It has what the truly great albums have, and that is a thematic and musical continuity. What I mean is that you have to listen to the songs as a collection of songs: they inform one another, echo each other. U2 badly wanted for this in The Unforgettable Fire, but spoiled it by overdone production and a couple of their lamest tracks ever ('Elvis Presley in America,' 'Indian Summer Sky'). They missed again with Rattle and Hum, a tediously long album with at times all their tendency to self-righteousness and pomposity ('Silver and Gold').
None of that is here, though there are 'issues' and 'issue songs.' America is the theme, but so are death and loss and grief. The people in the songs express longing and don't yet see the way to answer it. The ambiguity of faith and doubt in 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is matched by the love-hate of 'With or Without You'. And so on. Morever, it is an album with a landscape: it seems to refer to places so often...
Here are eight album highlights for me:
Australian theologian Michael P. Jensen is pursuing a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford. Check out his truly stellar blog here: http://www.mpjensen.blogspot.com/