How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb



January 16th, 2005 | 230 replies

Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

With most bands there comes a stage when it becomes apparent that the days of that band as a major recording force are over. Many of them carry on touring (bands such as AC/DC and The Rolling Stones), others decide to call it a day. At times in the 1990s it seemed that time was nearing for U2; following their 1980s peak, they had dismantled their signature sound, which wasn't commercially or critically a huge success, with the exception of Achtung Baby. However, in 2000, Bono announced his band's intention of "reapplying for the job of biggest band in the world", with the release of All That You Can't Leave Behind. If you did not like that album, and preferred U2 on albums such as Pop, then be warned: this album really is not for you. If, however, you think albums such as The Joshua Tree are brilliant, then you want this CD. Because on this evidence, U2 are not only still around, but they are showing no signs of going anywhere fast.

The songs:

1. Vertigo. Bono had said before the release of this album that The Edge was sounding angry on this record, due to Bono's other work outside the band. Based on this song, possibly more than any other on the album, this is true, with a hugely powerful riff that seems designed to open the forthcoming U2 shows next year. You will almost certainly have heard this song already (it's been featured heavily in iPod adverts), but it's a great feel good song, and a very strong opening to the album. 4.5/5.

2. Miracle Drug. As I've already said, after 10 studio albums, you would have thought that Bono might have started losing his touch for writing truly great ballads, but this song shows off the fact that he hasn't. He's also retaining his Messianic imagery in his lyrics ("I was a stranger, you took me in"), but although it would sound corny with so many other artists, he pulls it off here, as he has done so many times. The production, as with so many other songs on here is impeccable as well, most notably when Bono's vocals are layered on one another. 4.5/5.

3. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. Although U2 will probably never write a song so imbued with genuinely emotional beauty as One again, this song comes closer than most ever will do. Dedicated to Bono's late father, who died on the eve of their homecoming at Slane Castle on their last tour, the song is built around The Edge's chiming guitar, which complements Bono perfectly. Lyrically Bono credits his father when he sings "You're the reason I sing", but this is just one great lyrical moment out of many in this song. It's one of the finer moments on the album, that erupts into full blown power rock towards the end, which lifts it on to a whole new level. A future U2 classic, this gets 5/5.

4. Love And Peace Or Else. As the title may suggest, this is something of a more political song, with a distorted intro leading into something of a more experimental song, which is darker in tone, largely due to Larry Mullen's beat on the toms which is strangely similar to Radiohead's There There. The song itself is something of a dip in standards compared to the preceding songs, and indeed relative to the rest of the album. The break in the song towards the end, leaving Bono singing effectively by himself raises the standard though.3.5/5.

5. City Of Blinding Lights. The Edge reaches back into his box of tricks here, pulling out a distorted guitar line that suddenly takes a back seat as Bono enters, musing "The more you see, the less you know", as an opening to the song that seems to be both a celebration, as well as thoughts on modern culture. Going back to U2's previous album, this is similar to New York, although it doesn't explode into life in quite the same way as that did. One thing this song definitely does show though is the ability of The Edge not only as a guitarist, but also as a backing singer, as his voice provides some very good support and interplay with Bono's. 4/5.

6. All Because Of You. If Vertigo was the obvious choice for a first single (and it was), then this is one of the songs on here that will probably be released as a single at some stage. With guitars layered over one another, this song has more depth than others on here, and it also shows how well the band have come to understand each other, something which has not always been the case. Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen remain firmly in the back seat during this song, but yet without their impact, this would be nowhere near as good as it is. It even features a brief Bono scream, and when he sings "I'm alive, I've just arrived", it's clear that the band are as exuberant as when they first started. 4/5.

7. A Man And A Woman. This is probably the weakest song on here, although there isn't anything particularly wrong with it. It just seems to be lacking in direction, and is little but a medium tempo love song, which allows Bono a chance to show off his voice again. The bass is probably the most noticeable bit for large section of this, but if you were going to skip a song on here, then this would probably be it. 3/5.

8. Crumbs From Your Table. Another more political song, this is sung from the point of view of a third world country (apparently Uganda), and refers to the AIDS epidemic, with Bono crooning "I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table". Although more bands have recently been jumping on the political bandwagon, U2 are one of the bands that have been consistently referring to such topics in their lyrics, and so this song is rather more effective and well written than other, similar songs. It also features a truly majestic, verging on pompous guitar solo that complements the verses. 4/5.

9. One Step Closer. Interestingly, Noel Gallagher is specially thanked in the credits for this song, although he didn't play or write any of the song. The song itself is a slow-burning ballad, with Bono's lyrics being full of confusion, and a softly sung chorus containing him intoning with almost religious fervour "One step closer to knowing". The Edge also shows here that he's a guitarist that goes beyond one who can merely write a great riff, as he's barely audible for most of the song, before coming in with perfect tone. 4.5/5.

