U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

U2
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

(Interscope)

The Music Box's #7 album of 2004

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12

Written by John Metzger

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The reason that U2 has remained relevant for nearly 25 years is that it has refused to stay in one place for very long. The pursuit of satisfying artistic growth always has been at the forefront of the bandís collective consciousness, and from every new musical trend, U2 has mined enough inspiration to transform each of its endeavors into a boldly crafted and sometimes challenging leap forward. Indeed, over the course of its career, the ensemble has allowed few opportunities to experiment with its signature style to pass unheeded, and in its quest for perfection, it has scrapped completely the music captured at more than just a few recording sessions. The result has been a startling string of albums, each of which has sounded little like the one that preceded it, and although U2ís prior effort ó the blockbuster All That You Canít Leave Behind ó was a return to the grandiose rock of it pre-í90s catalog, the group also found enough common ground with then-current hipsters Radiohead, Moby, Travis, and Coldplay to keep its songs sounding fresh.

On its latest release How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 takes another stab at returning to its past, and this time the Irish quartet succeeded in making it sound as if large portions of its stylistically scattered í90s forays (and everything that revolved around them) never happened. Of course, the latest garage-rock revival could be credited with giving U2 the opportunity to begin anew without seeming out of touch with the record-buying public, and sprinkled throughout the collection are more than a few tutorials for The White Stripes, The Hives, and The Strokes to follow. Yet, itís U2 itself that deserves the most praise for cleverly discovering the path that has led it away from its Euro-glazed ruminations. Thatís not to say that the entirety of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is fully distanced from the last decade of the groupís career ó the central riff of All Because of You is plucked from Achtung, Babyís Even Better than the Real Thing; Miracle Drug shares a few key moments with Beautiful Day; and although Vertigoís magic is significantly diluted by the songís incarnation as a commercial jingle, it essentially is a cleaner, crisper variation on Popís dance-hall thunder. However, from the ringing harmonics of The Edgeís guitar to the thick, heavy bass provided by Adam Clayton, the album is far more of a return to the í80s than All That You Canít Leave Behind ever was.

Consequently, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is one of the most diverse outings of U2ís distinguished career, though strangely enough, it also is the bandís most risk-averse effort. The many allusions to With or Without You that are tucked inside the collectionís 11 tracks make it an inordinately safe endeavor ó and thatís before one finds that the thunderous stomp of I Will Follow or the cascading bombast of Where the Streets Have No Name also have been etched firmly into the albumís DNA. Still, U2 doesnít simply regurgitate its history, so much as it reformulates it, picking and choosing specific ingredients ó the atmospheric washes from The Unforgettable Fire or the soul-searching spirituality of The Joshua Tree, for example ó and then reconstituting them in ways that allow the band to reflect upon the entirety of its career. Lyrically, too, the ensemble rummages through its usual array of themes: Its songs are about life, death, war, peace, religion, sex, money, and politics, and all of them are enveloped within the vague haze of a giant, "all you need is love" embrace. In the end, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is without question a transitional effort, one that comes with more than its share of familiar overtures. If any band can make such a thing sound essential, however, it undeniably is U2, and before long, the twinges of disappointment that initially greet the listener give way to the warm comfort that comes from rekindling a relationship with an old friend. starstarstarstar

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48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Album of the Year

48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Song of the Year
Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own

48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own

48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Song
City of Blinding Lights

48th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Album

47th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
Vertigo

47th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Rock Song
Vertigo

47th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Short Form Music Video
Vertigo

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Of Further Interest...

Kings of Leon - Because of the Times

The Romantics - 61/49

The Sounds - Living in America

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Around the Web

GQ: How to Save the Music Industry by Paul McGuinness

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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2004 The Music Box