the album, because the review missed the boat. The only review that missed the point more than this one was a short review of the song "Grace" that I read somewhere (maybe Rolling Stone?) that said it was a nice song about a girl named Grace. My 62 year-old mama laughed so loud at that one that she almost had to pull the car over. Seriously, this album is a fine return to the subjects that u2 cover so well -- God, man, relationships, etc. Our church band is working up versions of several of these songs right now.

CHANGE IS NOT BAD
Subject: U2 All That You Leave Behind
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Mick Cross mick@riversyouth.com

Sorry Bob,
I disagree with your comments on U.2. A big problem that Christendom has always had, is its ability to accept change. Truth is we should be the innovators of change. The fact that U.2 seeks to reshape their artistic style on a regular basis, to me is the mark of a great band. How sad it would be if they were continuing the be the U.2 of the Joshua Tree. Each of their styles is innovating, artistically fresh, and relevant to issues of the current world culture and judging by world wide sales meeting the general public where they are at. Imagine if all Christians could do that.
Mick Cross mick@riversyouth.com

LISTEN TO IT AGAIN!
Subject: listen to it again
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
From: Brian

I am awfully disappointed by the site's review of U2's new album. This is an album worth listening to again and again. A careful examination of the songs lyrics, coupled with careful analysis of the songs' backgrounds, open up a world of understanding and insight into the message behind this album. I would suggest the writer of the site's review take the time to read the recent Rolling Stone article focusing on U2. It is very insightful and would hopefully encourage a second listening with a more focused ear (and even heart). It is interesting that you were so quick to dismiss an album that is rich with imagery that is encouraging and insightful. Stop comparing it to Joshua Tree and other albums. Give them room to grow...they are world-weary and full of new discoveries and it is a shame to make them a band that "had their best stuff in the past". Take your time with reviews. Especially with albums that are influencing society (see: the ticket sales of their latest tour, the sales of the album, the front page articles, the t.v. engagements, etc.). Some albums deserve more credit and more attention before we go off writing about them, forming half-hearted reviews that "gloss over" songs when we feel they are inconvenient to the point we are trying to make.

BONO AND LENNON
Subject: Bono and Lennon
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001
From: Brett

Anyone who listened to the Beatles knows that their sound changed enormously during the years that they recorded together. Listening to "Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" is quite a different experience from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". Yet no one would say that the Beatles simply weren't as good as they used to be when they first started out. They improved musically, stylistically and artistically. In my opinion, U2 is very similar to the Beatles in the wasy that they have taken over pop music as well as rock. They have had incredible staying power that most bands simply have not had. The key to this has been their ability to continually reinvent themselves without sacrificing their artistic integrity.

With that being said, I believe that their newest offering, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" is one of the better albums they have released. In a recent "Rolling Stone" interview they mentioned how they wanted this album to communicate joy, not happiness mind you, but JOY. At a recent small-club engagement in New York Bono was spotted playing a guitar with a sticker that said simply, "I Feel Good!" I think this joy is communicated clearly in this album despite some of the subject matter being a tad somber. The sound and the feel of the album is lighter than those in the past and is missing that hard edge that has been there in the past, but it replaced with a sense of joy and relief despite what is happening around us in our lives and our world. Songs like "Walk On" and "Peace On Earth" communicate the pain and sorrow we experience and yet the album opens and closes with two songs that communicate joy and good news, "Beautiful Day" and "Grace". Isn't this how we, as Christians, experience life? We deal with pain and sorrow and experience them to the full, and yet because of God's Grace we can truly say that each day is a Beautiful Day.

No, this is not the U2 of my teenage years (I'm 32). If I want to hear it I can pull out Boy or October or Joshua Tree. However, I am glad that Bono and U2 have brought us along on their spiritual, philosophical and musical journey and that they have not settled for what worked in the past but they are continually looking to the future. This is another U2 album that is technically crisp, socially conscious, spiritually uplifting and all in all transcendent in nature. Here's hoping this Fab Four continues their good work.
Brett Brown

START OF A NEW PHASE?
Subject: U2_All_That_You_Cant_Leave_Behind
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001
From: jason

I just read your review. We have lots in common. I'm 31 also, and this album was released a month after my birth month (October... incidently the name of another U2 album). There's no doubt U2 has changed a great deal musically and lyrically in their last few efforts, and, like it or not, that's what happens when we grow older. You wouldn't say you're the same person you were 15 years ago, and neither is U2. Nor should we expect them to be.

Whether or not one chooses to go along with those changes is a matter of personal taste. But, if you're looking backward for the U2 of old, you shouldn't expect to find it. The old rule "if it ain't broke don't fix it" should not, as in any art form, apply to music. Nevertheless, "All That You Can't Leave Behind", to me, marks a welcome return to some of their lyrical roots, and I'm shocked to find a "Hollywood Jesus" review overlook some important spiritual themes.

"Beautiful Day", I'll agree, is a wonderful song, both musically and lyrically. But I would have liked to seen a more in-depth treatment of the lyrics. It points out that no person is so far beyond help that they're not "a hopeless case", and that each day brings new opportunities to both give and receive.

"Stuck In a Moment..." (easily abbreviated if its length offends), was recently in the news. Bono was saddened and dismayed by the suicide death of his friend, INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence. Bono said in the interview that many years ago the two had had a discussion on suicide (the idea, neither were contemplating the act), and both had decided that it was never the way to go. Bono had incredible feelings of guilt, feeling he hadn't done enough for his friend, and this song is to Michael's memory. If you look at the lyrics with this perspective, the song takes on a whole new meaning.

