Other anticipated returns might meet rockier receptions. Early tastes of Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You (EMI, February 7) make it hard to take the '07 star with the wryness she intends in her single, "The Fear," as she sings, blissfully, "I don't know what's right and what's real anymore." The comparably candy production on this, her sophomore release, doesn't maintain a knowing-enough distance from the consumerist laments that she's crammed into her lyrics, and it ends up sounding a bit hamfisted and disingenuous — it makes her cover of "Womanizer" sound austere. On the same day of Ms. Allen's release, Courtney Love will make available her second solo record, Nobody's Daughter, as a digital-only release through her website. The album was written largely on a Martin acoustic lent to Love by Linda Perry while Love was in rehab in 2005. After slowly writing, tracking, and pruning the record (on which a collaboration with Billy Corgan, "Samantha," survived), the end result is less a step forward for Love than it is a return to the unpolished form that once distinguished her — for the better.
Elsewhere on the comeback trail, U2 is priming the public to receive their 12th studio effort, No Line on the Horizon (March 3) — well, priming that part of the public that didn't manage to hear it blasting out of Bono's villa in southern France, that is. With the album's producer trifecta of Eno, Lanois, and Lillywhite, many have speculated that it could be a return to their Achtung Baby post-glory-days — but it may be just that album's marketing savvy that survived the long trip from 1991: three limited-edition box-set editions will be released at three different price points, each featuring a film from Anton Corbijn, a song from Will.I.Am, and a book of curiosities — the hardcover edition nudging the set up to $96. Running to stand still, indeed.
(I should throw in that Morrissey's Years of Refusal will be out February 16 on Attack/Lost Highway. It won't fling us headlong into the future, but it is another Morrissey album and should cause more pleasure than fuss.)
Perhaps the strongest contingency of comeback kids for 2009 awaits in the hip-hop realm. Mos Def will release his The Ecstatic (with productions by Madlib and his younger brother, Oh No) on Downtown records on February 9, the same week that Missy Elliott returns with alleged "UK hip-hop" stylings on Block Party (Atlantic) — which will feature appearances from Pharrell Williams, T-Pain, and Timbaland. That same week, Long Beach legend Warren G. will release his first record in four years The G-Files (TTL). Not to be left out, 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct is set to drop February 3, ending his deal with Interscope and setting up "the next batch of records" brewing in his busy, busy dome in the process. Perhaps most promising, Busta Rhymes will drop B.O.M.B. (Back on My Bullshit) on Universal Motown on March 10 — it could just be his honesty that's got us.