It's taken me a couple of weeks to be able to get down on "paper" exactly how I feel about the Bomb. This has been an experience unlike almost anything I've ever had before. But I've now heard the album enough times (around 60) to feel like I can be somewhat objective in my review.
I've been a U2 fan since 1988, and a huge music fan since the mid 70's. I remember songs from the 60's when they were new songs. Yes, I'm old ;) U2-old. You call it.
This was supposed to be a review. But how do you just write a review about a life-changing album? I don't know how long this feeling will last, but this album has calmed me, even more than Coldplay's Rush Of Blood To The Head.
I always considered The Joshua Tree a miracle of an album, with the best opening three I have ever heard. It's still a miracle. And so is this. Which makes sense, because I consider it to have the best closing four I have ever heard.
The magic is back.
1 - Vertigo (8.5) - Very fun, and not very substantial rock tune. This is just as fun as it was from the beginning, which surprises me. Yes, Bono proved that the Edge can do the Hives and White Stripes better than they can, if that was the true goal. It is very smart that they made this the lead single, because it sets everyone up to listen to the whole thing before they realize that the rest of the album is not really like it at all. It sucks you in, and once it has you in its grip, the beauty of Miracle Drug envelopes you before you have a chance to complain that this isn't a hard rock album. At that point you are now accepting that U2 is best at what they do best-- being U2. And now you are very happy and open to finding out if the rest of the album is just as magical. And then you find out that it is. Since I've already started my Miracle Drug review...
2 - Miracle Drug (9.5) - It was quite obvious, even from the lousy beach recording, that this was destined to be a classic, on the level of WOWY and One. Mark my words -- it will be. I would love to see an embellishment of this song live, as was done with the other two. I think there is so much there to work with live. Bono can actually take off and fly with this if he feels like it. I think this song, more than any other, will make fans of non U2 fans. It's quickly become my wife's favorite song from the album, and she's not a U2 fan. She does like the album, though, as does everyone, U2 fan or otherwise, that I've played it for. If it weren't for the fact that it ends too soon, it would be a 10. It still may get there, depending what they do with it live.
This is a great example of how the Edge makes perfect use of sparse guitar parts to reach emotional highs. That simple ringing riff at the start of each verse is signature of U2 classics. I am so happy that his ripping bridge solo before his four vocal lines was allowed to breath. It's not buried, which is unfortunately sometimes the case with the production of some other U2 songs. And, yes, people, that IS the Edge singing those four lines! And when Bono joins in it is just perfect.
3 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (10) - This has grown big time for me. In five years, we will be calling this the next "One". As we have already seen hints of, this will become HUGE live. The emotion is there. It may appear to be MOR to first-time listeners, but U2 did add magic to it to take it to the next level. Just listen in the headphones, and get swallowed up by the emotion. Trust me -- you WILL love this song, if you don't already.
4 - Love And Peace Or Else (7) - I'm not a big fan of this sound. I feel that this song is definitely overrated. As many people suggested, it is NIN-like, but I am not a fan of NIN. You can also hear some Depeche Mode here, but, although I am a DM fan, there are some songs from them that I don't care for much -- and this is the DM that I hear. Having said that, this song has definitely grown on me, especially the second half, which has some amazing sounds. This is definitely the next "Bullet The Blue Sky". Unfortunately, I often skip BTBS when listening to The Joshua Tree. But, as I often said, U2 are an amazing band, touching such a wide range of people, because although people can usually agree that they love their albums, they often disagree why, on a song-by-song basis. THAT'S why U2 is so universally loved.
5 - City Of Blinding Lights (9) - I loved this when I first heard it live, but the fist-pumping chorus didn't really grab me. Now, it's my favorite part of the song. A lot of people seem to feel that this has the best intro since "Where The Streets Have No Name", but I really don't feel that at all. It has a nice buildup, but nothing touches that "Streets" intro, only matched by its outtro -- that's magical. I love the guitar in this one, with the Edge basically using it as a horn section, if you hear what I mean. Adam shines in this one, too, as does Larry. Too many people have commented how Larry seems muted in this album. Huh? First of all, what do you want -- crazy drum solos serving no purpose other than to call attention to himself??? Secondly, he does exactly what he should do -- carries the rhythm along with Adam. And he does it perfectly! This would be great if it follows "Streets" live, and it closes the set before the encore, since it was mainly written about the live performance of "Streets" in the first NY show after 9/11.
