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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

4.2 43
by U2

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Over the past decade or so, U2 have reinvented themselves several times, producing a string of albums that, individually, have been paragons of consistency. But the dizzying How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, unlike its more uniform predecessor, All That You Can't Leave Behind, recaptures the band's flair


Over the past decade or so, U2 have reinvented themselves several times, producing a string of albums that, individually, have been paragons of consistency. But the dizzying How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, unlike its more uniform predecessor, All That You Can't Leave Behind, recaptures the band's flair for surprises. At first blush, the disc seems peppered with the sort of soaring mid-tempo anthems that were the U2's bread-and-butter back in the '80s -- "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," with Bono's falsetto set against the Edge's gingerly picked guitar figure, is a trip in the wayback machine, for sure. Similarly, the slowly building "City of Blinding Lights" -- one of the most straightforward love songs Bono's penned in ages -- seems like a tip of the hat to colleagues the Cure and New Order, but that's not the disc's predominant flavor. On "Love and Peace or Else," for instance, the band lay down a minimal, electronics-enhanced backing dominated by Larry Mullen's primal tom-tom, a vibe that soon gives way to a sort of postmodern walking blues. The initial single, "Vertigo," ratchets up the energy, lurching along with a compelling blend of garage-band bluster and arena-filling authority. Again, though, that's not the whole story. "All Because of You" reconciles Brit-pop jangle and neo-psychedelic fillips, topping off the mixture with Bono's self-aware musings ("I love the sound of my own voice / I didn't give anyone else a choice"). And, since no U2 album would be complete without a shout-out to the Man Upstairs, the band ends the disc with "Yahweh," a plea for salvation that's matched in lyrical intensity by its beseeching melody. It may not be rocket science, but How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, more than any of the band's efforts in years, pushes the right buttons to get listeners involved -- mind, body, and soul.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ever since the beginning of their career, U2 had a sense of purpose and played on a larger scale than their peers, so when they stumbled with the knowing rocktronica fusion of 1997's Pop -- the lone critical and commercial flop in their catalog -- it was enough to shake the perception held among fans and critics, perhaps even among the group itself, that the band was predestined to always be the world's biggest and best rock & roll band. Following that brief, jarring stumble, U2 got back to where they once belonged with All That You Can't Leave Behind, returning to the big-hearted anthems of their '80s work. It was a confident, cinematic album that played to their strengths, winning back the allegiance of wary fans and critics, who were eager to once again bestow the title of the world's biggest and best band upon the band, but all that praise didn't acknowledge a strange fact about the album: it was a conservative affair. After grandly taking risks for the better part of a decade, U2 curbed their sense of adventure, consciously stripping away the irony that marked every one of their albums since 1991's Achtung Baby, and returning to the big, earnest sound and sensibility of their classic '80s work. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the long-awaited 2004 sequel to ATYCLB, proves that this retreat was no mere fling: the band is committed to turning back the clock and acting like the '90s never happened. Essentially, U2 are trying to revirginize themselves, to erase their wild flirtation with dance clubs and postmodernism so they can return to the time they were the social conscience of rock music. Gone are the heavy dance beats, gone are the multiple synthesizers, gone are the dense soundscapes that marked their '90s albums, but U2 are so concerned with recreating their past that they don't know where to stop peeling away the layers. They've overcorrected for their perceived sins, scaling back their sound so far that they have shed the murky sense of mystery that gave The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree an otherworldly allure. That atmospheric cloud has been replaced with a clean, sharp production, gilded in guitars and anchored with straight-ahead, unhurried rhythms that never quite push the songs forward. This crisp production lacks the small sonic shadings that gave ATYCLB some depth, and leaves How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb showcasing U2 at their simplest, playing direct, straight-ahead rock with little subtlety and shading in the production, performance, or lyrics. Sometimes, this works to the band's detriment, since it can reveal how familiar the Edge's guitar has grown or how buffoonish Bono's affectations have become (worst offender: the overdubbed "hola!" that answers the "hello" in the chorus of "Vertigo"). But the stark production can also be an advantage, since the band still sounds large and powerful. U2 still are expert craftsmen, capable of creating records with huge melodic and sonic hooks, of which there are many on HTDAAB, including songs as reassuring as the slyly soulful "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" and the soaring "City of Blinding Lights," or the pile-driving "All Because of You." Make no mistake, these are all the ingredients that make How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb a very good U2 record, but what keeps it from reaching the heights of greatness is that it feels too constrained and calculated, too concerned with finding purpose in the past instead of bravely heading into the future. It's a minor but important detail that may not matter to most listeners, since the record does sound good when it's playing, but this conservatism is what keeps HTDAAB earthbound and prevents it from standing alongside War, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby as one of the group's finest efforts.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
The album easily stands alongside the best work of U2's career - "Boy," "War," "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" - and, song for song, it's more consistent than any of them.
Rolling Stone - Rob Sheffield
A reminder that what makes U2 so big isn't really their clever ideas, or even their intelligence -- it's the warmth that all too few rock stars have any idea how to turn into music.
Tracks - Alan Light
One of the finest albums the group has ever made.... It's exciting, it's ambitious, it's alive, it's rock & roll -- and right now it just might be all you need.

