U-toons: Vertigo *

September 30, 2004


By Robert M. Wolpert

Review: ‘Vertigo’*

September 27, 2004

By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor

Thursday, like many U2 fans around the world, I had my first listen of “Vertigo.” Two months ahead of the release of “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” I heard the album’s first single three times on three different LA radio stations. Two of those times it was labeled “exclusive.”

Each time was a little different. The first time was so much like a first time, like a first kiss with my body a jumble and my head full of too many adjectives and inane, cluttered analyses. I tried to be logical and critical but nothing really stuck, it was all too fresh to be properly categorized. Regardless, I knew it was great.

The second time there was a little more clarity. I distanced myself, no longer the dizzy fan girl silently chanting “Oh my God” while the song played on, I was a thoughtful critic, able to draw comparisons between past and present U2 and the many influences that brought this song together.

The third time I was a fan. I was able to take the two prior experiences and meld them into something more visceral, more enjoyable. I turned the radio up, cut across traffic lanes and sped up on the dusky highway. My body swayed to the music, I easily picked out lyrics and found myself involuntarily singing along with the oh, oh, ohs. Now I had no doubt this was better than great, “Vertigo” is fantastic.

The song has energy and vitality. It’s so typically U2, filled with endless contradictions. It’s classically U2 yet completely now. It’s hopeful but questioning. Simple and complex. “Vertigo” fits in so well with the work U2 was doing more than 20 years ago on albums like “Boy” and “War” yet there’s no way the band could have made that song at any time but now.

U2 has often said that on each album there’s one song that ties back to its previous work, “Vertigo” is one of those songs, providing a bridge to “Beautiful Day” through Larry’s rolling drum work, “Where the Streets Have No Name” with the melodic guitar overdubs, the entire “Boy” album with the emotion of Bono’s vocals far outshining their artistry. But the song keeps the band moving forward. By piecing together bits of its own history and intertwining that with rock’s history (The Kinks, The Clash, The Ramones), U2 has created something new.

And how will this all play out live? During the ‘90s, U2 proudly declared that bigger was better, creating albums and tours that pitted music and against spectacle. To me, “Vertigo” won’t work in that kind of atmosphere, would be lost in a world of satellites, gargantuan television screens and pop art slideshows. This song is sweaty and immediate, something that would properly trample a cramped club. There’s a new wave sway to the song that needs to be acted out by hundreds of like-minded individuals in a very tight space. If only U2 could do theaters and clubs.

We’ve waited a mighty long time for a new U2 song. It’s been two summers since “Electrical Storm” had all of us salivating for new material. Was this one-off for the best of compilation a clue to the future of U2? We dissected interviews, read story after story of tales from the studio, waiting, begging, never quite sure if we could wait it out. Release dates were bandied about and taken back. It’s a lot for a fan to take.

But listening to “Vertigo” those three times on the radio that day makes it all worth it. I have nothing but faith that the new album will rock, that U2 will once again prove that the world should believe the hype. The tour, whatever size, color and shape it takes, will be phenomenal.

This song is important for me as a U2 fan; the intensity generated post-Elevation tour slowly wavering. And why not, hundreds of new albums and tours have come and gone in the process. In the three years since the end of that tour I’ve become a disciple of Elvis Costello, reaffirmed my Madonna fanaticism, grown particularly attached to John Mayer and proudly sung the praises of Ashlee Simpson. But now all of that can take the back seat thanks to “Vertigo.”

Update: Dockers Pub: The Current State of a Piece of U2 History*

September 27, 2004

By Cristy Sturgess

The Dockers pub located at 4-6 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin, frequented by both U2 and their fans, has closed. It opened 150 years ago, taking its name from the bustling trade along the nearby docks. CB Richard Ellis Gunne put up the pub for sale for €3 million. Planning permission for the site incorporates a public house of 450 sq m (4,844 sq ft), six two-bedroom apartments, retail space of 224 sq m (2,411 sq ft) and 174 sq m (1,873 sq ft) of office accommodation. The area in which Dockers is located, the southern docklands, is going through major commercial and residential development.

Of the pub, owner Christy Murphy recently told The Irish Times: "The Dockers is a strange pub. We get very little local trade as such, apart from maybe the local offices for lunch. Most of our business comes from tourists to the nearby Windmill Lane studios. Bono and the boys come here a lot. We always seem to get a great deal of well-known faces in here. For example, Robert Redford was here, as was Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Naomi Campbell and Liam Neeson. TV and film people always seem to stop by."

The building is currently closed to the public. A notice on the building states that a planning permission has been applied for the future pub, apartments, retail and office space. U2 fans will have to wait patiently to see if the site will reopen as Dockers.

U2 Fans Learn to Love the ‘Bomb’*

September 20, 2004

By Carrie Alison
Chief Editor

The long road to the Nov. 23rd release of the feverishly-anticipated new U2 album found a sweet roadside oasis on Sept. 13th with the official announcement of the album’s title, "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," on U2.com. The band offered no explanation or comment on the complex and, as journalist Neil McCormick put it, "difficult" title.