6 - All Because Of You (8.5) - I did NOT like this song at first. I thought (and still do think) that the chorus was way too simplistic. But this song freaking rocks! It reminds me of very old U2 -- I'm talking pre-Boy U2. Listen to some of the demos and early performances to hear what I mean. But it is early U2 greatly improved and matured. I'm pretty sure the chorus is intentionally simplistic. But the Edge shines more here than on any song other than perhaps Mercy, which isn't *really* on the album, anyway. And when was the last time you heard Bono scream like that in a song? Never? I now look forward to this song when listening to the album. Wow. I think it could be a huge single.
7 - A Man And A Woman (8) - This song is definitely underrated. Yes, it is the most MOR song on the album, and I can handle one per album, but it is done VERY well. Adam absolutely shines on this song. As a matter of fact, despite what Bono says about this being The Edge's album (and he is classic Edge, here), this is *really* Adam's album. He is awesome.
8 - Crumbs From Your Table (9.5) - Several magazine reviews were beyond crazy -- this should be a B-side? Bull. This is an incredible mid-tempo rocker. Again, Bono dubs himself an octave separated (I'm sure there's a technical musical term for this), and as in every other song this is done to on this album, it works beautifully. And I've never been a fan of this technique, a la "Even Better Than The Real Thing". But what makes this song is the incredible guitar riff leading into the chorus. This is jangling Edge guitar at its most enchanting. The riff between versus is the second best thing about the song, and Bono's emotional peak in the last chorus of "I would believe" puts the stamp on it. I used to rate this a 10, and it may reach that again if they do this live.
And the line, "Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die," is my favorite from the album.
9 - One Step Closer (9.5) - This is the "Running To Stand Still" or "Promenade" of the album. It is WAY underrated. With a bit of modification at the end to make it blend into "Streets", this is a natural to lead into that. Must be listened to in the headphones in order to get a real appreciation.
10 - Original Of The Species (10) - The first I heard from this, like many others, was the ten second clip from a radio show a few years back. If you listen closly, the lyrics have changed -- Bono was singing over the recording with the current lyrics, and you can tell it was slightly different underneath.
Also, like the rest of the rabid U2 fans, the next I heard this was the acoustic performance at the iPod presentation. I thought it had the potential to be one of the best songs on the album. Through Bono's relatively weak, but heartfelt performance, and Edge's botched piano playing, you could hear a hit in the making. That clip hinted of where the acoustic performance would lead.
There's a lot of talk about the Beatlesqueness (is that a word?) of this song, and yes, it is quite apparent. But the Beatles never reached the emotional heights this song attains.
The Edge's classic jangling guitar pulls this along, beautifully tying in one of Bono's most earnest performances ever. His inflections are perfect, and just the way he rolls around the phrases are so natural and heart wrenching. This song is DRAMATIC. This whole album is dramatic. This has one of the best chorus they have ever created. And the part during the final, incredible chorus where he actually expresses joy in an almost laugh, is one of his best moments ever recorded.
11 - Yahweh (10) - This is the best closer they have ever done (and I consider this the closer; not Fast Cars in certain releases). This is a natural closer, for both the album and live. They'd better play this live. As a matter of fact, this is one of my all-time favorite U2 songs. I loved it from the first time I heard it. I'm not religious, but I do love the lyrics. And the ohhhhs that Bono sings near the end ranks up there with his all-time best. It just fits so perfectly. This is such a gorgeous song.
12 - Fast Cars (8) - When I first heard the looped leak, I didn't care for it much. I'm not a fan of forced harmonies accented at the end of each phrase, as made popular in the hip-hop world. I feel those are very cheap and lazy, and rather annoying. But now that I've heard the full version several times, I think it's very interesting -- especially the second half. There's no way they should end any version of this album with this song, though. Yahweh should end all versions.