Product Details

Release Date:
Interscope Records

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

U2   Primary Artist
Edge   Synthesizer,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Keyboards,Background Vocals
Bono   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Adam Clayton   Bass Guitar
Daniel Lanois   Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar,Shaker
Larry Mullen   Percussion,Drums,Background Vocals
Carl Glanville   Synthesizer,Percussion
Jacknife Lee   Synthesizer

Technical Credits

Edge   Composer
Bono   Composer
Adam Clayton   Composer
Brian Eno   Producer
Flood   Producer
Nellee Hooper   Producer
Daniel Lanois   Producer
Steve Lillywhite   Producer,Audio Production
Larry Mullen   Composer
Carl Glanville   Producer,Engineer
Chris Thomas   Producer
Steve Averill   Direction
Paul McGuinness   Management
Fabien Waltman   Programming
Sam O'Sullivan   Drum Technician
Dallas Schoo   Guitar Techician
Jacknife Lee   Programming,Producer

Customer Reviews

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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
glauver More than 1 year ago
U2's follow-up to All That You Can't Leave Behind arrived at a time when critical fatigue had set in. Many reviewers accused the band of recycling old styles. That is probably a fair complaint, but I think How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb might actually be a bit better than its predecessor. The Edge steps out on guitar more than any album since Achtung Baby and that that is always a good thing as far as I am concerned. I'm not sure any of the songs has anything really new to say but none of them are a drag. With 25 years as a group, it is hard peak a second time. Solo artists like Bob Dylan or Neil Young rarely make comebacks, groups almost never. For U2, just continuing to make good CDs is a triumph in itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Obviously the radio singles are and will probably be VERTIGO, SOMETIMES YOU CAN'T MAKE IT ON YOUR OWN and possibly ORIGINAL OF THE SPECIES and YAHWEH, but it is my personal belief that this album could have used more Eno/Lanois treatment than Lillywhite. Let's face it, when the band make an album with them (Eno/Lanois), it turns out spectacular (ie. The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can't Leave Behind). HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB will probably have to grow on me. Yes, it does take you back to their early recordings, but it's lacking something to me. It's almost as if the songs could have used more tweaking at the mixing table. Bono's vocals could have used more effects, instead of sounding as if they were recorded through a flat amp. It will definitely take me a few more listenings to develop a better appreciation for it. However, it doesn't have that Ka-Bam from the initial listening that The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby or All That You Can't Leave Behind have. My thumb's up, but not way up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've listened to this cd over 30 times and with each listen, the songs grew on me. No, it is not "Joshua Tree" or "Acutung Baby", but those particular bodies of work were a statement for their times. How can you duplicate a time and a place? I do admit the title could've been different but why quibble!!!! The songs speak for themselves! All are very good but the standouts are Miracle Drug, Sometimes..., Original of the Species and Yahweh. U2 is like a beacon of light amist the drudge that is today's pop music. Give this CD A few spins and enjoy!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a 20-year fan of U2, who has spent the last four years burning every one of their albums into his brain, I can honestly say this is the band's best record. The songs are big, bold, and beautiful, and if Bono tends to get a little "wordy," it only adds to the majesty of the album as a whole. How could these guys possibly contains themselves, and why would we want them to? Impossible to select a "best song" or "best lyric," as everything on this album sparkles with a kind of otherworldly beauty. "Atomic Bomb" is more than just a rock record, though it certainly is that; it's also gospel, blues and soul, and each song reflects a different aspect of the band's interest and talent. The Edge's guitar sounds like a machine-gun crossed with a chainsaw; Bono's voice expands and flows, sometimes dropping down into a throaty prayer; Adam and Larry provide excellent bass and drum work, respectively. The album belongs to them all, as well as the many producers who worked on it over the years. People who dismiss the album should give it more time to grow on them, as all U2 albums are slow-burners that get better with age. Sadly, some reviewers are too caught up in their own preconceived notions to acknowledge the fantastic achievement of U2 with this album. In some ways, the band can't win; people hate it when they change their sound (as they did in the Nineties), and they hate it when they recapture their past glory. I for one am more than satisfied with "Atomic Bomb" and plan on enjoying it for many years. Note: most U2 songs aren't fully finished until they've been played live. The tracks on "Atomic Bomb" are built for arenas, and will only get better when the band takes them on tour next year. Can't wait to hear all these songs live.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Own all there CDs and i have to say that this one is one of there best... I am a big fan of U2 and i hope they make more... i thought all there songs were great... and this CD and ATYCLB r returning to their old moral values.