Rumored to be influenced by British artist Damien Hirst, "How To Dismantle…" will blast onto an already explosive, war-weary world stage. Always a political band, U2 has shied away from overt statements in recent years preferring to take a more composed demeanor, presumably to help Bono’s work on behalf of DATA, or to put on a more non-partisan face in complicated times.

Whatever the case, "How To Dismantle…" is at once a shocking title full of historic imagery (atomic bombs are no longer in development), but also a title that hints at an education of sorts—how do you dismantle an atomic bomb indeed. Will U2 offer us diplomatic advice? Relationship advice (1991′s "Achtung Baby" explored the breakdown of a romantic relationship to heartbreaking effect)? Or perhaps an inside peak of what must have been a arduous recording process (this being the first U2 album since 2000′s wildly successful "All That You Can’t Leave Behind")?

Predictably, U2′s obsessively-opinionated and devoted fan base reacted with astonishment, enthusiasm and uneasiness to the new album title. Many voiced fears that U2 was making a ploy for attention with the striking title or that U2 was setting itself up for pun-laden album reviews along the lines of "U2 Drops Its ‘Bomb,’" "U2′s Album is ‘The Bomb’" or "U2′s Album is a Bomb."

"To me, this title has balls," stated U2 fan Clayton on Interference.com’s Feedback message board. "It sounds [like] ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ in my mind’s radio station. Right away when you stack it up next to ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ you can’t help but feel that ‘All That…’ [as a title] has no balls."

Indeed, the new album title has guts, whereas "All That…" referred to a growth process, the act of picking up and moving on, dusting one’s self off and trying again, embracing life with experienced but forgiving eyes. Song titles for "How To Dismantle…" even sound voraciously different than songs on "All That…"—comparatively, we have "Vertigo," the first single to be released off of the new album versus "When I Look At The World." Are the members of U2 giving us a peak at their current worldview – one of dizziness and constant disorder, compared with personal reflection of one’s quiet discomfort with the world?

"It’s a takeoff/biblical reference to Ecclesiastes, ‘beating swords for ploughshares’ is now ‘HTDAAB," mused U2 fan starsgoblue. "The only way to trump an item of destruction = love. That’s the theme, love is a revolution in it’s own right!"

Other fans were not as quick to accept the album title.

"I will reserve full judgment until I have seen the artwork/theme on the sleeve and heard the album," offered fan Blue Room. "Off hand, I don’t care for the title, although I also remember in 1987 saying the same thing when ‘The Joshua Tree’ was announced as the title so it will probably grow on me. I think U2 are just trying to be different and make sure the title stands out. ‘Vertigo’ would have been a decent title but seems pretty obvious."

The next few months will see a flurry of activity and press overload for the "biggest band in the world"—magazine covers, television appearances, interviews, radio airplay and reviews followed by a 2005 world tour. The biggest trophy of all, however, is the arrival of "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" to U2 fans in late November, just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season. U2 fans are a hungry sort, and eat up every morsel of information they can find on their beloved Irishmen, even if it means sitting through endless radio marathons or straining to hear music playing in the background of a very badly recorded bootleg of a new song.

"It’s not a title that we should [have] expected from a band that’s been around for 25 years and have conquered the world a lot of times," said U2 fan Ricardo. "There’s an idea behind this title, it suggests that it’s not a protest album but an album with… suggestions to dismantle the atomic bombs that we see everyday (AIDS, terror, war and so on), and if the suggestion is love I don’t see anything wrong in that."

Featured Cause: Amnesty International*

September 20, 2004

By Brenda Clemons

In 1961 London lawyer Peter Benenson wrote an article for The London Observer titled "The Forgotten Prisoners" about two Portuguese students arrested in Lisbon after making a toast to freedom. Thousands of readers responded to the article, helping push Benenson to form Amnesty International later that same year.

Forty-three years later, Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize winning organization with over 1.8 million members. Its goal is to research alleged abuses of human rights and to take non-violent action in the form of letter writing campaigns to government officials and protest marches to stop such abuses. A key component of the organization is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that "All humans are free and equal," that equality does not depend on nationality, race, religion or political affirmation, and that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Amnesty International does not accept money from governments or political parties, relying instead on fundraising efforts and support from private donations and memberships to back its efforts. The organization’s Web site features a store with a variety of items including coffee mugs, mouse pads, and clothing whose sale benefits the group.

For more information about Amnesty International, readers can visit the international site at www.amnesty.org or do a Web search for the Amnesty branch located in their country. The U.S. site, found at www.amnestyusa.org, is informative, colorful and easy to navigate. Visitors to this site are sure to find something of interest, such as the part diamonds play in terrorism, why Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo has been imprisoned by the United States, and how to help 8-year-old girls who have been forced into the sex trade. With just a few clicks of the mouse you can send an email to your elected official asking them to do what they can to stop these abuses.

Amnesty International is effective, just ask Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman who had a child out of wedlock. In 2003 the group organized a letter-writing campaign on her behalf after the government of Nigeria declared her guilty of adultery, a crime punishable by death, and handed down the sentence of death by stoning. Her life was spared after 1.3 million letters were received on her behalf.

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