November 27, 2004

Worthless Spew, Part 1: 4 Rich Irish Dorks


"How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" seems to be the album U2 have made in the mold they imagine most of the world perceives them to be. Elaborating on that point involves all kinds of silly nit-picking that's ultimately irrelevant if, in fact, this is the album they wanted to record at this unique point in their unique career. I mean, it's their record, right? I can say all sorts of things that are superficially judgemental, such as "Atomic Bomb" is head and shoulders above the good half of "All That You Can't Leave Behind", or that it's not as good as "Achtung Baby", or it's "mainstream", "too safe", or "slickly clean", and hey, even if I did just say that or even if I believe it, which I do, that doesn't matter. The fact is that U2 has decades under their belt, a few knockout albums back there, a killer live show, and has yet to become complete crap, and for some reason, for better or worse, that quashes any arguments as to the quality of this disc. They're up against themselves again, and I'm happy they made a good record in spite of that.

It all sounds like tarnished silver; "Atomic Bomb" is a very conservative step back at worst and a vigorous running-in-place at best. This is "Boy" made by 45-year-olds- a transparently studied stab at youthful spontaneity that is pulled off regardless because, well, this is U2 we're talking about. The old winning formula is here- the original keening chimes of righteousness that we all know and that, really, shouldn't be a crime except that this band has delivered much better before. Nothing really wrong pops up except a few lyrical clunkers from Bono here and there, but again that's business as usual, isn't it? Moments of greatness and permanence are definitely present- at least "City Of Blinding Lights" and "Crumbs From Your Table" ought to stay in the permanent U2 canon. "Vertigo" certainly does get less ridiculous with every listen, the instrumental break in "Miracle Drug" is ecstatic, and the first, icy-crisp, head-spinning note of "All Because Of You" might be the best note on the album.

It's a bit too much over eleven tracks, though. I like epic rock better than anything, but the mood doesn't alter very often, though on the other hand, so what? This stuff will surely destroy in a live setting. It'll absolutely slay, but, you know, in a merciful way. U2 should tour this bastard into the ground- that's where these songs will come to life, as we all know, and that's where the band will prove all pointless reviews like this one to be totally useless. This is their record, and it's not a masterpiece, but as with their best they will allow us to make it ours.

(as reviewd on @U2)

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