Why did you choose to gloss over "Elevation"? I think this song can be taken several ways, including the more Freudian, but I believe it goes far beyond that. My wife has concluded it's more about being in despair and wanting out, which seems to be a common thread in many of these songs. The jury is still out on my opinion, and I'd like to research it a little more (hint hint) before forming a final opinion. One thing's for sure, it rocks! And it brought down the house on their recent Saturday Night Live appearance. They're still definitely a band to be experienced live.

"Walk On"--there's no excuse for missing this one. This song is an old-fashioned U2/Amnesty International take-up-the-cause offering, in this case for imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. Again, it is meant to uplift this person who's in an impossible situation, held down by an oppressive military regime. With the references to this individual in the liner notes, as well as the Amnesty International symbol next to the song title, how is this a song about "two or more people parting ways?"

"Kite", "In a Little While", "Wild Honey", "When I Look at the World" and "New York"--I agree with your assessment of these particular songs. Now, for the biggies. I teach a Sunday School class at our Presbyterian Church where we talk about God's presence through modern media, including music and film. In one class I used both "Peace on Earth" and "Grace".

I'm assuming from your glossing over "Peace" that you find it a little too sappy/gushy for your liking. A little too "bleeding heart", perhaps (if I'm wrong, please correct me). But there are too many hard questions about God and how He works in the world to simply ignore them (especially for a website that's supposed to talk about these very things!). Aside from the sappy sentiment about mothers losing children to war and terrorism, having to bury them and crying over the whole thing (sorry about the unavoidable sarcasm), there's questions about this "peace on earth" we always hear about at Christmas time. With lyrics like "Jesus can you take the time/To throw a drowning man a line/Peace on earth" and "Jesus in this song you wrote/the words are sticking in my throat/Peace on earth/Hear it every Christmas time/But hope and history won't rhyme/So what's it worth?/This peace on earth." Please offer a forum to discuss this; don't simply gloss over it!!

Then I had to end the class with "Grace", and at this point I only want to add to what you've said. I find "Grace" to be just about the most perfect and complete lyrical description of God's grace to us. It can almost be summed up in the line "She travels outside of karma," a line Bono (appropriately) felt important enough to repeat. God and the idea of His abundant love for us are seldom portrayed as anything other than a 'karma' type of idea: "you're saved by your good works." This song thankfully shows that God saves us because of his love, mercy, and grace. We show our gratitude for this grace by accepting God into our hearts and living the life Christ showed us to live. And yes, sometimes that includes taking on such 'lost causes' as war and injustice. Sing on, Bono, and just maybe some Christians will sing along.

Please, I love this website, but do some research before putting forth a quick judgement. My favorite track changes almost as often as I listen to the album. For the record, right now it's "Stuck...".

A RESPONSE TO AN UNFAIR REVIEW
Subject: A response to an unfair review.
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001
From: Zachariah Durr skellington500@hotmail.com

Let me respond to H.J.'s review of U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" by first stating what many people are apparently finding disappointing: This album is NOT "The Joshua Tree". Whenever I read a review endlessly belaying the fact that U2 just "isn't what it used to be" I question what critics expect out of artists. If a musician simply retreads the same stylistic paths and ideas that once made them originals, they become stagnate and unbearable. (Just listen to the latest offerings of Areosmith or Enya and you'll get the idea). On the other end of the spectrum, musical groups brave enough to branch out to new frontiers have been critically harangued for their willingness to take risks. These "risky" albums can either sink or swim, but will ultimately designate a bands staying power and raw talent. (Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline", Radiohead's "Kid A", and even U2's "Zooropa" are all good examples of experiments that worked). That having been said, let me make my case for why U2's latest offering is one of their best, and one of my top five album picks for the year of 2000. Standing in its place in U2 history, this album marks a "return to earth" for the band. After the release of the smash "Auctung Baby", U2 began to explore electronica and minimalism with the spacy-sounding "Zooropa". "Pop" was an all-out drum machine and guitar venture that many argued was too bloated and over-marketed for the artists once simple arrangements. Whatever one's feelings were towards the bands past albums, the newest release, while a definite step back to more familiar territory, showcases the band as still remaining the masters of their genre. I feel that one of the reviewers mistakes in his review was the expectation that this album consisted of eleven tracks that would sound more or less like eleven "Beautiful Day"s. This is not the case. The music is varied, but quality and consistent. The music gracefully flows from the joyous explosion of the aforementioned "Beautiful Day" to the gospel-music flavored "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of". (A further response to the reviewers complaints on this particular song: 1) I don't believe a song under 4 minutes long constitutes as "long", 2)If you think the title is wordy, have you ever heard of the Beatle's "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me and My Monkey"? and 3) If a song wherein a catchy chorus is repeated 3 times isn't considered "hooky" enough, I don't know what is.) To examine how skillfully diverse the album is simply compare the dance floor rush of "Elevation", to the simple poignancy of the closing number "Grace". U2 manages to maintain their distinctive flavor without becoming too predictable. Beyond this, however, the most welcome change in this album is perhaps the lyrical content. U2, once known for the political statements of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", has begun to revert to banal lyrics that seemed to take a backseat to the music. "All That You Can't Leave Behind" finally gives us meaty substance, that, while it may not all be from the most Godly of perspectives, is quality poetry none the less. Bono has of late become a heavy political activist, speaking at worldwide summits on cancellation of third-world debt, as well as crusading for Amnesty International. Let's hope that these causes help lead the band back to matters of substance, and ultimately, back to God.
Sincerely, Zachariah Durr
skellington500@hotmail.com

OFFICIAL SITE
U2 -All That You Can't Leave Behind © Island Records. All Rights Reserved.

BACK TO MUSIC REVIEWS main page