Poll

What are your three favorite songs off the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and how do you feel about the album in 2018?

Vertigo
16 (19%)
Miracle Drug
7 (8.3%)
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
12 (14.3%)
Love and Peace or Else
5 (6%)
City of Blinding Lights
12 (14.3%)
All Because of You
4 (4.8%)
A Man and a Woman
1 (1.2%)
Crumbs from Your Table
5 (6%)
One Step Closer
4 (4.8%)
Original of the Species
10 (11.9%)
Yahweh
8 (9.5%)

Total Members Voted: 29

Author Topic: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective  (Read 397 times)

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Offline Vox

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How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« on: October 01, 2018, 08:49:26 AM »
How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb:  Retrospective

This is the eleventh part of the U2: Retrospective.  You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login 

After listening to the album now, in the present day, the main part of each post will be to vote for your three favorite songs from each album.  The next parts can be optional (well, the whole thing is “optional”), but I’ll structure my posts like this:
•   When did I first listen to that album?  What is my history with the album?   
•   How do I feel about the album when I listen to it today, versus how I’ve felt about the album in the past?

Top three songs:  “Vertigo,” “City of Blinding Lights,” “Original of the Species”

The release day of this album is unusual for me, in that I didn’t take the day off work, like I usually do.  We were building a new house that year and moving at the end of November so I was saving up my vacation time.  Immediately after work, we drove to a local Best Buy so I could buy the album.  I remember listening to it on CD in the car on the way home.  I’d already heard “Vertigo” and liked it.  My first impression of the record was that there were some pretty decent songs on it; but overall, it sounded very similar to the prior album.  At the time, I must have thought it was mainstream and inoffensive enough to buy several copies of it to give to friends and family for the holidays.  Usually, with a new U2 album, I listen to it fairly obsessively for many months after its release…  But for the first time, I can’t remember listening to this one much past early February of the following year, and then I moved on to other things.

I still like “Vertigo,” actually.  I don’t typically list a lot of the U2 “hits” as favorite songs, because they sort of show up everywhere.  But I really do like “Vertigo.”  For years I’d list “City of Blinding Lights” as my favorite song from the album.  “Can you see the beauty inside of me?  What happened to the beauty I had inside of me,” is still a tremendously powerful line, and it can still make me choke up at times…  However, it was hard for me to pick a third favorite song…  Today I’ll go with “Original of the Species.”  The funny thing is, I really disliked that song up until only a couple years ago.  It was between that and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” which had a bit of a renaissance for me earlier in the year.  I’d list “Fast Cars” as a top three, had I had included it as an option in the poll.  As far as the rest of the songs, some are okay, and some I just don’t like at all, which brings this album way down on my U2antheon.  The last time I ranked U2 albums, it was my second least favorite, and that still sounds accurate.     

I have some personal issues with this record.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I was fine with U2 making one U2-sounding album in 2000, but then they made another.  And this one won a bunch of awards and seemed to affirm to the band that this is the template to use.  But it wasn’t the U2 I fell in love with.  After this album, some doubt and second-guessing started to creep in my mind about the band.  I eventually reconciled my issues over the next five years, but for a time after this album was released, it was hard for me to recognize my favorite band.  I’m surprised it’s one of two U2 albums that have won a Grammy for Album of the Year.  But perhaps that speaks to the universal potency and quality of U2 music – how an album like this, one that I personally consider a lesser U2 album, is still ranked by an awful lot of people as one of their finest.



Offline laoghaire

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2018, 10:45:33 AM »
I didn't vote because I couldn't come up with a third song. Wow.

When the album came out, I knew Vertigo as the leading single. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. I have actually come to like Vertigo better in the last year.

When I got the album I listened to it in the car. Vertigo, ok, cool. Next song: filler. Next song: filler. I kept my ears out for the song that would draw me into the album. It never came.

I don't love an album on the first listen. I rarely love a song on the first listen. But this was different. With AB, the first listen was a shock, but it wasn't boring crap. There were songs right off that I could get into, and they led to others, and others, until the whole album lit up.

