Over the past 20 years, U2’s lead-off singles have been an odd lot. There’s been one flat-out pop masterpiece, “Beautiful Day.” There’s been one total miss, “Discotheque.” There have been a couple of curiosities that worked on their albums but made for odd first-single picks (“The Fly” and “Numb”). And then there was “Vertigo,” the so-so riff-fest that launched their last album, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
So it was with somewhat low expectations that I sat down to check out their newest single, “Get on Your Boots,” the first track from the upcoming album No Line on the Horizon. (You can hear the song here.) Sure enough, things start unpromisingly: a generic heavy metal guitar riff quickly gives way to a shameless rip-off of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” with Bono chanting about “love and community” and “candy floss ice cream.”
But just as I was about to shut down the computer and go back to the amazing new Animal Collective album (see Leah Greenblatt’s review), a funny thing happened: the bridge kicked in, and “Boots” suddenly took off. A wash of vocal harmony sets things up nicely, and then Bono comes soaring in, insisting (to whom? who knows?) that “you don’t know/you don’t get it do you/you don’t know how beautiful you are.” It’s one of those great U2 moments, the kind of thing that has kept fans on board for more than 30 years now. The song then takes a few more twists and turns, eventually landing back on that original guitar riff, which, by the end of the song, has gone from annoying to insistent and memorable (somehow the “get on your boots” chorus that lays on top totally transforms it).
After just a few listens, “Get on Your Boots” doesn’t seem like one of U2’s all-time great songs, but it’s still interesting — and different — enough to make me pretty excited to hear the whole album.
But what do you think? Is “Boots” another U2 classic or a disappointing dud?