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One, two, three, fourteen -- and they're off! U2 have returned from the calculated "comeback" of 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind with "Vertigo," a surprisingly uncalculated single that may not constitute a return to form, exactly, but recaptures much of the boundless energy that has characterized their best work -- minus Bono's heavy affectation and the band's traditionally stadium-oriented sound. The song sounds delightfully tossed off, from its silly Spanish count-off to the effervescent post-punk of its verses, replete with affably shallow lyrical imagery ("Those bullets rip the sky of ink with gold/ They twinkle as the boys play rock and roll").

The band sporadically adds a few grandiose flourishes: the Edge manages to drench the song's bridge in his trademark anthemic guitar stabs, and Bono momentarily stops preening and resumes brooding, belting out the song's climactic line ("I can feeeeel!") in heartfelt, self-glorifying agony. But for the most part, U2 avoids layered sonic grandeur, instead using an animated bassline and bouncing pop beat as an anchor through most of the song. The band members really seem to be enjoying themselves here, which, given the plethora of political and social causes available for some good old-fashioned heart-on-sleeve wall-of-sound monster rock championing, is actually kind of refreshing. Enjoy it while you can -- someone's bound to tell Bono there's a war on.

Pitchfork Media, September 24, 2004

David Moore