New albums from U2, Springsteen and more
Rocky Mountain News
Vail CO, Colorado
“This is the end, my friend. This is the last hurrah,” longtime music industry observer Bob Lefsetz wrote in a recent edition of The Lefsetz Letter, his updates on the state of the business. The dismal year-end figures for CD sales bear out his pessimism.
It used to be that the major labels could count on blockbuster releases from superstar acts to get them through the rough times. The game is completely changed now, and the record companies have given up even trying to sue illegal downloaders.
So 2009 would have been a stellar year if only it had happened in 1999. The prospect of new releases from Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Eminem ” all in the first quarter, no less ” would ordinarily be a reason to throw a party. Now it’s a wake.
Will the new CDs give one last boost to CD sales? Here’s what lies ahead:
“Working on a Dream,” Columbia Records
Due: Jan. 27.
Fans have mixed emotions, despite the fact that Springsteen is coming off “Magic,” his strongest, most consistent album since “Tunnel of Love.” It’s the quickest turnaround since he released two albums in one day with “Human Touch” and “Luckytown.” Three songs are available for listening now, two of them promising. “The Wrestler” could well put Springsteen back in Oscar territory as part of the acclaimed film soundtrack. “My Lucky Day” is an old-school love rocker that would have fit on “The River.” The title track, however, is bland. With unheard titles such as “Outlaw Pete” and “Queen of the Supermarket,” it’s hard to figure where this’ll all end up.
“No Line on the Horizon,” Island Records
Due: March 2.
Same situation here as with Springsteen: U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” may be their best album since “Achtung Baby.” But that was five years ago, a lifetime for U2 albums. This time, they’ve been more careful about not accidentally leaking songs, not leaving copies in hotel rooms, etc. Fans don’t know what to expect, but seeing Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite on board producing promises a classic sound. The only things that have leaked are titles such as “Magnificent,” “Breathe,” “Winter,” “Stand Up,” “Unknown Caller” and more. The fact that the band delayed the ’08 release to work a little harder on the album is a good sign as well.
“The Fray,” Epic Records
Due: Feb. 3.
After the explosive success of “How to Save a Life,” the band knows all eyes are on them to prove it wasn’t a fluke. So far, so good: The first single, “You Found Me,” is as spare and catchy as any of the hits off the band’s breakthrough album. This could well be “How to Save a Life, Part II,” and in this case that wouldn’t be a bad thing. The band debuted a slew of songs live earlier this year, including the upbeat “Absolute” and “Say When”, before heading to the studio (you can find them all over YouTube). With a tight 10-song track list including titles such as “Happiness” and “We Build Then We Break,” expect some introspection and attention to songwriting detail.
“Relapse,” Interscope Records
Due: No set date.
Eminem has been working with Dr. Dre again, and in what little he has said about “Relapse,” he noted that they’re back to their old working relationship in the studio. One unfinished track, “Crack the Bottle,” leaked to the Web, but Interscope has been futilely trying to scrub the leaked track online, muting clips posted to YouTube and other sites. All that’s done so far is to increase the buzz and encourage fans to make a few extra mouse clicks to hear it.