I will also rate a couple of B-sides, because I think they definitely deserve to be on the album...
13 - Mercy (10) - This is the most powerful and classic thing that they have done since The Joshua Tree. It's a crime that this was cut because they didn't know exactly where to place it on the album. A damn crime. It's on my version of the CD, though ;) It's raw, emotional, classic U2. And at 6:30, it still just ain't long enough for me :)
14 - Are You Gonna Wait Forever (9.5) - Another B-side that deserves to be on the album (and is, on my burned version). Great song. Would be the best song on most other bands' albums. Classic Edge guitar.
Overall - 10 (the sum is better than its parts). This is currently my favorite all-time album, and The Joshua Tree held that spot for me for nearly 17 years. This is just more consistent end-to-end (even minus those great B-sides). To say that I am thrilled that they could have come out with such an album at this point is an understatement. It has completely consumed my life for a over two weeks, now.
Is it a classic? I think the chances are excellent, but we won't really know for years. Time is a key ingredient for making something a classic.
But it is GREAT!"
My Dismantled Bomb
Bryan E. Szabo | Los Angeles, CA | 11/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It seems there's no middleground with the latest U2 missive: you either love it or hate it - or at least think you do. I've been a diehard fan since hearing War in high school, and after loving them so long, each new release is an adventure. I curled up with my wife to listen to this one the day it was released and I was in shock - it felt like I got hit by a bomb. The emotions felt all wrong. I had this same experience with Pop, AYCLB and now this. I was kinda prepared, but also disappointed because my heart was set on Achtung and Joshua... I needed some soul searching. I'm a SCREENWRITER by trade and emotions are where I make my living. U2 is the greatest band ever - and even greater live because they totally grasp the power and glory of the emotional arc. You leave their presence transformed, which is why we come back again and again. If stories are metaphors for living, concerts can be religious revivals. Enter jaded, broken, bleeding, your faith faltering... leave restored, revived, ready to battle your and the world's demons. I think Eno was so instrumental to U2 for shaping the arc of their albums. People love Joshua and Achtung because they're a story in a box - not a misplaced melody along the whole journey from first song to last. NOW here's my theory: POP, AYCLB and now Bomb contain equally great songs, as we know from the concerts. The problem is that they're sequenced wrong emotionally. U2 figures it out in concert (Walk On is a closer - it should have been on the album...). I'm just a joe-schmo who makes his living and loving by emotions, but for the sake of my own edification I've spent the last 3 days putting this latest batch of songs through the same story models I use for writing, and voila - the album arcs. Of course it arcs. It's U2. Only the transitions are missing, the little sonic bridges linking one song to the next. While I realize nobody really gives a rip what I think, I've decided to at least share what I've found and let you decide. This concert tour will be another for the ages...
1 - Vertigo. The grabber, of course, it sets the whole emotional tone for what's to come. This is about feeling, worhipping (kneeling), trusting your heart to dismantle the disastrous course we're headed down. Turn it up. Let it hit you where you live.
2 - Love and Peace or Else. The thesis/question - Where is love? The rest of the album will probe the limits of where the solution might be. Sonically it spins from Vertigo and reminds me a little of Even Better Than The Real Thing. It just fits here.
3 - A Man and a Woman. Where is the love? Between man and woman. Not easy - you are tempted to trade love for romance... but it's there if you work at it.
4 - Fast Cars. The irony is that it probably didn't make the official album because of "fit". Well, it fits here. Segues acoustically from the end of man/woman. The guitars blend and we're in. I just LOVE this lyrically, Bono's little CNBC riff but as well for the guitars.
5 - Original of the Species. Seems at first like it belongs later, but that's one of the problems with the original sequencing. Too many songs vying for the same late-inning turf. It's a beautiful song with the baby melody that reminds me of Babyface. Plus, here you get the line "baby slow down" transitioning off Fast Cars. Fast cars - baby slow down...
6 - Crumbs From Your Table. People complain that Bono's politics interfere with U2's songs. Rubbish. His compassion and caring are a large part of why the band remains relevant. The songs just have to fit the emotive context of the album. Otherwise they feel clunky. Again, think concert. Wouldn't that ending line from Edge sound great next to Gone???
