Monday, November 15, 2004

"INCOMING!" A review of U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"

Midway through November, illicit copies of the uberband U2’s latest album “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” were leaked on the Internet. Though I fully intend to buy the CD when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, my curiosity could not help a sneak peek.

“Atomic Bomb” is a powerful, confident, expansive guitar rock album. Yes, you heard me—guitar rock album. The Edge wore the pants in these recording sessions. The past decade’s experimentation gives way to heavily guitar laden pieces brimming with 80’s nostalgia. For those who yearn for the U2 of “Joshua Tree,” here is your chance to come back to the fold.

“Atomic Bomb” is powerhouse of an album, which is a remarkable observation given its balance of slower, graceful tracks. The album moves with its own gravimetric velocity.

“Vertigo,” while the most energetic song on the CD is also the least representative of the overall style. For those frightened away by the song’s radio-friendly, tough exterior, “Vertigo” is merely the catchy hook to bring you to the CD. It will grow on you, but stands alone stylistically from the rest.

“Miracle Drug” will inevitably feel weaker following the momentum of “Vertigo” but don’t let that fool you. It is a fine track.

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is a tremendous balled written by Bono for his father. It is the sort of song that builds and builds both musically and lyrically sweeping the listener away.

“Love and Peace Or Else” opens with spacey bass and turns into one whammy of a song! One of the best, most innovative, most courageous tracks. You’ll be blasting out the car speakers with this one!

“City of Blinding Lights” is a U2 hymn, dominated by an unforgettable piano and guitar melody. It is classic U2.

“All Because of You” opens with an ear-splitting guitar hit and instantly moves into a sound we are familiar with but haven’t heard from the boys in some time. Still, it is one of the album’s weaker tracks.

“A Man and A Woman” is easily the weakest track, more a B-side than a premiere release. Seems uninspired.

“Crumbs From Your Table” is a typical U2 song—mellow, soulful, full of heart and soul but requires a few listens before one discovers the melody.

“One Step Closer” is a deeply emotional song, melancholy and atmospheric. The sparse instrumentation really allows Bono a chance to shine. The guitar is reminiscent of “With or Without You.”

“Original of the Species” is my favorite track on the album. It is a wonderful, seductive, Beatlesesque ballad.

“Yahweh” is tinged with the current UK powerhouse, Coldplay’s influence. More upbeat than the usual U2 closer.

The overall prognosis is that U2 have rediscovered rock. “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” is a predominantly straight, guitar-heavy album, uncomplicated and without much fuss. This is not to say it is not loud and aggressive, every song heavily influenced by The Edge’s angry guitar. It is.

For those who enjoy U2’s Christian stimulus, “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” will reaffirm their faith in the band’s and especially Bono’s dynamic, raw, and influential faith—from uplifting lyrics to “Yahweh’s” Hebraic praise.

On a less positive note, this is not U2’s best album. Some of the songs sound a bit unfinished, especially among their disappointing middle passages. But “Atomic Bomb” is a solid, down-to-earth, enjoyable addition to their discography. While the album requires repeated listening, it gets better every time.


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