Even SOE, which I really did not like at first, had just enough in there to try again and again and again until I found something to hold on to.

HTDAAB was all the boring filler crap that OTHER BANDS had on a cassette tape that I only bought for one song.

I don't compare it to ATYCLB because I think the first part is brilliant. But I guess, yeah, it was a continuation of the end of the album.

I quit U2 with this album.

My only epilogue so far is that when I came back last year, I heard COBL was considered good. It did not stand out in any way on my initial listenings originally, and when I gave it another chance off of YouTube, same thing. Boring. Nothing to it. I read the comments and they were full of I LOVE THIS SONG and THIS SONG IS EVERYTHING and I was like wtf? A few more listens revealed the song to me, which I don't consider their best work by any means, but now I enjoy it just fine.

Maybe if I work harder on the other songs they will be similar, but "just fine" is not what I expect out of U2.

Online zoo adam

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2018, 04:50:43 PM »
Album was fine. Same level as ATYCLB.

A strong opening to the album. Vertigo was another bullet proof lead single. 'Miricle' was the single that never was. 'Sometimes' is a towering and under rated song. 'Love, Peace or else' has a bit of power & a good guitar ending.

The middle section is average & only 'Crumbs' with it's faultless guitar playing is above average.

The ending is poor with the terrible 'Yahwah' an all time low. My CD had 'Fast Cars' which was better.

Offline Chip

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2018, 04:27:32 AM »
I loved "Vertigo" as a single before the album's release, and early on in the album's shelf life, but didn't expect it to possess longevity. I thought it was similar to "Discotheque" -- fun and with some good qualities and themes, but one that would wear out its welcome relatively quickly. And I was totally wrong. It's stayed in my ranking as the album's second best track for all but a brief period around 2005 or 2006 when I did get sick of it, and obviously it's remained a live warhorse.

The other two have been consistent for me as well. COBL was the instant U2 classic in my book and an incredibly emotional song full of great lyrics; it's also the closest the band has come to a live contender for "Streets," although "Streets" still handily wins. In third place comes one of U2's more underrated songs in my book, "Crumbs." Lyrically and musically, it's a deserved gut punch to the stomach, knocking the wind out of you with its moral stance in a way I don't think we'd seen since War.

And the whole album is like a thematic sequel to War, with the new heart longed for in LAS still the goal and battle cries still being sounded. The interior gaze this time amounts to a quest for a regained innocence, while the exterior gaze brings Africa, poverty, and coexistence to the forefront.

Like more than a few U2 albums, HTDAAB has three parts thematically, a numerical division that Bono has said he favors. Perhaps because of Bono's legwork the previous five years promoting debt relief, AIDS work, ONE, and other related matters, HTDAAB comes across like a sermon. The first four tracks present our problems, a withering diagnosis of the human heart. We're at a place called Vertigo. We need a miracle drug. We can't always make it on our own.We need love and peace. The next two tracks present the solutions: a return to innocence and to God. The next four tracks depict what a renewed life looks like in relationships, social action, confronting death, and dealing with life attitudes. The album's climax comes with "I kneel because I want you some more," which brings us full circle back to "Your love is teaching me how to kneel." "Yahweh," then, is the only appropriate denouement left to be expressed. Yet despite the album's strong structure, which Bono reportedly labored over at length to get right, HTDAAB still comes across better as a collection of radio-friendly songs, IMHO.

Offline ToRontoRon

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2018, 08:15:00 AM »
It's either #3 or 4 on my list.  Definitely behind Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree, but depending on where Songs Of Experience fits in once the novelty wears off, Atomic Bomb might take the bronze.

It's got an energy and a rawness to it that I just love.  City Of Blinding Lights is fantastic, and I would argue that the Original Of The Species/Yahweh combo is the best two song finish to any U2 album.