7 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. In screenwriting, we're at the midpoint. Digging deep down into the heart of what our story is about. This song moves me more than any other and connects to those Joshua moments. Streets, etc. Don't tell me U2 can't touch those places because it's right here in front of your eyes. They evolve and always reconnect with the essentials of the human heart. Listen with your eyes closed.
8 - All Because of You. Okay - the slingshot. This album's version of The Fly. If LPs were still around, this would be side two now. Amp up and get ready for the second half. Muscular and a real kick in the pants. If you wear them...
9 - Miracle Drug. How this got placed second is beyond me. It's one of the natural closers, only we have so many you have to sort them all out. The stakes need to keep getting higher and higher. But watch. It transitions beautifully because it starts slow, ends flying and leaves room to go still higher.
10 - Yahweh. Yeah, I know. It works where it was. Well, if you really listen though, it isn't really the capper. No - it functions better as a pseudo-capper. You kinda think the album should be over. But here's the twist - it's NOT. The ending line, Bono sings "Break my heart." And we're about to, because next comes -
11 - One Step Closer. Doesn't get any better than this as a dark swirling descent before we hit climax. Need to change the mood, mix in a kind of Unforgettable Fire moodiness merged with Love Is Blindness. But unlike Achtung, we're not going to leave this one dark. We've saved the best for last...
12 - City of Blinding Light. Edge's guitar comes ringing in from the darkness, and suddenly it's like the opening moments of Where The Streets Have No Name. This time love really DOES win out in the end. Always leave 'em crying out with joy if you can.
After that, the emotions can't go any higher. We've hit the lows, savored the journey, and left with tears in our eyes. U2 writes songs like nobody else, which is why we love them after all...
If I could wish one thing, it's only that the boys would consider their albums concerts and find the ARCS that always shows up in the arenas. People are waiting to hear what these songs will sound like later. You can sample a taste by simply reprogramming the journey on THIS album to meet that same emotional criteria.
It's just one man's opinion. One man who loves U2 so, incredbily much. But I live by story, and without that arc, I just can't pour out my heart the way many others might.
But not now...
This is exactly the album I was praying the U2 gods for. Just had to tweak it a little.
See you in the heart.
The masters at work...
Danny Kelley | New York, New York - It's a hell of a town... | 11/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How do you qualify an artist as "great"?
I'll tell you how. There are two criteria to a master artist. First, they experiment with new and creative ways to express their feelings. This is something U2 has done to great effect over their first 20 years. By reinventing themselves with each new album, they've performed classics in nearly every genre of pop music running the gamut from "One" to "Desire." This is a qualification that everyone has, and all the people that didn't like this album are totally focusing on this, because the band doesn't seem to reinvent themselves here.
That being said, the other important measure of a great artist is defining a certain work, and perfecting it. I believe that a young U2 created a distinctive sound in "Joshua Tree", a sound and a feeling that no one had ever pounded out before, and to me, that became a signature style. As this band has matured, they've experimented, tried new things, and with 2000's "All That You Can't Leave Behind", they brought themselves back to a sound they invented, writing amazing music. They're aging, maturing, and now seemingly perfecting their original work. This is something that should not be lost on today's U2 fans, but seemingly is.
This album is fantastic. Top to bottom. We've come full circle, from an Irish teenage frustration band, to a politically charged hit machine to bringing alternative sounds to the masses and industrial skronk and techno beats in the unstable nineties to a Beautiful Day of their own making. Genius. For those of you who are disappointed that this album doesn't "rock", I'm sorry, but that's just not the authentic U2 sound. They're fully capable of that kind of effort, but what they do best is what they do best and it's in full force on this album.
This is a renaissance of an often-copied, but never fully mastered sound brought to bear by the world's preeminent rock band. Genius. Song by song -
Vertigo: This song rocks. Simply put. Just because this album is about perfecting a certain sound doesn't mean they exclude experimentation and other genres. Lots of energy, hyped like crazy, very good.
Miracle Drug: Will grow on you. Beautiful lyrics. I expect this one to gain stature as time goes on.
