Like Halloween candy awaiting trick-or-treaters, all 11 tracks for U2's upcoming album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, have arrived on the Internet in their entirety - more than two weeks before the album's official release.
The temptation to "eat it all up" in advance of the album hitting the streets has proven to be too much to resist for some U2 fans.
Currently, Internet chat networks are overflowing with debates regarding the pros and cons of such behavior, and whether or not Bono and the band would approve.
Other unrelated topics attracting considerable attention have included the reported demise of the tree that graced The Joshua Tree album cover; concern over whether or not Propaganda, the official U2 magazine, will once again offer subscribers advance tickets for the new tour; and stories of Bono having been nominated for last week's Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to gain the forgiveness of Third World debt.
At this point, however, that's all baggage to be left behind. The real story is the new music and its power.
Based on initial reactions, U2 appear poised to take over the world yet again with a solid album of soulful tunes. The album has garnered raves from the media and fans alike.
The review in Rolling Stone Issue 853 gives the album four stars, calling it U2's "third masterpiece" (following The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby).
"The album represents the most uninterrupted collection of strong melodies U2 have ever mounted, a record where tunefulness plays as central a role as on any Backstreet Boys hit," James Hunter wrote in his review.
"Bono and the guys have decided once more that they want to be the biggest rock and roll band on the planet," Stuart Bailie wrote for BBC Online. "Be warned. Enormous joy will shortly be unleashed."
Like a leather jacket that's been broken in, fans are already finding it easy to get comfortable with the new material.
Tim Tschirner sends this message to the band: "I'm glad that the guitar is back big time, the whole album is just incredibly amazing. The U2'ers have done it again!"
Other online correspondence includes the sentiments of Poptart 33, who found "Peace on Earth" to be the album's highlight, saying, "These lyrics nearly moved me to tears."
G.G. wrote, "All That You Can't Leave Behind is unique in that on previous albums U2 seemed to reinvent themselves by exploring the 'sound' of others, and in the process of doing so, they created a new 'sound' that was completely/uniquely their own. On this album, however, they seem to be reinventing themselves (i.e., creating something new) by exploring the 'U2 sound' itself. I think ATYCLB is Bono's idea of what a 'Best of U2' album should be like (i.e., something that captures the essence of U2 from previous decades, yet is completely new and unique)."
"... the whole album simply blows me away," commented Ian Ryan. "I would rather listen to Walk On at this point than any of the other songs, but yesterday it was Peace on Earth, the day before, When I Look at the World, and tomorrow it might be Kite or Elevation. The whole album knocks my socks off, and I don't think I like any one song less than any other."
Over at Interference.com, Jesse Fahnestock's review declared, "All That You Can't Leave Behind sees U2 once again eyeing The Big Music and reaching for it with both hands. Elevation and Walk On are the kind of 60,000-strong sing-alongs that will probably be standards in America's sports arenas before the band's next enormodome extravaganza gets out of the planning stages."
While the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, there are still some areas in which some have found a certain degree of fault. Earlier criticism surrounded concerns that Bono might be losing his voice. But, after hearing his work on the new album in full, it can be said he is far from having lost it and he is still in command of most of his vocal range.
Also, there are those who have found some of the lyrical content lacking. As expressed by Elmo, "(The) album is sure (for the most part) rocking, but I have to say that I can't call Bono a poet with a straight face at the moment and it is absolutely fair to say that the lyrics are weak. But really, I'm only finding that (because) the standard that Bono has previously set himself is easily up there with some of rock's all-time great lyricists…"
However, Gummi in Iceland summed things up with these warm sentiments: "I just can't find a bad song on this album. It's all too wonderful."
An online poll at Macphisto.net would seem to back that up, as each song has received votes for best track. As for the album's ultimate impact and ranking in the U2 canon, only time will tell.
The album's official release date is October 30 in Europe and on Halloween (October 31) in the United States, where U2's latest trick should be considered quite a treat.
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