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U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
by Zane Ewton

Five Star: A look at albums that are so good that they impress even the most cynical of critics. Very few albums are superior enough to obtain a five star rating but occasionally a band slips through the river of mediocrity that is the modern music industry and they produce an album that restores our faith in the future of rock! This series is a look at such albums. 

It is amazing that U2 can make an album this good at this point in their career.  The hype for this album was overwhelming and bordered on ridiculous.  It has been 4 years since the good, but middle of the road All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  U2 had not done anything truly exciting since Achtung Baby over 10 years ago.  That was the album where U2 come the closest to making a perfect album.

Now with an impending induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band has released the most consistent album of their career.  There is not a single throwaway track on this album and the stand-out songs are as good as anything U2 has ever done.

U2’s best characteristics have also been their worst enemies.  But now the band has fully embraced what made them an exciting band in the first place, emotion.  They have never been afraid to show emotions and work in matters of the mind and heart. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was an emotional record but fell flat and seemed forced.  This album feels real with the surface scratched off the gloss.

“Vertigo” may be one of the most over-played songs of the year thanks to the amount of advertising dollars used for the iPod but it is an exciting song that will sound good live, despite having some of the worst lyrics Bono has ever written.  Just when you think this album is going to be U2’s crack at garage rock “Miracle Drug” takes it in a completely different direction.  It is a beautiful song followed by the equally beautiful “Sometimes you can’t make it on Your Own” which is one of the most lyrically straightforward songs Bono has written.  The Edge has written some amazing melodies for this album that put the songs in a different class.

“Love and Peace or Else” starts with a distorted bass line and crunches with Edge’s funk-rock riff.  The lyrics are typical fare but it’s the Edge’s guitar that makes the song interesting.  When he steps away from his bread and butter he is still a great rock guitarist.  “City of Blinding Lights” is another song that will grow in size and majesty on a live stage.  Much of this album has the feel that it was made to be played live with a great sense of urgency. 

“All Because of you” is propelled by another Edge riff.  He really steals the show on this album by not only sticking to his strengths but throwing in a few surprises like on “A Man and a Woman” with its Spanish guitars and accents.  “Crumbs from Your Table” suffers from blending into the background too much but is redeemed by the quiet proto-U2 track “One Step Closer”.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb ends with the yearning “Original of the Species” and the hopeful “Yahweh”.  Spirituality runs throughout this album giving it a hopeful strain that strengthens the emotional moments and lifts up the roaring choruses.  U2 said that this was the album that they have always wanted to make.  It is easy to scoff at those kinds of statements until you actually hear the record and realize it just might be the best thing U2 has ever done.  In a time when we could use some genuine emotion and hope, it might also be just what we need.

More Info 

U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Track Listing:
Miracle Drug
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Love And Peace Or Else
City Of Blinding Lights
All Because Of You
Man And A Woman, A
Crumbs From Your Table
One Step Closer
Origin Of The Species

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