At 20, U2 has reached the age when most bands start either disintegrating, or playing to large crowds with lessening expectations. Not so with the boys from Dublin. Trading in the earnest sensibilities of their first decade for the jaded grooves and European stylings of their second, they found new life in the restless sturm und drang of dance club synth. And just when it looked like they had no new territory to cover, they come out with All That You Can't Leave Behind, their strongest album since 1991's Achtung, Baby.
If the band is leaving anything behind this time around, it's the self-consciousness that has clouded much of their previous work. All That You Can't Leave Behind is one of the most sheerly enjoyable U2 albums thus far. "Elevation" is a fiery little number that will have you reaching for the repeat button more than a few times. With sizzling hooks and the Edge's familiar rattle and hum on guitar, not to mention lyrics like a Dr. Seuss book for libidinal adults, "Elevation" emerges as "Mysterious Ways" with a hormonal kick. Violins lead into the melancholy of "Kite," a richly layered look into a relationship's falling apart. The longing of earlier albums continues on the rasping R & amp;B plea "In a Little While," and continues straight through the resonant "New York," which brings to mind both Leonard Cohen and early U2 in a quicksilver exultation of sound. A must for U2 fans, even those that have fallen away.