U2 melds rock ‘n’ roll, techno

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    By BRIAN BLAIR

    This isn’t the “Joshua Tree,” it’s not “Achtung Baby” either, but the new U2 album “Pop” is an exhilarating recording that defines the marriage of rock ‘n’ roll and techno.

    The very album title suggests a departure from tradition, a step away from the music we have come to know from Bono and the boys. The future of music, if producers Flood and company shape it, is about the art of remix and samples.

    “Pop” is a hypnotic album, reaching out with a melding of guitar riffs and drums with loops and samples that have represented the techno-sounds of the rave clubs, but have never really broken into the mainstream. It is the smashing of the Edges’ guitar into a keyboard while Bono croons the breathy soul that has helped U2 sell more than 70 million albums.

    Unlike “Zooropa,” which dove head first into the techno sound and distanced many listeners, “Pop” is more subtle with its programmed sounds and doesn’t drown out the raw noise of Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums, or Adam Claytons’ bass. U2 has cleverly brought the remix genre into its recording studio with a harmony that evokes emotion and a desire to tap your feet and kiss your girlfriend with passion.

    Stirring up the disco inferno again, U2 opens the “Pop” album with “Discotheque,” a pulsating club special that recalls John Travolta’s bell bottoms, only this time with silver pants and an alien next to him.

    Matching the long high-pitched notes and mysterious rhythms is Bono seeking something more, searching for answers to his personal dilemmas, “If God will send his angels/would everything be alright?” he asks.

    One area where U2 has stayed true to form is in paying homage to the cheesy glitz of America. In “The Playboy Mansion,” U2 makes references to coke, Michael Jackson, plastic surgery, OJ, the Big Mac and lotto tickets, all to a mellow groove that suggests a lazy summer afternoon by the pool.

    “If You Wear That Velvet Dress” and “Please” are haunting tunes that speak candidly about the anguish of lost love.

    The end result when the last note of “Pop” dies out is a moving album that details the highs and lows of the world. From the adrenaline of the dance floor, to the parties of warm weather and wealth, to the agony of relationships and the longing of love, U2 has again made an album that soars. “Pop” shows why U2 is still around, standing in the spotlight through grunge, glam, rap and every trend in music that has come since their debut album “Boy” was released in 1980.

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