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own: Heard it first on SNL and was captivated. The falsetto chorus with Edge is great. The next great ballad for this group.
Love and Peace or Else: Don't like it much at all. To be fair though, it's just not my style. Too fuzzy sounding. Too heavy I think.
City of Blinding Lights: As a New Yorker, I think this is up there with Joel's "New York State of Mind" as the soundtrack to this city. Gorgeous. This captures that "Streets Have No Name", "Walk On" sound that I think defines the band. The signature ringing lead guitar is evident here as the backbone of the song. The best track on the disc.
All Because of You: Fun, throwback song. Not terribly deep, not too notable, but enjoyable.
*A Man and a Woman*: This song is SERIOUSLY underrated by every review on this site. Very sexy, smooth sound. The bass line is fantastic. For all those clamoring for new sounds, here it is, and they pull it off with flair. I mean, this has the sound like all the successful Rock/R&B acts - Stevie Wonder, ELO, now Maroon 5. Highly enjoyable. The flow from verse to chorus is beautiful.
Crumbs From Your Table: I have read many reviews saying this is the standout track. I cannot for the life of me figure out why. I think it's somewhat bland. Really. It's only been a week, so there very likely is something I'm missing here, but as of right now I'm just not feeling it.
One Step Closer: Least favorite track. Totally unnoticeable. Really very down sounding in the middle of such a high passion album. I get no feeling here.
Original of the Species: Okay, but not really making any differences here. It meanders too much. A little too complicated, maybe it's the production, maybe the lyrics, something. Has potential for a live recording.
Yahweh: I get the feeling that this could have been better, but I really am happy with it the way it is. It's soulful, simple. Chorus could be improved, but really a fine finisher.
This is NOT a sex and drugs band. This group speaks for a whole generation of people because of what they talk about in "Man and a Woman" - love and faith and sex and fear. This band creates a soundtrack for life, death, love, mortality, healing, solitude, joy, depth, fear, sorrow and just having a good time. At their very best here, is a mature band perfecting their signature sound. In the perfect follow up to All That You Can't Leave Behind, which started this renaissance, U2 takes that emotion to a whole new level. Hats off to the greatest rock and roll band in the universe - they've done it again."
Rattle & Hum 2004
shekhardhain | leicestershire, United Kingdom | 01/29/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"'How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' is so dissapointing because its merely a rehash of former glories, they barely challenge themselves to create an original sound, something they strived to do throughout their 1990s peak.
Since 1999 U2 have been too pre-occupied with being "the biggest band in the world", has opposed to the best. The songs on 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb' show that U2 are obsessed with getting their music onto US radio and making it grammy-worthy, and so a lot of the album comes over has bland and boring adult pop.
If you are new to U2 or are only familiar with ATYCLB you may well love this album (i'm sure the Grammy's will) but has a dedicated U2 fan it merely sounds like an attempt to make a 'worthy' album that will appeal to the mainstream masses.
Take it from a long-time fan...
Elizabeth Rose | Lisbon, ND United States | 11/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...this one ranks up there with the very best of U2. I have loved the band since *Boy*, and my fave albums were the late 80s albums (*Unforgettable Fire*, *Joshua Tree*, and *Rattle and Hum*).
While there is much to love in the 1990s catalog, and *All You Can't Leave Behind* was also a well-done album (backed by the best tour EVER), this album pulls together all the sounds that have helped define U2 and its transitions over the years. This is the cleanest, best package I've heard since *Joshua Tree*. Bono found his best poetry again (maybe the return this year of that case of lyrics lost so long ago was providential), the Edge is TIGHT, and, as always, Adam and Larry provide the bass/percussion foundation that has made this band so consistently good for 25 years. And they have finally made an art of drawing on other musical influences while still sounding like U2, not imitative. (If you listen closely, you'll hear touches of everything from the Beatles to P.J. Harvey.) They came close with *New York* on the last album, but they've done an even better job here.
This is a fine work to usher one of the legendary Rock and Roll Bands into the Hall of Fame next year. And the best part is they are still making some of their best music - something that doesn't always apply to Hall of Famers."