When it comes to U2, no one can expect Daniel Lanois to be impartial. As if to prove this, the producer calls the band's upcoming album, No Line On The Horizon, "fantastically innovative" and says it represents "some of their best work."
Lanois helped shape some of U2's classic albums by co-producing The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and All That You Can't Leave Behind. He also had his hand in one song off the band's 2004 release, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
Originally, Rick Rubin was brought in to helm the U2 sessions, but it was eventually decided that the band would again work with their longtime collaborators Lanois and Brian Eno. As they have done in the past, the two producers also contributed to the writing of the album.
"We thought, If we're all writing together we'll get more stuff and it'll be a more fruitful use of time," The Edge says in a recent interview with Q magazine.
"There is some dark, heavy stuff but there are also some lighter things" - The Edge
A "religious-sounding" tone
Experimental and spontaneous writing sessions held last year in Fez, Morocco, resulted in numerous new songs. Some even bear an unmistakable North African flavour. A visit to the World Sacred Music Festival enhanced what Edge calls the "religious-sounding" tone of a few of the tracks.
"But we don't want to be musical tourists," the guitarist stresses. "We came back with a certain flavour and influence of that trip and a sense of freedom."
Over time, the music grew ever more diverse. "There is some dark, heavy stuff but there are also some lighter things," says Edge. "Some we've really had to sweat to get and some just came so easily."
U2 have posted a new video of Bono and The Edge at work in the studio with Lanois. Check it out here.
Work-in-progress highlights include a "fuck-off rocker" called Breathe, For Your Love (which Edge claims is one of his best-ever riffs) and Get On Your Boots, which the guitarist describes as "Eddie Cochran with barbershop harmonies."
Last-minute changes abound
"In the home stretch, people often come up with their best work" - Daniel Lanois
Co-producer Lanois says the record is close to completion, but he notes that U2 have been known to make significant last-minute changes to songs. As such, he is loath to speculate as to an exact release date.
"In the spirit of the moment, in the home stretch, people often come up with their best work," Lanois says, adding that the album has "broken new sonic ground, and I think Bono's lyrics and vocal performances are better than ever. I'm glad to see he's stepping up and talking about what's on his mind."
Last-minute changes are almost sure to occur with the band tackling an eight-minute song called Moment Of Surrender and the title track, which is inspired by a distortion box called Death By Audio.
"Trying to weave it all together into a coherent collection is the challenge," Edge admits. "But, yeah, it has the potential to be our best."