U2 have enjoyed a long history at the very top of the world. They have become a rock n’ roll institution; a force that commands attention whether or not you actually like the band. When ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’ was released in 2004, it was once again clear that these guys weren’t willing to pass on the mantle of being the world’s biggest rock band. With the quality of some of the material that this record displays, it’s easy to see from their point of view. If the general public wants to dethrone U2, then somebody is going to have to come up with the next band that is better. It’s that simple. Much of the hatred of U2 that goes around is of an absolutely futile nature.
As is evidenced in the opening track “Vertigo”, U2 have lost none of their vitality over the years. This track brings to light a fact that sometimes gets forgotten: U2 have the capabilities to kick serious ass. The one other thing they have managed to do is to take their idealism and condense it into a three-four minute song without much trouble; this is something that time has awarded to them. This is best captured in the following track, “Miracle Drug”; a song with such a burning scope and vision that it’s sure to turn off the most calloused of listeners. This is the crux of the band. You can tell a lot about somebody based on how much they like U2. Nevertheless, as this record progresses, one begins to wonder whether or not the band have begun to take their rewardings for granted. There are other excellent tracks on this record, like “City of Blinding Lights” and “Original of the Species” (the latter of which being one of the best songs in the band’s extensive catalog), but unfortunately, there is a fair amount of filler this time around. Mind you, none of this filler is particularly bad, but much of it certainly isn’t up to the high standards that this band has set over the years. Even given all of this doesn’t give the anti-U2 bandwagon any kind of substantial weight. Who’s going to take over U2’s mantle? Coldplay? Besides, when this record decides to do something profound it succeeds. Finding tracks stronger than “Original of the Species” and “Miracle Drug” isn’t an easy task.
Yours truly tends to have a favorable view of U2 (not so favorable when it comes to Coldplay); full disclose on that front. No, this isn’t a flawless record; yes, they’ve recorded better records; no, this record won’t convert any naysayers; yes, the band tends to take their positioning in the rock community for granted; and no, the band doesn’t drop any of their preachiness. This is all true. If you don’t like the band, well then you’ve just been given more ammunition to use against them. If you can look past all of that, then you’ll be able to find the moments that make this record an overall worthwhile listen. There are certain moments on this record that are an essential part of any listener’s collection.