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just listened to this album and OH MY GOD it is incredible. I can't even think of any words right now i'm just still in shock from how great it is. Just listen to it please. NOW!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is the last album I ever hear, I will die a very happy man. This album is simply incredible. Every single song is rock solid. This album marks the return of classic U2. Every lyric is meaningful, every guitar riff is hair-raising, and every hook is powerful. This album gives me the chills everytime I listen to it, it's that good. I would put it up there with U2's best: Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. I can't wait for their new tour. The CD player doesn't do U2 any justice. Their songs are so much grander than home audio equipment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
U2 is one of my favorite bands, with such masterpieces as "The Joshua Tree," "War" and "All that You Can't Leave Behind." Personally, I found this album interesting and a breathe of fresh air because if all of their albums were "Joshua Tree" caliber, this rock the band would lose its mystery and my interest. This cd could have been better but I think it is definetly good enough and worth buying. I guess I have to wait for it to grow on me but I recommend buying it. Any U2 album is better than the junk out there that people today call music (except for the shins!).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not an impartial review. I am a huge fan of U2. That's probably something you should know at the outset. With their previous album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2 threw off their 90's disguise as disenchanted post-modernists and got back to just writing good songs. They were no longer afraid to be good ol' honest U2. Listening to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, it's obvious that in fact they are revelling in being U2. Nearly every song sounds as if Bono has turned to the Edge and just said, "OK, cut loose!" This has to be U2's most soaring album, even more than their early works. Listen to "Miracle Drug" or "City of Blinding Lights" and try not to get goosebumps when Edge does his thing. No one comes close to U2 when they are at the top of their game. Bono deals with spiritual issues in an interesting way on this album. "Crumbs From Your Table" seems like a plea for Christians to put their money where their mouths are (probably inspired by Bono's ongoing work with the AIDS crisis in Africa). Album closer "Yahweh" has Bono asking God to "take this heart and make it break." The line from that chorus- "always pain before the child is born"- seems almost as if Bono is answering his jaded persona from the Pop album, the one that questioned where God was in such a world of pain. Two other standout tracks are the hit single "Vertigo" (probably the most kinetic U2 track ever) and "Love and Peace or Else." The later features a killer guitar hook and Bono in a sort of new millenium blues chant. The fact that these two tracks are the only ones that really break new musical ground for the band is probably why I have to classify this as a very good U2 album, not an excellent one. As thrilling as it is to hear these guys cranking out the wide-open emotion of these songs, a little more risk-taking would have gone a long way. Also, the lack of many quieter moments makes it so that by the time the last few tracks have come around, you're almost worn out from the sheer bombast of it all. All That You Can't Leave Behind is a slightly superior album because it had more variety and took a few more chances. That all being said, this is still a heck of an album, one that continues to show why U2 is the greatest band in the world. GRADE: B+ HIGHLIGHT: "Love and Peace or Else" LOWLIGHT: "A Man and a Woman"
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have 5 u2 albums including this 1 & b-leve me this 1 is great! They have rebounded from Pop and soared 2 the height of rock 2day. Green Day, Maroon 5, and Linkin Park are rock wannabes, this is an album of greatness!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the past U2 have been criticized for being too foward looking, e.g. Achtung Baby, POP, and Zooropa. Presently, they are being criticized for rehashing an old formula. From beginning to end, "ATOMIC BOMB" IS U2's BEST ALBUM. At a time when the music industry is flooded with heartless and mundane music, U2 has given us an emotional album with ATOMIC BOMB.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this album is no good make sure you listen to it before you buy it what can i say it just was no good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
HTDAAB is a good choice for any one looking for a good CD. #3 "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is really powerful. The passing of Bono's father had a big influence on this CD, track 3 being specifically dedicated to him. I've heard that some are saying that CD is political, but it's not. You should purchase it, don't miss out! If you haven't seen them in concert, make that a priority too. That's when they really got me!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a U2 fan for many years. I purchased the new Atomic CD today and have been playing it for 9 hours straight (no kidding)on random play while doing house work and not tired of it yet. This is about as good as it gets in music. Get the CD--you will not be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is the "must have" rock album of the year. Everything else is now quite possibly superfluous. If you like music that moves you to a better state of mind, this is it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a passive U2 follower, I really like and respect they're 80's records and Achtung Baby, but this sucks. Very boring and pretentious. Still a great live band. I agree with the earlier reviewers Rolling Stones comparison, but U2 is still a little more vital than the completely washed up Stones.