Here's my track by track breakdown:

1.  Vertigo - Great energy.  Their last ever hit.  Great album opener, but far from my favourite track on the album.
2.  Miracle Drug - For a while this was my favourite U2 song.  It's no longer anywhere near that, but I still really love it.
3.  Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - Beautiful song.  The Edge's chimey guitars during the falsetto solo gets me every time.  The bittersweet lyrics of a father and son perhaps trying, but sometimes not connecting on building a relationship is very powerful.
4.  Love And Peace Or Else - This song took a long time for me to get into, but now I kind of dig it.
5.  City Of Blinding Lights - To me this is right up there with Streets as one of U2's finest ever songs.  I still probably like Streets more, but only because of the history of all those great live performances.  This is an absolute classic.
6.  All Because Of You - Sort of a generic rock song.  Has a good energy to it, but this one is just ok to me.
7.  A Man And A Woman - My least favourite song on the album.  I used to genuinely dislike this one, but now I think it's ok, just not nearly as good as the rest of the album.
8.  Crumbs From Your Table - A powerful, underappreciated gem.  The urgency of the lyrics and the passion behind the message really stand out.
9.  One Step Closer - A quiet, atmospheric piece.  Not their greatest tune by any stretch, but it does it's job of creating a mood, and flows nicely into the big two song finish of the album.
10.  Original Of The Species - My favourite song on the album.  The composition is incredible.  I love the way the song just builds and builds.  It kind of teases you in the beginning when it sort of abruptly stops after the "you don't have to be shy about it" line, but by the end of the song it takes the next step into the epic, building crescendo of a finish where all the instrumentation ties together just perfectly...  Amazing stuff.
11.  Yahweh - One of my favourite album closers.  A closing prayer if you will.  I love that the album ends on such a joyous, hopeful note after the gloomy, uncertain tone of One Step Closer just two tracks earlier.  You really feel like you've been on a journey with some songs of, I guess you can call it doubt earlier on, but it finishes on such a great, hopeful note.  "Take this heart, take this heart, take this heart, and make it break".  To me it's sort of saying, 'I know that life can be full of ups and downs, but I don't want to live a life without love, even if that means you have to experience loss along the way.  If my heart has to break at times, it's worth it in the long run in order to feel love'.  What a perfect closing lyric.


Overall, this is one of the albums I reach for the most.  Original Of The Species and City Of Blinding Lights in particular get me every time.  I know this album is one of their most hated, but I just don't get the hate.  I consider it, not quite a masterpiece because of one or two songs that aren't the greatest, but pretty darn close.

Offline laoghaire

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2018, 08:40:57 AM »
Awesome write-up, thanks.

Offline ToRontoRon

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2018, 02:29:41 PM »
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Awesome write-up, thanks.

Thanks for the compliment.  Especially coming from someone who obviously disagrees with me regarding the merits of the album.

Offline World71R

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2018, 10:53:30 PM »
I'll comment a longer response, but the best song from this era isn't even up there (Mercy) and that's a real shame that the song never made it out of the development stage, and when it did for the live version, they didn't do any wonders for it all and ruined some of its charm.


Nevertheless, there's some good tunes on here. My votes go to COBL, Vertigo, and Sometimes..., with honorable mentions to ABOY, Original of the Species, and Miracle Drug (the guitar solo is fantastic!).

Offline ian ryan

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2018, 11:27:03 PM »
This album has the best pure song craft that the band have ever created. Pure melodies, pure musicality, this is as good as they’ve ever been. If you just want to sit down with a guitar or at a piano to play a U2 album, this album is probably the first one you should look at. City Of Blinding Lights is still my favorite U2 song ever, almost 15 years later.

Offline A_Fly_On_The_Wall

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2018, 05:39:00 PM »
1. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
2. Miracle Drug
3. Vertigo

I first started listening to U2’s music in detail shortly after NLOTH was released in 2009 so had purchased the album “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” as part of wanting to get to know the band from their early beginnings.

I was first aware of this album thanks to U2’s collaboration with the Apple iPod and the rocking tune of “Vertigo” blasting out the speakers! I had heard bits and pieces of this album prior to becoming a hardcore fan but never really paid too much attention to its greatness at the time!

