Album: All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Reason Featured: #7 Album on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #2 Album for Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Albums of 2000, only album to ever win Record of the Year Grammy two years in a row (“Beautiful Day,” 2000; “Walk On,” 2001)
My Favorite Songs: Beautiful Day, Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, Kite, In A Little While
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (4/5), NME (7/10), Pitchfork (5.0/10), Robert Christgau (A-)
My Grade: 93%
“You like U2? U2 sucks!”
The above is a phrase I’ve been hearing since I began having conversations about music with my peers. My unapologetic devotion to Bono and the boys (yes, even after he donned his blue sunlasses) has drawn ire and eyerolls from people of all sorts and varieties. Bros and hipsters, guys and girls, lunchtime bullies in junior high, my own damned pastors in high school youth group and plenty of college classmates are strangely united in my mind as people who’ve said the words at the beginning of this review. If hating U2 were the only requirement for entering an Illuminati-style society, that blue-sunglasses-and-skullcap burning group would be one of the most diverse and numerous sets of secret handshakers around. But Bono ends this record by singing, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.” So there’s hope for all of them yet.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a record I couldn’t leave behind even if I tried. It conjures up some of my oldest memories. The wobbling guitar strums of “Beautiful Day” made me weak at the knees when I was eight years old and my dad would play it in his Dodge Ram truck as we drove around my hometown. It holds the same power over me fourteen years later. When I was struggling hardest with depression in high school, I split my time between Radiohead, The Smiths and U2. Radiohead and The Smiths for camaraderie, for friends who knew what it was like, but U2 for hope. “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and “In A Little While” are gospel to me, lights at the end of any tunnel, even if the latter is just about trying to get through a hangover. And “Kite” helped me through losing best friends and girlfriends to different states, different people and different times of life where one or both of us just didn’t need the other anymore. I see no reason why I won’t keep returning to all these songs throughout my entire life.
So yes, I like U2. In fact, I love U2. This record, in particular, is honest, earthy and heavensent all at once, one foot in New York City and another in the New Jerusalem. It’s the music of a bittersweet pilgrimage. If I want to be shot through with a sense of hope, of belief, of memories and of comfort, I’ll go to All That You Can’t Leave Behind sooner than I’ll go to anything else.
And, if you were wondering, I do like “Elevation” too. Bring on the firing squad.