In My Record Collection: U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
When the underappreciated 1997 Pop record and subsequent tour confused and polarized the band's fan base. U2 decided to move away from their alternative rock, techno, dance, and electronica experimentation , aiming for a stripped-down traditional-sounding U2 record.
Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, who produced some of the bands most beloved albums (The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby) were brought back to sit behind the mixing boards.
Those sessions would end up becoming the bands tenth studio album, All That You Can't Leave Behind (A.T.Y.C.L.B.). The record reached number one in 32 countries and sold over 12 million copies. The record and its songs won seven Grammy Awards; it is the only album in history to have multiple tracks win Grammy Awards for Record of the Year: Beautiful Day in 2001 and Walk On in 2002.
While A.T.Y.C.L.B did an amazing job in bringing back U2 to the masses. I never agreed that it was a comeback/return to form record that it had been made out to be. The band had never left and they were consistently releasing albums every two to three years.
Simply, U2 had followed a path that many great artists do. They had created their classic albums and had become global superstars. From the success of those records the band went on to challenge themselves and their fan base. Along the way they may have veered too off far from that initial spark that captured the imagination of their fans. U2 had reached a point of being too big to fail and too big to grow.
In my opinion, the album represents a homecoming of sorts, with the band returning to some core aspect of themselves.
With A.T.Y.C.L.B, Eno, Lanois and U2 were savvy enough to incorporate contemporary production tricks from their experimentation phase into the bands melodic, hook-filled rock style that they had become synonymous for. The synths and the rest of the modern day recording techniques were tastefully placed in the back drop , rather than being the driving force or focal point of the material.
The album represented a reintroduction of U2 to long-time fans, albeit a 21st-century version of the band.
Don’t get me wrong I am in no way knocking the band or the record. I still love U2 and I really enjoyed A.T.Y.C.L.B. This is still a great album, and it is easily their most consistent project since Achtung Baby. The hits Beautiful Day, Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of, Elevation and Walk On sound just as good now as they did two decades ago. Even some of the lesser known tracks like Wild Honey, Kite , In a Little While and Peace on Earth still hold up showing some the bands most thoughtful, personal, and tender songs in the bands catalogue.
A.T.Y.C.L.B success would end up becoming the blueprint for the bands subsequent releases. The formula would allow U2 to walk a fine line of sounding classic yet contemporary by merging the sonic overtones of the their 90s work with the hook filled, melodic rock from their 80s work.
Like Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising or the Stones’ Tattoo You, A.T.Y.C.L.B represents a successful and contemporary reintroduction of the group to their fans in order to bring them along into the next phase of their musical career.
Highly recommended . A.T.Y.C.L.B. truly deserves to be part of any music fans collection or playlist.