We're counting down the best albums of The Aughts this week.
1. U2, “All That You Can't Leave Behind” (Interscope, 2000): When “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” arrived on Halloween of 2000, it was simply a return to form for U2. After straying with experiments in dance music and, um, satire, Bono and Co. were back to making grand statements surrounded by even grander rock sounds. This was a Big Album. We didn’t know at the time that – due to the music industry’s collapse and the rise of musical niches – it would pretty much be the last Big Album.
We also didn’t know that “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” would be, to use one of the biggest buzzwords of The Aughts, repurposed for a much higher calling. Brimming with optimism (“Beautiful Day”) and inspiration (“Walk On”), the album was uplifting, soaring on the twin engines of Bono’s vocals and Edge’s guitarwork. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, though, the album became an indispensable rallying cry.
“Beautiful Day” became a musical “Don’t let the terrorists win.” The plaintive “Peace on Earth” and the moody “New York” became even more poignant. “Stuck in a Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of” became a mantra for post-traumatic stress sufferers, “You’ve got to get yourself together.” “Walk On” became the soundtrack to the portraits of sacrifice, from the rescue workers rushing into buildings to the shell-shocked survivors walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
In the aftermath of 9/11, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” gave the pain and the anger and the sadness that millions felt not just eloquent words but also a voice to sing them. “I know it aches and your heart it breaks, you can only take so much,” Bono sang in “Walk On.” “Walk on. Leave it behind. You’ve got to leave it behind.”
They were unforgettable, timely words then. And, as is the mark of great songs, they still apply today..