U2 rocks on with 'All That You Can't Leave Behind'
'Radical sound' on new album
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) -- When U2 puts out an album, fans know to expect the unexpected. The band takes pride reinventing its sound and its look. Its 10th and latest album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," follows that philosophy.
It diverges from the band's previous three releases, which have more electronica-inspired songs. These days, says lead singer Bono, U2 is focused on just being a great rock 'n' roll band.
"'All That You Can't Leave Behind' is really just about getting to the heart and soul of what our band is about, which is the four of us playing in a room together," he told CNN WorldBeat in an interview at his Dublin studio. Bono has been playing with guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. since 1977.
"We've always tried to do different things with the sound of the band, but with this record we've tried to keep the essence of what it is to be a rock 'n' roll band at the forefront," the Edge said. "I suppose that is a radical sound because there's not that much of it out there."
But it's not straight rock, Bono cautions. The song "Elevation," for example, may be categorized as rock, but there's a hip-hop loop there too, he says.
Shocking yet simple
To get a fresh angle in this latest album, the band looked to some of its older tracks, the Edge notes.
"As a band, we thrive on a sense of discovery -- whether it's some kind of new technology to explore or a new sound," Edge said. "We've never been a band to use ideas over and over again.
"In this instance, the quite unusual thing is to actually start to use from the palette of guitar sounds that I've used in the past. We wanted it to be shocking, but in a simple way -- not trying too hard. ... Ironically going back to some earlier things seemed like it had those qualities."
"All That You Can't Leave Behind" is slated to hit store shelves in the United States on Tuesday -- outside the country the day before. It comes three years after "Pop," a techno-dance album that didn't reach the commercial success of prior efforts.
Yet don't call it that earlier album a flop, the Edge said.
"Somebody reminded me the other day that 'Pop' hit No. 1 in 26 countries," he said. "We've never ever had an album that's done that well on that level."
"I think what happened with 'Pop' was that it was part of a megatour and mega-album kind of thing, and we found ourselves rushing into the tour at a time when we should have been explaining to our fans why we were so interested in dance music and what we were doing."
Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno helped produced "All That You Can't Leave Behind." They pushed for "hard-hitting, up-tempo" tracks, Lanois said.
"Those guys have to hit the stage, they have to hit the road," he said in an interview in Los Angeles. "You know, when you hit the stage, what communicates and what doesn't. They need at least a few of the high-powered, driving songs for the tour -- so we were looking for those for a long time."
The tour to support the album is expected to begin in the United States this spring.
"We want this record to be something that people really listen to, rather than just have in their record collection," the Edge said.
The new record incorporates the socially conscious, politically charged lyrics that are a hallmark of U2 albums. Many of the band's songs deal with the violence in Northern Ireland between pro-British Protestants and pro-Republican Catholics.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday," from the album "War" (1983), and "Please," off "Pop" (1997), are just two examples.
On the new album, the song "Peace on Earth," stems from the 1998 car bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland, that killed 29 people and set back the peace process.
So with a political agenda and creative urges still bubbling, members of U2 say they have no intention of retiring -- even after more than two decades of playing together.
"Rock bands, a lot of them, just burn themselves out by this stage," Bono said. "We haven't burned ourselves out. We're burning up with a lot of ideas in our heads, some unfinished business to attend to."
"Most groups, I think, would have been taking their foot of the gas at this point," the Edge said. "But we have the exact opposite instinct. We are flooring this rock 'n' roll band, and we're just interested to see where we will end up."
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