How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2

// July 20th, 2013 // Music, U2
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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2 is one of my favorite albums of all time.

They got better!

U2 formed in their native Dublin in 1978 and remains intact with its four original band members: Bono, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton and The Edge. The band has sold more than 120 million records worldwide in an extraordinary career that has firmly established them as one of the world’s greatest rock `n’ roll bands. Along the way, U2 has earned a phenomenal 14 Grammy Awards, seven of which were for their last studio album, 2000’s `All That You Can’t Leave Behind,’ including two consecutive awards for ‘Record of the Year.’ As popular for their legendary live shows as for their groundbreaking albums, U2 innovates and inspires while packing football stadiums and sweaty clubs around the world. What is next for the group that continues to reinvent themselves and push the boundaries of music?The album that carries U2 into its 25th year–and likely the mixed blessings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–is one of its most frank and focused since the days of October and War. But its gestation was anything but simple, in part salvaged from ’03 sessions the band deemed subpar. Enter Steve Lillywhite, the band’s original producer and sometime collaborator in the decades since, who helped retool the track “Native Son” (originally an antigun screed) into the aggressive iPod anthem “Vertigo” and leaves his distinctive stamp on the muscular “All Because of You.” Perhaps weary of ceaseless, fashion-driven reinvention in the wake of monumental success, U2 seem only too happy here to re-embrace their original sonic trademarks in service of more daring, pop-melodic hooks than they’ve collected in one place in decades. The Eno/Lanois produced “Love and Peace or Else” may shimmer with the duo’s electro-production conceits, but it’s Edge’s lugubrious, postmodern John Lee Hooker guitar swagger that drives it. Elsewhere, Bono’s trademark dramaturgy is spotlighted on “City of Blinding Lights,” the unabashed romance of “A Man and a Woman,” and the confessional “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own.” It may come wrapped in a conundrum–is it nostalgic retrenchment or a sum of the band’s endless musical catharsis?–It’s also the album where, Fly and MacPhisto be damned, U2 boldly claims its arena titan mantle with apologies to no one. –Jerry McCulley

Recommended U2 Discography

The Joshua Tree
Achtung Baby
The Best of 1990-2000
The Best of 1980-1990


All That You Can’t Leave Behind

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3 Responses to “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2”

  1. Adam Block "bluecow" says:

    Adam B. The album is excellent, I give the album itself 5 stars as it really is a wonderful work for the band reflecting their ability to stay ahead of trends.The reason why I give this collectors edition only 3 stars is that I feel the packaging is dissapointing. The CD is housed in a little cardboard pocket, that will make it very easy to get scratched or damaged over time. The book, while a nice little collectors piece, really seems to be a one time read, devoid of interesting reading or stories. The Addition of Fast Cars, again seems to be an ode to collectors in the US, as I don’t believe the song adds value to the CD as it feels out of place.Finally, my biggest pet peeve comes with the fact that the two cheaper versions include full lyrics in the insert, while this edition, despite a hardcover book includes no lyrics.The CD is excellent, the DVD is interesting and worthwile, the Collector’s Edition packaging and content leaves much to be desired. I would have preferred saving money and getting the Deluxe Edition CD/DVD combo. I recommend that others do the same.

