How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
A decade and a half ago, U2 decided to reinvent themselves for the dawning 1990s. They switched from a studied seriousness to a multi-layered irony, while trying to push themselves into sonic terrain that was strikingly different than either their Steve Lillywhite-produced early albums or their Lanois/Eno landmark album The Joshua Tree. But the band wound up in a critical and commercial downward spiral throughout the '90s, finally moving forward by going back on their 2000 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb continues this process. The group has managed to not only stop ignoring their "classic" sound but to fuse it with the best elements of their '90s phase, resulting in an album which ranks among their best. An exemplar of this new fusion is the track "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," which combines the self-help message of "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" from their last album with the slow-build grandiosity similar to '80s album tracks "All I Need Is You" or "Bad." Fans of guitarist The Edge can rejoice that his playing reintroduces that echoey arpeggio guitar style which was the hallmark of '80s U2 songs but was all but abandoned in the '90s, featuring prominently in the new album's "All Because of You," "Original of the Species," and "Yahweh." U2's political activities have always strived to dismantle both literal and metaphoric atomic bombs, yet in a creative sense they keep building them. And this album is a powerful explosion of music worth listening to.