10. Original Of The Species. Another gorgeous U2 ballad, this is more of a triumphal announcement by the band than anything else. It has all the ingredients of a classic U2 song, with a guitar hook, a great change in tone for the chorus, and trademark lyrical rhyming that's positively drenched in pathos. Even the final "Oh my" sounds far better than any two words have a right to, and this is destined to become one of the U2 live songs that becomes a quasi-religious experience for the crowd. 4.5/5.

11. Yahweh. In case you don't know, Yahweh is where the word Jehovah, meaning God, is originally derived from, which should give you a feel for this song. With Bono very much bossing this, the lyrics read like a modern day prayer, with his appeals to "Take these hands, teach them what to carry". The Edge again provides the distorted guitar backing that gives Bono the chance to weave his magic over the song, and his question of "Why the dark before the dawn?" possibly refers to today's current political scene, in a way that is both hopeful and poignant. 4.5/5.

12. Fast Cars. Distinctly different from the rest of the album, this has The Edge on an acoustic guitar, with Larry Mullen beating out a tribal drumbeat, and Bono at his darkest in this song, almost returning to his persona of the '90s, singing of pornography, and taking pills. Although an oddity compared to the other songs on here, it still provides a good album closer, and in itself works well as a song. 4/5.

As I said, if you don't like U2, then you won't like this album. However, on this album, U2 have put together probably their most coherent collection of songs since Achtung Baby. Bono is still putting together religiously based lyrics like no-one else, The Edge is still churning out distorted guitar riffs in a way that guitarists half his age can only dream of, and the rhythm section are still providing their trademark backing. Although it sounds from this as if the band could have gone stale, they haven't, and the music here sounds invigoratingly fresh from start to finish. As one description of Vertigo said, "It will remain exhilarating until someone can finally work out where U2 have pinched the melody from." Although you could get the feeling about much of this record, it is solely because U2 have such a trademark sound, that when they release an album, it sounds as if they must have released the same song before, and yet their music still sounds fresh. How they do it, only the band, and possibly not even them can know, but in the meantime the rest of us can just sit back and enjoy it.

Final rating: 4/5.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
November 24th 2004


My Mom just bought this album it is awesome. Yay I got the first post!!!

November 24th 2004


i heard vertigo and was like
'hell yes!'

November 24th 2004


i love this album...... great review


November 24th 2004


That was a great review, and I'd agree with everything you've said. It's great to see them with greater ambition than portrayed on All That You Can't Leave Behind. All the superb ingredients of U2 remain on this record; Bono's lyrics, Edge's simplistic magic on the guitar, uplifting melodies.

Hey Mr. Light Man
November 24th 2004


I must eventually purchase this....I love all U2 albums.

November 24th 2004


Great review. I only have The Joshua Tree but "Vertigo" is really nifty.

Stadium Rock? D'oh.

November 24th 2004


I'm glad its not like when older bands come out with new sucky albums. I'm checkin this out. Good review :thumb:

November 24th 2004


To be honest, i think alot of it leans close to Achtung Baby (Cool thing). Has anyone noticed a really Smiths like opening on 'Yahweh'?

Dark Hero
November 24th 2004


Didn't this come out today? And does the album actually tell you how to dismantle an atomic bomb?

November 24th 2004


[QUOTE=Dark Hero]Didn't this come out today? And does the album actually tell you how to dismantle an atomic bomb?[/QUOTE]

yes, track 3 is the name of the manual.

November 24th 2004


Stadium Rock? D'oh.[/QUOTE]

I was unsure about the genre, but I'd say that's what they are on this album...anyway, everyone knows if they like U2 or not by now.

Didn't this come out today? And does the album actually tell you how to dismantle an atomic bomb?

Came out on Monday, when I bought it. The album title refers to Bono himself, as he says he is the "atomic bomb", and the album was his way of effectively undergoing a theraputeic process following the death of his father, which affected him greatly.

November 24th 2004


i'm going to get this for christmas.
i've only heard vertigo off it. but i like.
that being said, i hope its not like all that you cant leave behind, cos that wasnt really good.

November 24th 2004


Vertigo drives me up the wall, as does all of U2's material.

The Ashtray Girl
November 24th 2004


I love this album, bought on the day of release and haven't stopped listening to it since. Pure class, and the only weak tracks are A Man And A Woman and Fast Cars, in my opinion.

Excellently reviewed, I was waiting for this one.

November 24th 2004


This album is amazing

November 24th 2004


[QUOTE=Kaden]Vertigo drives me up the wall, as does all of U2's material.[/QUOTE]


I've heard most of this album and it's pretty darn awesome. Wicked review Medopalis, the best U2 review so far (except for my review of the dvd :p )

November 24th 2004


Quite possibly true...:evil:

But at least I noticed that wasn't on the reviewed list after going to check out the competition. :p

November 24th 2004


The mainriff in Vertigo sounds an awful lot like a riff from the Offspring.

November 24th 2004


[QUOTE=br3ad_man]:wave: [/QUOTE]

November 25th 2004


I heard this isn't as serious as their older stuff. Still, I'm going to buy it. Good review.

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