  2. Mike London "MAC" says:

    Entirely too conservative artistically; still great music U2, known primarily for grandiose convictions, an intense desire to be the biggest band in the world, and a huge, guitar-driven sound with soaring vocals, have become rather conservative in their evolution. Retreating from their 1980s work, U2 primarily focused on broadening their artistic pallette, bringing in electronica, techno, and other weird fusions. This created a problem with U2’s fan base as the decade drew to a close, because the farther U2 strayed into the eclectic musical territory they were pursuing, the more difficult it was for the fans to follow their evolution. When U2 experimented successfully, they made some of the most successful music of their career (ACHTUNG BABY). Yet they grounded their experimentation with a sense of purpose, and they always kept their ambition within the elasticity of the fans’ and critics’ admiration. At least, they tempered their music with a good dose of rock in the early 90s. ACHTUNG BABY, one of their most experimental, evolutionary records, has been universally hailed by both fans and critics alike as some of their most significant music. ACHTUNG BABY set the course for much of the decade, with U2 going more and more into post-modernism.Then the 1997 nadir POP happened. Not that POP was necessarily a BAD album. Instead of sounding a natural progression of the band’s ambition, the experimentation never really gelled, much like R.E.M.’s UP. POP comes across as torn between two different directions – the anthem-driven, spiritually aware U2 lamenting a loss world, and a strange, dance-driven beat that is supposed to celebrate living with almost primitive desire, instead of commenting on the moral and social decline of earth. Both a critical and commercial flop, U2 seriously re-evaluated their status as artists after POP, and streamlined their sign, making a very conscious return to their earlier sound.In 2000, U2 delivered the followup to POP, ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND. The title is more than aptly representative of that album. Abandoning wholly the more progressive elements of their music, LEAVE BEHIND sounds like U2 trying to write a classicist record, returning to the styles of their 1980s output. While it was fun to hear them return to that era, ALL THAT YOU, out of necessity, didn’t have a lot of artistic evolution. That wasn’t the point.So it’s little surprise that U2, has streamlined their music even more on HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB. While their early records were both revolutionary and a thrill to listen too, and the early 1990s work pure genius, HTDAATB is a much more calculated record, made to sound like classic U2 instead of just being U2. U2’s experimentation had gotten them in trouble, and this is the result. U2, instead of playing the music they want to play, are now playing to win back the audience that much of their 1990s work alienated. In many ways, like Essau yielding to Jacob, U2 has traded their birthright for porridge, selling their artistic evolution out for trying to be the biggest band in the world.Although POP did have some unmitigated disasters, at least it was the old U2, wedded to pushing the envelop with cutting edge music. That’s the real irony of HTDAATB; the new U2 is returning back to the old styles to win back the fans, while the old U2 was much more interested in creating worthwhile music, combining their ambition with their musical sensibilities, growing artistically and commercially. This is a record that the old U2, after making the records they did in the 1990s, would never make. The old U2 would keep pressing on, pursing their musical evolution. But POP happened and U2 has been reeling ever since.While this may seem to be a primarily negative review of U2’s latest effort, there are some postive notes. While artistically a puzzling, entirely too conservative affair calculated to win back fans, there’s some great music here. The lead off-single, “Vertigo,” is jagged guitar rock. “Crumbs From Your Table” plays like we’re back in the 1980s. “Love or Peace” is an interesting comment on war. “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” written in 2001 when Bono’s father died, shows us Bono at his most vulnerable. “Yahweh” (or to be strictly orthodox, YHWH), gives us U2 at their most spiritually thirsty. It has great music and a great sound, but that doesn’t make HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB the instant classic ACHTUNG BABY and THE JOSHUA TREE are.U2’s end result is rather a half-breed. HTDAATB is much too conservative and calculated to be truly revolutionary and an undeniable classic, but also just too good to write off completely (mostly because U2’s trying to recreate an era of their career where they were writing and performing fantastic music. Hence my four star rating, though artistically it’s three). For the causal fan, this may be a subtle point; it has a warm, big sound, and has excellent music. For…

  3. Hoppy Doppelrocket says:

    Actually, A Review of the Collector’s Edition I dig U2 and I like collector’s editions (I have lots of cars). These “special” editions always cost more and most folks want to know is it worth it. Well, in this case (as in most) it depends.This limited collector’s edition contains three items–the cd “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (Hoppy looooves bombs), a studiomentary DVD, and a book. Obviously the price is higher than just the single cd or that other limited edition thing that includes the cd and dvd only (these potato farmers are marketing geniuses).And that’s for several reasons: The cd contains a bonus track not included on either the regular edition or the cd/dvd combo. It’s not listed in the amazon listing above this review (who knows why?) and is a pretty upbeat, punkish number titled “Fast Cars”. It’s pretty good, but a little out of place in spite of the clever lyrics. The cd itself is probably worth 4.7 stars and the Edge really rocks. It’s a very spirtual cd with some cool words and a lot of nifty base (especially on “Love and Peace or Else”). So overall the cd is very good–on par with the last release (the one with the song I quote to my fat lazy spouse Bessie just about every other day–“Walk On”) and very reminiscent of the band’s earlier style (‘October’ early). Again, the guitar is prominent and there’s some modern techno keyboardy strange sound stuff on here too. Very good overall, but the point is there is a bonus track on this set (I believe it’s on the Japanese version as well). As for the DVD…The accompanying DVD is about 20 minutes long and in spite of what you’ll read elsewere, doesn’t really contain any complete videos or performances although the primary focus is on “Vertigo” and the moving “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own”. The commentary (which continually interupts the performances) is interesting and there is conversation about drinking, but nothing about girls in the tour bus or anything scandalous. Overall, it’s a too-short snippet of the band. And then there’s the book…I like to read, but this isn’t really a book I’d look to read. It’s a lot of scribble, some pretty cool sketches and paintings, some Article of Human Rights, lyrics, thoughts on paper and totals about 20 pages. Depends what you like I suppose. Personally, I pulled some of the pictures out and taped them to my cubicle at work (just for fun). You can guess which ones.Where this set loses value (aside from the brevity of the dvd) is the package itself. The book is nicely presented, but the cd and dvd (both) are in slip cases (i.e., prone to getting scratched and annoying to get in and out) and the cd in a pretty flimsy slip case at that. A besotted listener could easily create some damage. So be careful. In summary: Great cd (with a good bonus track), short but interesting dvd, decent book, and lousy package. I sure hope this was helpful.

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