Review: 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb'*

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By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2004.11



I tried so hard to be good, just pushing out of my mind the possibilities of listening to "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" before it officially came out. So what if it was all over the internet, both pirated and officially, all I wanted was to have that CD in my hand and listen to it over and over and over again in the car, at my desk and in my room.

That resolve was crushed this morning when a friend handed me a copy of the new CD, first asking if I was opposed to such things. I don't buy into the argument that internet leaks are destroying the entertainment industry but, at the same time, I do like buying CDs, opening that little package, scanning the liner notes, and giving a buck or two to my favorite artists for their hard work. I had two choices, I could wait out the week until I could finally go into my local record store and buy the limited-edition version or I could grab the copied version in my friend's hand. What to do?

I have now listened to "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" twice and do not regret my choice at all. The album is fantastic, well worth the four-year wait. This album is U2 (and all the producers, engineers and such who offered a hand) absolutely shining. The songs are beautiful, touching, rocking, honest, hopeful—absolutely everything we expect U2 to be.

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What this album isn't, however, is U2's punk rock masterpiece. After first track "Vertigo" fades, there isn't even the slightest hint of punk. The album really is just a rock spectacular, harkening back the very best of classic rock, calling up the spirits of the late-'60s and early-'70s. This album is an electrical brainstorm of the best of The Doors, The Who, Lou Reed. It's got funk and poetry and sex, and would play as well in 1972 as it surely will today.

It's difficult to pick out favorite moments on the album since the entire thing feels like a highlight reel, each member of the band proving they've made the most out of 25 years together, growing beyond musical competence into complete brilliance. "Love and Peace or Else" is dark and rollicking and lusty, featuring The Edge finally stepping into the shoes of a true in-your-face rock god. Despite its Celine Dion-esque title, "All Because of You" is also great, U2 going psychedelic with over-dubbed lyrics, rhythmic guitar tracks and head thumping, hip shaking drumming from Larry.

In between the rocking, there's quite a bit of introspection on "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." U2's songs have always had a veiled quality to them—listeners never knowing for sure if the band's songs are about real or imagined situations. The songs on this album feel like they can absolutely be taken at face value—the band members dealing with their romantic and personal relationships, fatherhood, childhood, growing older. "A Man and a Woman" is one of U2's most sincere love songs, lacking so much of the turmoil songs like "With or Without You" and "All I Want is You" held. The nod to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" with the use of the phrase "How can I hurt when holding you?" gives the song a nice touch of sentimentality.

"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," Bono's reflection on his relationship with his father, is so raw, so open. The lyrics don't pull any punches when discussing the regrets and joys the two men shared, accompanied by the warm heartbeat quality of Adam's bass line. "Original of the Species," a song written for Holly Evans, the oldest of U2's children, is absolutely grand and touching, a song I can imagine parents playing for their children for years to come.

After these virgin listens, I have about a million more to look forward to. Perhaps I should have waited the seven days until the album officially came out but after hearing "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" in its full glory, I'm surprised I lasted this long. I'm still going to line up on the 23rd to buy the boxed set, however—the boys do deserve at least a few of my dollars for this work of art.
 
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perfection

To the four guys I would say - thanky - It´s perfect.
All the songs connects to my life. My relation to my wife, my children, my father, polics, the world, and most of all to God.
I´m a pastor in the danish church, and thank the Lore for U2 -
the most powerful intstrument of the holy gost. These great words, are not too much. My first feeling after hearing the record on the internet from U2.com, and good for that - was thanku lord, that I had the chance to listen to this.
And there is also humour --- what more can you get.
Joergen Denmark
 

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