I just finished reading Tim Keller's The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith. It's incredible. And it's short. You could probably read it in two hours, maybe less. It is a succinct, inspiring challenge to commonly held understandings about the Christian faith. Keller expounds on the parable of the Lost Son from Luke 15 and rightly points out that the point of the parable was as much about the elder son as the younger. One line early on literally made me put the book down, shake my head, and say out loud "Wow." I don't want to give it away. You'll just have to read it.
In the second half of the book, he paints a picture of the kind of biblical Christianity that is truly inspiring and made me want to say: That's what I'm TALKING about, Tim! So check it out.
When you're a big U2 fan, especially one that ended up with a pick that Bono himself used, or perhaps even got to talk to him on the phone one time, when a new U2 CD comes out, everyone wants to know what you think. Well at least one or two (Barton and Wes, thanks for asking! Here's your response!)
First of all, I am in awe of music reviewers because I feel like music is the kind of thing that you can't really critique after a first listen. I didn't like Achtung Baby at first, and I absolutely hated Zooropa. I eventually came around rather quickly on Achtung and now would rate it as the band's best album. And I later rediscovered Zooropa and love it as well.
Back to the album. I actively avoided reading any reviews before I was able to listen to it, so I could draw my own conclusions. I have since read some and discovered that the band wanted to release the album in the fall, but determined that it wasn't ready so waited. This is no small challenge, because it throws off a lot more, including tour plans. For instance, U2's "summer tour" in the US won't begin until Sept 12. Perhaps this was intentional, but the bottom line is that I'm glad they didn't rush it. Rumor has it that there will be another album out sooner rather than later with a bunch of music that didn't make the cut on this disc. That's always welcome news.
So what do I think? I like it. And the more I listen to it, the more I like it, which is a sign of a very good album. I have really enjoyed listening to tracks here and there, then taking a break, and just having different parts of the album pop into my head from time to time-- a sign (I think) that it's good. It's definitely different than the previous two (All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb), which were more straightforward rock and roll. A good friend of mine rightly said that the best songs from their previous two would together make one outstanding album. The 2nd half of both of those were largely forgettable (Yahweh and Grace, the final songs on each, are the exceptions). But what an album this would be: Beautiful Day, Stuck in a Moment, Elevation, Walk On, Kite, Vertigo, Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It, and City of Blinding Lights.
I digress. This album starts very nicely and announces it will be different right away-- more electronica (very Zooropa-feeling) than the last two. The finest track of the CD at first listen is the majestic Magnificent, an unabashed worship song where Bono says he was born to sing for you and says "I give you back my voice." It's brilliant. And only Bono can get away with writing a worship song on track 2 and including a song with the word "sh*tty" in the final track.
Other tracks that have grown on me: I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight, Unknown Caller, and Breathe. Overall, I'd give it 3 and a half stars out of 4. As with every U2 disc, there are 3 songs that aren't my favorite, but there's always something interesting going on in each one, regardless of if I think it totally works. I remain in awe of a band that can continue to make relevant, cutting edge music for almost THIRTY years now. Can someone name me another band that has done this? Even one?
So. What do YOU think? Come on, seriously. Let me know.