Initially expected this fall as a fourth-quarter blockbuster, U2's next album has been pushed to early 2009 while the band continues to write and record material. "I thought a while back we might have

Initially expected this fall as a fourth-quarter blockbuster, U2's next album has been pushed to early 2009 while the band continues to write and record material. "I thought a while back we might have the album wrapped by now, but why come up above ground now if there's more priceless stuff to be found?," Bono writes on U2.com.

Of late, the group has been recording in the south of France, having already logged time in Fez and Dublin with longtime collaborators Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite.

'We know we have to emerge soon but we also know that people don't want another U2 album unless it is our best ever album," Bono says. "It has to be our most innovative, our most challenging ... or what's the point ?"

Bono says the band now was "50 or 60" new songs to consider for inclusion on the follow-up to 2004's "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb."

"The last two records were very personal, with a kind of three piece at their heart, the primary colors of rock -- bass, guitars and drum," he says. "But what we're about now is of the same order as the transition that took us from 'The Joshua Tree' to 'Achtung Baby.'"

Among the songs in the mix are "Get on Your Boots," "For Your Love," "Breathe," "No Line on the Horizon" and the eight-minute "Moment of Surrender." One source who has heard several of the works-in-progress describes them to Billboard as "amazing and a little out there. I hope they don't change anything."

"I'm always the one who underestimates how easy it is to simply 'put out the songs now.' If it was just up to me they'd be out already!," Bono says. "But early next year people will be able to start hearing what we've been doing. We want 2009 to be our year, so we're going to start making an impression very early on."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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