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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 08:51 GMT
CD Review: The Million Dollar Hotel

The Million Dollar Hotel (Universal/Island)
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Behind the stadium-sized anthems which made their name, U2 have often been at their best exploring the softer, more mysterious side of their shimmering sound.

This soundtrack to the new Wim Wenders film allows them to do just that and they carry it off beautifully.

It's clearly a project close to Bono's heart, which isn't surprising given that he co-wrote the story on which the movie is based.

Bono shows his soft side
The band itself contributes three tracks, while the frontman adds a trio of his own in league with an impressive house band assembled specially for the project.

Freed from the usual expectations for the first time since the Passengers album, he again uses the relative anonymity of film soundtracks to experiment with new ideas and - in one startling instance - an entirely new voice.

Curtain-raiser The Ground Beneath Her Feet is classic U2, - thanks to its exquisite dabs of guitar, yearning lyrics courtesy of author Salman Rushdie and a sudden rush of energy mid-way through.

Stateless creates an other-worldly atmosphere with its sensual pace, eerie gospel backing vocals and ambient guitar noise.

The First Time, meanwhile, is a gentle, tension-laden epic which feels as though it's going to explode into full-blooded life at any moment - yet somehow never does.
Milla Jovovich
Milla Jovovich lends a hand
Bono's own tracks include Falling At Your Feet - a gentle ballad with lovely quivering harmonies and simple looping guitar, plus the remarkable Dancin' Shoes - in which he adopts an eerie, Billie Holiday-style singing voice to powerful effect.

Anyone expecting the Bono of big statements and rock star bombast is in a for a surprise.

The one on show here is a late-night, lop-sided version - aching with melancholy and about to slide off the barstool.

Elsewhere the album features three very different versions of Lou Reed's Satellite Of Love, performed with barmy intensity by film star Milla Jovovich, plus some great jazzy interludes dominated by Jon Hassell's sleepy, intimate trumpet playing.

Far more than a limbering up exercise for U2's forthcoming album, The Million Dollar Hotel finds them slotting into an atmospheric ensemble piece with sensitivity and a laudable lack of ego.

The masters of reinvention have tried on another new face - and it's one that suits them.

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