Sound — 8
This is U2 sounding like U2. Like All You Can't Leave Behind it is a self-conscious return to their 1980's sound. However, it is far more succesful than AYCLB. Vertigo, the song from the Ipod commercial, kicks the album off to a strong start, although it doesn't sound much like anything else on the rest of the record. U2 seems to have lost the innovative edge they had in the 90's where, good or bad, you knew they were going to be different. If you like the classic U2 sound with soaring, almost melodramatic vocals (Bono still can't hit the notes he used to, but he sounds much better here than the last album)and Edge's chiming guitar (which is all over almost every song)you'll like this one. No suprises, but very solid. U2 sounding like U2. Other than Vertigo, the only somewhat innovative song musically is Love and Peace or Else, which has awesome music.
Lyrics — 8
Bono (like Michael Stipe) just can't hit the notes he used to, which shows when they try and recreate their sound from 15 years ago. That said, Bono stil sounds pretty good on this album. He hits what he needs to. The lyrics are much better than the poorly written All You Can't Leave Behind, with some real gems (City Of Blinding Lights, Crumbs From Your Table) and no real stinkers except for Love and Peace or Else. A musician as politically important as Bono should be able to do better than 'lets have peace or I'll be sad'.
Overall Impression — 8
This is a very solid, if unspectacular, U2 album. It is not the Joshua Tree or Achtung, but then again what is. I prefer Unforgettable Fire to Atomic Bomb, but they are comporable. Atomic Bomb is a remarkably consistent album, but it lacks the soaring moments of past albums. I love City of Blinding Lights, but it isn't Bad or Pride. The only real boring song is Miracle Drug (which positioned as the second track kills the momentum Vertigo gives the start of the album). Sometimes you can't make it on your own is somewhat similar to Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of but panders less. War and Peace or Else has great music and if you can ignore the lyrics you'll love it. Similar to Bullet the Blue Sky if it were written by hippies. City of Blinding Lights is a soaring U2 anthem. Unlike Walk On, this one actually feels like it would not be diminished if it showed up on Joshua Tree. Because of You is similar to In God's Country with less substance, but is a fun little song. A Man and A Woman gets a bit repetitive and never really takes off, but Crumbs From Your Table is another excellent piece of classic U2. One Step Closer has some introspective mystery to it which makes it somewhat compelling. Original of the Species is another U2 anthem but falls flat for me. The album closes with Yahweh. It's better than the usual Bono wants to talk to God songs, since it is well sung with pretty catchy music, but the lyrics are a bit trite. This is not an album that will make any converts, but if you are a U2 fan you will certainly enjoy it.