Sound — 8
U2 attempts to return to their classic sound 10+ years out, and for the most part can't recapture their past glory. It's a pleasing enough album if you aren't familiar with the older stuff, but compared to Joshua Tree or Unforgettable Fire this is a pale comparison. They do a much better job recreating classic U2 with Atomic Bomb. There is some interesting music on the album. Beautiful day is a really good song, Elevation has some catchy riffs, Kite feels like something new, and New York is interesting. Songs that try and really recreate the classic sound (Walk On and Stuck In A Moment especially) come across like retreads. They try some blues on In A Little While but it never really goes anywhere. Wild Honey is nice and upbeat but is a bit of a throw away, and Peace On Earth and When I Look At The World are vaguely catchy but not really memorable.
Lyrics — 6
Bono is a terrific lyricist, but falls flat on his face here. There are some winners here, but often times it is more a memorable line here and there rather than a really powerful song. Some of the songs come across as patronizing (Walk On, Stuck In A Moment), and some are just awful (New York, Elevation). Grace is maybe the worst song Bono ever wrote. A real step down for him. Vocally this is one of his worst performances. Very few compelling performances, especially since he is demanding to be compared to the Bono of the mid 80's, a tough act for anyone to follow.
Overall Impression — 6
This album is criminally overrated. Having said that, it has some strong songs on it (Beautiful Day/Kite), some decent songs (Elevation if you can tune out what Bono is saying, Stuck In A Moment), a lot of songs mildly interesting for a listen or two (Peace On Earth, when I look at the world, wild honey, in a little while), some pandering (Walk On), and some unmitigated crap (New York, Grace). But I say this holding the album up to the standard U2 has set for itself. If another band turned this out it'd be better. As it is, there are far better U2 albums (War, Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Atomic Bomb, arguably Pop and Zooropa if you prefer Achtung to Joshua Tree). Get it if you are a big fan only and you have the above albums. Far from essential.