Picks and Pans Review: U2

updated 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/09/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

No Line on the Horizon |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

ROCK
Be prepared to spend some time getting into the new U2 album. And be prepared to be rewarded: It's a great one. After delivering the one-two punch of 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind and 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb—both hook-heavy rockers from the classic U2 school—Bono and the boys have made their most "alternative" record since their experimental '90s stretch led by 1991's Achtung Baby. Songs like the mystical "Unknown Caller" take their good time to unfold, not always in the obvious fashion, revealing layers upon each listen with moody atmospherics that may make you think you've been transported to an alternate universe where U2 is actually Radiohead. There are other kinds of curves too: First single "Get On Your Boots," one of the sleaziest, speediest things they've done, finds Bono stomping all over his do-gooder image; the Chili Peppers-esque "Stand Up Comedy" boasts one of their funkiest grooves ever. But the soaring anthem "Magnificent" shows that U2 is still, magnificently, U2.

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