Friday, December 03, 2004

Upon Further Review, 'Bomb' Still A Dud

U2 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Wire. Exit. The Three Sunrises. Twilight. Like A Song. Hawkmoon 269. Ultraviolet. Some Days Are Better Than Others. Kite. Indian Summer Sky. I've just named 10 U2 songs that would not make their way onto a "Best Of" compilation of my making, nor were included on the band's two greatest hits releases. Yet I would rather listen to any of these songs, and dozens of others, than just about anything on U2's new album, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb."

A few weeks ago, I reported on hearing a radio preview of the album and being largely unimpressed. After having bought the album and listening for more than a week, I still feel it is a sub-par effort. The album is selling like crazy (820,000 in its first week) and has seemingly gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews. But while repeated listenings have made the songs more familiar, with a few exceptions, they have not made them any more exciting. This is not an unlistenable album, but certainly an uninteresting one. And when you have been, at your best, one of the most brilliant bands of the last 25 years, one of my personal favorites and likely the most popular, blandly professional just isn't good enough (just ask John Kerry).

While I can't deny the ear candy enjoyability of "Vertigo" despite its seeming banality, it sadly is clearly the high point of the album. Some reviews I've read have heaped praise on Bono's deep lyricism, but perhaps that's the problem. U2 used to blend sonically interesting music with passionate sentiments, now it's like most contemporary art: overtly obvious messages with no stimulate-your-soul artistry, or even much surface appeal. There's a song on the new album called "Love and Peace or Else," the Edge-less version of what once was "Sunday Bloody Sunday" while the wretched "A Man and A Woman" traipses so listlessly over common ground that you can't believe this was a band that once wrote "With or Without You."

On a somewhat curious note, I read an Amazon's shopper's review that pointed out that there are several excellent "extra" songs that didn't make the album; I found a couple and while they're still not "Where The Streets...", "Pride" or even "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" they do seem better than most of the songs on the album. But I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Of course, when U2 tours next year (look for them stateside in March) I'll pony up my $100 or more to go see them, but it certainly seems I'll have no shortage of songs during which to take a bathroom break or grab a beer.

No comments: