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Monday, November 22, 2004
U2: How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb
U2's new album, How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb, comes out tomorrow in the U.S. They've been working on this one for awhile - there were studio difficulties including Bono's absence while trying to save the world and dissatisfaction with the product, but having listened to the whole album (as you can), my preliminary sense is that it's pretty damn good, very much a continuation of what they started on All that You Can't Leave Behind. Reviewers have been throwing praise at the new album left and right, and you can read those on all the conventional sites. For a different perspective, here's a good review from an unlikely source: The Wharton business school paper. Follow the link below for the full text.
New U2 album delivers hope, faith, and love By Jacob Garlan Miller, WG'06
Without a doubt, U2 is the biggest musical act in the world. Everyone knows them and most like them. They are the rare ensemble who can command legions of fanatical devotees, as well as an enormous web of casual fans, by producing tunes that are both accessible and technically excellent. Nonetheless, U2 has their detractors, who claim the band has grown too big and too distant from their fervent roots. With them I must disagree: like antlers and cheese, U2 only gets sharper with age.
Some folks want every album to sound like The Joshua Tree. Yes, some smaller niche acts or flashes in the pan can put out essentially the same album several times to challenge the public's diminishing marginal satisfaction. However, the musicians that transcend generations and genres, including the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Sting, and Beethoven, must evolve to maintain their relevance. Otherwise, they end up looking like washed-up cover bands imitating their own songs (sorry, Aerosmith).
I, for one, count myself among the dedicated fans that thoroughly enjoyed U2's foray into techno beats and groovier grooves throughout the 1990's in Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, but many others pleaded with the band to step away from the edge. Tomorrow U2 will release an album that will please both sides: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb reflects the band's maturity in its polished craftsmanship as it returns to the sounds and feelings that originally "made" U2 a quarter-century ago. If you liked All That You Can't Leave Behind, you will really like this new offering. If you loved All That You Can't Leave Behind, you will be lining up at Tower Records tonight to get your hands on this gem when the clock strikes midnight. It's in the same vein, but flows deeper into the bloodstream.
The album starts out with the now-familiar (thanks to iPod ads) "Unos, dos, tres, catorce" to open "Vertigo," which channels the energy of past U2 rockers such as "Elevation" and "God Part II." This fun little ditty is immediately contrasted by Bono's sincere longing for an advance in the global fight against AIDS in "Miracle Drug." Next comes "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," a classic power ballad whose passion will stir goose bumps à la "One" and "All I Want Is You." My favorite thus far is "Love and Peace or Else," which sets a riproarin' bass line and R & B rhythms (pleasantly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground) to our prayers for lasting peace in Jerusalem and beyond.
If it weren't for its refreshingly upbeat and lighthearted lyrics ("Don't think before you laugh...Look ugly in a photograph"), "City of Blinding Lights" would sound at home squeezed between "A Sort of Homecoming" and "Pride" twenty years ago.
"One Step Closer" is a sincere heartstring-tugger about Bono's father, who recently lost his battle with cancer. It will surely become an anthem for believers in the divine potential of the human soul. After delicately shedding a positive light on death, the following song, the beautifully melodic "Original of the Species," addresses the newborn crowd, glorifying the uniqueness of every new soul. Bono's advice to the next generation: make joy a lifetime goal ("Baby slow down...The end is not as fun as the start...Please stay a child somewhere in your heart").
Finally, as good and faithful Irishmen, the most powerful band in the world finishes off their album as they traditionally do: with a prayer. "Yahweh" elegantly begs the Lord for help in self-improvement. The hopeful message delivered by the boys from Dublin in How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb assists that cause.