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Atomic Reaction

Take an early look inside U2's new album with Cameron Adams
U2 used an interesting tactic to motivate themselves during the recording of their 11th studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. They pretended it was their debut.
"This is our first album," Bono says on a video to promote the record. "It has taken us 20 years, but this is our first album." That explains the energy (in the strident rock songs and intimate ballads) and the personal lyrics. Drummer Larry Mullen says the album was made from "a mixture of deep depression and a lot of fun" -- indeed the death of Bono's father looms over the record. Bono calls the record "a journey from fear into faith" and as well as the spectre of death, there are some possibly too-honest love songs -- particularly "A Man and a Woman."

The album is also in love with rock. While the Edge has flirted with other instruments in the past (during those periods, Mullen says, "it's like f..., he's into keyboards, we'll never get a rock song out of him now!"), he relies on guitar for the energy of this album. "Rock tunes don't always survive," bassist Adam Clayton says. "Sometimes there's an anti-rock sentiment in the camp -- this time we had free rein to work the rock tunes in." The band abandoned early production with Chris Thomas for longtime cohort Steve Lillywhite, but even dance act Jacknife Lee is credited with additional production, as well as the usual suspects.

Overall, it's another consolidation album like All that You Can't Leave Behind; an instantly familiar U2 album from arguably the world's most reliable rock band.


Storming first single is an ideal introduction to the sound of Atomic Bomb: it's familiar U2 with a big nod to the past but an eye on the present. Bono admits they have hidden references to Stories for Boys, from the first U2 EP, in the song for "trainspotters." The song -- about being in a rock band -- was originally called "Native Son." U2 have owned up to an Echo and the Bunnymen influence in the rhythm section, interestingly the same band that inspired the last Coldplay album. This song also features in a new iPod ad.

Key lyric: "The boys play rock and roll, they know that they can't dance, at least they know."


An obvious single -- and anthem-in-waiting -- this powerful yet understated ballad could have come from The Unforgettable Fire. Like most of the ballads on the record, it has a huge finish and even bigger heart. Bono has said the lyrics refer to treatments for AIDS.

Key lyric: "The stars are in your eyes, I see them when you smile, I had enough of the antidote to give it up for a miracle drug."

End of the review