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is such a personal and tragic song sung from the core of Bono’s heart and is my favourite track from this album and is in my top 5 favourite U2 songs of all time. Edge’s minimalistic guitar licks throughout are simply devine and his backing vocals are tremendous as well. This is, perhaps, U2’s greatest example of a song which starts off slow and quiet before just building and building up to the most explosive of emotional crescendos taking the listener on quite a journey. Just gorgeous from start to finish.

“Miracle Drug” has always been a firm favourite of mine from this album. I honestly believe Edge’s main intro riff is one of the most beautiful sounds to ever be created from a guitar on record. His solo is absolutely packed full of passion and transcends this song to a height not matched elsewhere on the album. Edge’s vocal solo shortly afterwards is just beautiful as well before Bono tears the roof off the house with his vocal coming in at full force towards the end of the song.

“Vertigo” is such a killer rock song on all possible levels. The riff is awesome, the bass pulsates through the speakers, the drum beat is typical rock and roll and the vocal is aggressive and in your face throughout. Plus, it makes an amazing album opener! Rarely do U2 get ballsy enough to start a record with such a hard-hitting anthem straight out of the gate! It takes a hold of you as a listener and ensures you keep the play button fully on for the rest of what is to follow!

I’ve always described this album as being U2’s only real rock and roll album and there are plenty of good reasons why. It is also U2’s most personal ever album and has an aura of vulnerability about the message it portrays and the lyrics contained within.

Personally, this album has always been in my top four U2 albums of all time and I absolutely love hearing it throughout as much today as I did when I first started to get to know it.

Offline Rasmus

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2018, 06:14:09 AM »
Vertigo was great when it came out. I remember thinking it sounded fresh and energetic. It also worked extremely well on the Vertigo tour, and when I saw them they played it as both the first and the last song of the evening and the crowd went nuts.

I feel the same way about the album today as I do about Vertigo. It was an album that worked well when it came out but doesnt function well today in my opinion. The songs are perhaps not as universal as on previous albums. I was excited hearing vertigo on tour in 2005 but hearing it on I&E/E&I or even the 360 tour it just seems dated and out of place. City of Blinding Lights has more staying power but even in that case id rather they play a song off another album instead. So just to repeat myself this is an album that I loved when it came out but I feel has not aged well and is mediocre today. It also has some songs that I simply cant listen to without cringe such as Yahweh and Original of the Species. It was also the last album where I considered myself a "hardcore" U2 fan as the albums since have just not captured me in the same way as before. My favorite songs on HTDAAB are Vertigo, SYCMIOYO and Crumbs From Your Table.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 06:17:11 AM by Rasmus »

Offline rockatansky

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Re: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Retrospective
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2018, 11:04:15 AM »
One review I read about Atomic Bomb described the songs representing themes:

God - Yahweh
Love - A Man and a Woman
Birth - Original of the Species
Death - Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
War - Love and Peace or Else
Peace - City of Blinding Lights

I tend to agree with this.  The album is not a concept album revolving around one central theme.  Albums like No Line can be interpreted to be constructed of various central themes.  Atomic Bomb is different.  Each song representing a theme.  This is not unique within U2’s 14 studio albums.

Personally, I think Atomic Bomb is a solid rock ’n roll album that fits nicely into U2’s body of work.  It isn’t the greatest or worst.  I find it hard to rank over 14 studio albums, but if forced I would say it’s about halfway.

The three main songs I like are:

Vertigo - a solid U2 rock anthem.  The kind I love.

Miracle Drug - a song of hope and promise. What can’t beat - “Freedom has a scent, like the top of a new born baby’s head”.

One Step Closer - Smooth, slow burner.  Classic U2 theme (that never gets old) of being broken but hanging on nevertheless.  “I’m around the corner from anything that’s real.  I’m across the bridge from hope.  I’m under a bridge in a rip tide, that’s taken everything I call my own.  One step closer to knowing.”