December 2, 2004

Bono Detonates Again

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The music from the good ol’ days lives on. I’m talking U2 from the ’80s and early ’90s. I’m talking Boy, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Bono, Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton and The Edge have been working hard to bring back that loving feeling that everyone came to know. In 1997, U2 tried, or rather somewhat half-assed it, and put out Pop, an album that didn’t exactly “pop” in anyone’s head. In 2000, we were treated to the four-time platinum, single-yielding All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but once again were disappointed to find a pathetic excuse for what we knew as U2. Four years later we have the latest from the Irish band. Their latest attempt at that special something is How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

The opening track, “Vertigo,” which has been spinning on the radio for a while, is completely unlike the rest of the album. The tedious song is one of U2’s worst. If people somehow claim to enjoy it, they’re only reacting to its excessive play on the radio. It’s got everything you want to hear on a radio hit: Bono in his signature croon that varies from the catchy choruses to the predictable rhyming verses, and The Edge starting with a choppy guitar leading into a more drawn out feeling that later descends into a boring repetitive solo. Clayton on bass and Mullen on drums could only be described as dull and uninspired at best. Worst of all, the song begins with Bono getting the tempo going, screaming “unos, dos, tres, catorce,” which for those of you that didn’t take Spanish translates to “one[s], two, three, fourteen.” Yes, he says “unos” with an “s” instead of “uno,” and even more irritating is the fourteen — not four, but fourteen. The fourteen may be representative of Atomic Bomb being their fourteenth release (including lives). Maybe there is some hidden meaning behind it, or they wanted to try something other than four, but it sounds completely erroneous.

Following the disappointing opening track is “Miracle Drug,” which absolutely changed my mind about the direction of the album; with an introduction like “Vertigo” you almost expect the rest of the songs to be crap, but I was clearly mistaken. Throughout “Miracle Drug” there are no complaints. Everything from Bono’s romantic lyrics to Mullen’s perfected snare rendezvous. The Edge sets the mood from the beginning while leading the band through intricate transitions from start to finish. This song could have easily been on any of the anthems from the ’80s that made this quartet famous. “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is a dramatic glimpse at Bono’s personal side as he sang this ballad at his father’s funeral in 2001. Lyrically, it may be confused with another love song for the hopeless romantics.

With a title like How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, you almost expect the album to be plastered with political tracks. However, that isn’t the case, with a few exceptions. “Love and Peace Or Else” almost sounds like a threat. It’s nowhere near “Where The Streets Have No Name,” one of their masterpieces from the ’80s, but it gets the message across as Bono sings, “Lay down your guns / All your daughters of Zion / All your Abraham sons.” “City Of Blinding Lights” is an inspirational track that meanders between beguiling and tepid but in the end delivers a solid package of traditional U2. “A Man and a Woman” is reminiscent of “The Sweetest Thing” as Bono sings, “Brown-eyed girl across the street … I thought this is the one for me / But she was already mine / You were already mine.” “A Man and a Woman” starts out with an attractive bass line and acoustic style rarely heard from The Edge but later dips into repetitiveness. With Bono being the activist/injustice freak, I was just waiting for him to sing about starving children in Africa, and I got close to what I expected. In “Crumbs From Your Table” Bono sings about the AIDS problem in Africa while the rest of the band creates yet another attempt at musical grandeur. “One Step Closer” is on a similar note as “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” while Bono sings about losing faith prior to the death of his father: “I’m ’round the corner from anything that’s real/ I’m across the road from hope.”

Overall, the album is a complete turn around from their last two releases, but still does not have their old strength, confidence and cohesiveness. All I really want is for Bono to come here for forgiveness. I want him to come here and raise the dead (“One”). If you’re asking me, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I’ll give U2 one more chance and I’ll be satisfied, two more chances and I won’t be denied (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”).

Archived article by Adrian Prieto
Sun Staff Writer