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard this album on the headphones and it just isn't any good to these ears. I feel U2 should have quit after Achtung Baby.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a big U2 fan through the years I have been constantly pleased with their new albulms, however, I am a bit disapointed with this one. This one seems too over-worked. The lyrics do not flow, their wordiness distracts from the music - and the music is wonderful. I am hoping that this albulm will grow on me...
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW! I think that this album just gives off a vibe. The songs are there and I love the way the music sounds. The songs are also heartfelt and symbolize a group that makes their fans feel through the lyrics. I say get it. I got it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A lot of people scoff at U2's latest enterprise. I don't want to sound like a die-hard fan, but I haven't noticed many people exploring regions of this album besides it's 'pure U2', it's sort of boring and its not daring. Yes, I agree with it's not daring, but only in half of the image. The music isn't daring. However, the lyrics are. The lyrics are deep. The beauty of this album is subtle. Some of the beauty of All That You Can't Leave Behind was much more obvious. HTDAAB makes you look for the meaning, which opens up new outlooks on the songs. The band have come out and said it themselves, this is a much more personal album, a fact the critics ignore. There is soul in this album, although it's harder to find . The music may not be as daring as Zooropa or Pop (but if you think about it, the US didn't fully embrace Pop like other parts of the world did), however, you have to hand it to them, it's good music. A lot of ATYCLB was slow, only three or four real acidic, punchy rockers. HTDAAB is much more upbeat, yet there is still serenity woven into the songs. It's a very delicate peacefulness, and it sometimes gets lost in the bass and drums. Some say HTDAAB lacks spiritual or moral punch. People discard Vertigo is a teenage post-punk song, but I think there is value for the older crowd looking for meaning in the song. Look at the video-it seems…rather simple at first glance. But take a second look-you’ll see a striking resemblance to the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. The video is set in a desert-like setting. At the part where Bono says “All of this/All of this can be yours….”, shadows cover his face, he’s being surrounded in darkness. This could represent the Devil tempting Jesus, saying all the kingdoms of the world can be yours. Whether or not the band members were aware of these similarities, no one is sure, but it surely puts a new twist on the seemingly shallow rock song. It took me a while to get to know and understand How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. There are a few songs that could have been better, there's always room for improvement, but overall, this is a really good U2 album. I've heard both ends of the spectrum, from U2 should break up now, to U2 have many more fabulous albums left in them. I have to say I'm towards the 'U2 have much life left' category, and I hope we see more creative songs in the coming years. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is a good buy, a very entertaining and enchanting album.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of U2's greatest albums. I have all of there albums and this one is just incredible. SO BUY IT
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must have listened to this cd over 20 times in the first week I owned it. It is by far U2's most consisten album throughout, with great songs like Miracle Drug, Crumbs from your Table, and Origin of the Species.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my first U2 album and I loved it! twenty minutes through it and I was already beggining to like it. The songs don't miss a note and rock. There are variations from full rock going all out or soft melodic tunes that allows the listener to absorb the lyrics and the true talen of Bono
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first read the title "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", I thought "U2's last album? I hope not." After hearing it, I thought, sadly, "If it's not their last, it should be." I own U2's entire body of recorded work, all the albums, b-sides, live bootlegs, etc. If it's unfair to compare one album to an entire body of work, so be it, but BORING, MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD, and TEPID come to mind when I grope to describe my disappointment in U2's latest. Worse than the widely panned "Pop" CD of a few years ago. Worse even than their sophomore slump "October". Yes, it's that bad. The lead off track "Vertigo" is another "Gloria" or "Staring At The Sun", a legitimate hit on a hit-or-miss collection. But after vertigo often comes rigor mortis, and that sadly is the case with the rest of this album, in my opinion. I've had the CD 4 months and I've managed to listen through the whole thing a total of two times without falling asleep. I'm sorry, I hate it. And I hate the fact this album is bad. I love this band.