With more countries around the world gaining nuclear capabilities, U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is a manual on how to deal with the inevitable future world conflicts. The simple, obvious lessons about love, peace and faith are nothing new; Bono has sung these stories many times throughout the band’s career, elements of which echo throughout this collection.
The first track “Vertigo” is the song that announced the band was back and certainly one you’ve heard by now if you have a TV or radio. The song grabs your attention immediately, showcasing the band’s ability to still create pop songs with great hooks, reminding me of “Beautiful Day” and the War album. The lyrics capture the joys and loss of control that love can bring, but in the last line Bono sings, “Your love is teaching me how, how to kneel…” shifting the meaning to a higher love.
Lush string sounds from The Joshua Tree change the mood on “Miracle Drug” where Bono continues the theme by singing about having “enough of romantic love” and giving “it up/for a miracle.” The sound remains the same on “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” another song about the troubled relationship between Bono and his late father. The song has a beautiful chorus that allows you to overlook some of the weaker lyrics, and while Bono doesn’t hit some notes, those sounds accurately reflect the emotion and the exertion of the relationship.
One of my favorites is “Love And Peace Or Else,” a muddled, bluesy rocker with The Edge’s fuzzed-out guitar. It begins with some interesting noise collage a la Achtung Baby. It needs to be played very loud repeatedly.
“City of Blinding Lights” starts with a wonderful intro on piano that conjures up the image of blinking lights off in the distance. This song will be the song from the album that will translate into an amazing live performance. There’s a sing-a-long chorus for the audience of “ooh ooh ooh,” followed by Bono’s line “Oh, you look so beautiful tonight,” which will send the crowd into ecstasy. It will be a perfect moment to grab someone and kiss them.
It’s a good record, but it’s not great and some fans will hold that against the band. The more you listen to it, the more you will appreciate it, but there are weak moments on the album and part of the problem is that when U2 repeats themselves, they don’t outdo previous efforts, so why should we bother listening to the new stuff?
Also, the poetry of Bono’s lyrics has become too simple and clichéd. In every song but “Yahweh” he refers to “I,” but I don’t know much about the narrator and they aren’t all the same person. I want more interesting details in the stories he tells, and to be honest, God is a boring character. There’s not much conflict when you are all-knowing and all-powerful.
I could have down with out the red, white black colors of the liner notes. Maybe that’s petty, but since The White Stripes that palette is being used everywhere these days. From the film Ocean’s Twelve to albums by Green Day and Lenny Kravitz. Even a Honda commercial uses it. It feels like grabbing onto something popular rather than striving for something original.
I was surprised that there weren’t more political songs due to what’s been happening in the world since their last album, but maybe with all that he’s seen and the loss of his father, Bono sees love and God as being more important the politics of man. After all, nothing has changed since the days of their youth. People in different parts of the world are still experiencing their own “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” and there continue to be “Mothers of the Disappeared,” so what good would one more song really do?