Album: U2

2.00

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, ISLAND

There's something entirely appropriate about Bono appearing once again on the Band Aid single, singing the same line as before, since U2 seem to be stuck in some
Time's Arrow-style situation, trapped in a bend of time arcing back towards their origin.

There's something entirely appropriate about Bono appearing once again on the Band Aid single, singing the same line as before, since U2 seem to be stuck in some Time's Arrow-style situation, trapped in a bend of time arcing back towards their origin.

With 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, the band in effect turned their back on their Nineties period of sonic exploration, and delivered a more solid, classic-U2 album, studded with strong, memorable cuts such as "Wild Honey", "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out of", and "Beautiful Day". Now, with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the backwards process continues even further: Steve Lillywhite returns as head producer in place of Eno and Lanois, and the album's sound seems to have reverted to something more like their pre- Joshua Tree style. As Bono notes in "All Because of You": "I just arrived; I'm at the door/ Of the place I started out from."

But, crucially, there's nothing here anywhere near as memorable as the aforementioned tracks from the last album. The closest Atomic Bomb gets is the single "Vertigo", and even that sounds like an artificial euphoria - as if the band were deliberately trying to rediscover the drive of their earlier career. All of a sudden, U2 sound tired and washed-out, aping their own former glories in half-cocked anthemic hogwash like "City of Blinding Lights" and "Original of the Species", songs full of facile rhetorical tropes such as: "I want the lot of what you got/ And I want nothing that you're not".

Even the lyrics, it seems, are stuck in some Ouroboros-like circularity, devouring themselves in an orgy of self-negation. "City of Blinding Lights", for instance, opens with Bono observing cryptically, "The more you see, the less you know", and concludes later with the even more cryptic, "The more you know, the less you feel". Which leaves us... where, exactly?

The general drift this time round is more personal than political, with several songs pleading for forgiveness or reconciliation: even when, in "Love and Peace or Else", Bono asks "all your daughters of Zion, all your Abraham sons" to "lay down your guns", he actually turns out to be fretting over some romantic split, rather than the political conflict that immediately springs to mind. None of which would matter a jot, of course, if the music sparked the lyrics to life with the band's characteristic spirit and élan. But the familiar Edge arpeggios sound weary, and it's a dull U2 album indeed on which the most notable musical strategy is the flamencoid chording of "Fast Cars".

No, it simply isn't happening this time. Instead, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb just offers a new benchmark of mediocrity.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all