U2

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope)

Curious career move, following your best album with your worst, though it could be blamed on expectation, too. What other explanation is there when the much-promised "rock-and-roll record" neither rocks nor rolls but merely drifts from song to song in search of a memorable melody to anchor it? The best you can say is that it sounds like a mishmash of all those old U2 records you used to dig but rarely dig out. Half the intros sound like Joshua Tree-Unforgettable Firecodas, reproduced and then overproduced. Come to think of it, that's also the worst thing you can say about How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, too. Been there, bought that. What else ya got, Mr. Vox?

Those who gave All That You Can't Leave Behindextra weight post-September 11, 2001--when songs like "Walk On," "Peace on Earth" and "New York," among others, sounded eerily prescient and eventually a little comforting--missed the point that it was a great record on September 10, too, brisk and catchy and more at ease with itself than any previous U2 offering. It had gravitas, accidentally so, but also grace. Not so with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which begins with a bang ("Vertigo") before settling into a groove bordering on torpor. Ten listens through and still nothing sticks to the bone--not the melodies (dull, waiting only for Wim Wenders to stick them over a movie's end credits), not the guitar lines (Edge sampling Edge, or Boyturned Old Man), not the lyrics ("Freedom has a scent/Like the top of a newborn baby's head"--really?) and certainly not the guy singing them (is self-parody any better than someone else's?). Sounds like something recorded in a studio located in a bank's basement.

 
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