Album: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

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Album:

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Artist: U2
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Label: Interscope Records

The album that carries U2 into its 25th year—and likely the mixed blessings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—is one of its most frank and focused since the days of October and War. But its gestation was anything but simple, in part salvaged from ‘03 sessions the band deemed subpar. Enter Steve Lillywhite, the band’s original producer and sometime collaborator in the decades since, who helped retool the track “Native Son” (originally an antigun screed) into the aggressive iPod anthem “Vertigo” and leaves his distinctive stamp on the muscular “All…

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The album that carries U2 into its 25th year—and likely the mixed blessings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—is one of its most frank and focused since the days of October and War. But its gestation was anything but simple, in part salvaged from ‘03 sessions the band deemed subpar. Enter Steve Lillywhite, the band’s original producer and sometime collaborator in the decades since, who helped retool the track “Native Son” (originally an antigun screed) into the aggressive iPod anthem “Vertigo” and leaves his distinctive stamp on the muscular “All Because of You.” Perhaps weary of ceaseless, fashion-driven reinvention in the wake of monumental success, U2 seem only too happy here to re-embrace their original sonic trademarks in service of more daring, pop-melodic hooks than they’ve collected in one place in decades. The Eno/Lanois produced “Love and Peace or Else” may shimmer with the duo’s electro-production conceits, but it’s Edge’s lugubrious, postmodern John Lee Hooker guitar swagger that drives it. Elsewhere, Bono’s trademark dramaturgy is spotlighted on “City of Blinding Lights,” the unabashed romance of “A Man and a Woman,” and the confessional “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own.” It may come wrapped in a conundrum—is it nostalgic retrenchment or a sum of the band’s endless musical catharsis?—It’s also the album where, Fly and MacPhisto be damned, U2 boldly claims its arena titan mantle with apologies to no one. —Jerry McCulley

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