If I drew a curve of the songs I’ve rated, it would be a pretty good bell curve, as I had intended from the start. It would tend to bulge a little to the left due to all the non-album songs, which usually rate less well than album songs, but you would still see that shape with a hump in the middle and tails out to each side. It is somewhat similar with albums, most of them tend to land in the middle and a few out to the extremes. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is one that falls right around the middle of the hump, just a little above average, but the interesting thing is that it is a very divided album, with some great songs and some terrible songs. In fact if you divide the album into two halves, the first half would rate very highly, and the second half quite poorly. I don’t know if there is another U2 album that splits so much as Atomic Bomb.
Not a perfect split of course, there is a dud in the first half and a great song in the second half, but overall it’s true. The first half of the album has Vertigo, Love And Peace and City Of Blinding Lights, all fantastic songs which I gave 8s to in my ratings, as I did with Original Of The Species in the other half of the album. But Miracle Drug is the second song on the album, and I suspect I would have it in my bottom ten all-time of U2 songs, I dislike it that much. If Original and Miracle Drug switched places they would fit much better into my theme for the album.
Atomic Bomb (the name supposedly came from a nickname Bono gave his dad, Atomic Bob) was a twist from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. That album had been a much calmer, more introspective and melodious album. Atomic Bomb took off with Vertigo, much faster, darker and deeper than before, and continued through the first half of the album in that fashion. Actually now I think about it, the rockier songs on the album are the ones I like the best, while the slower ones not so much. Interesting. Also interesting that the ones that have stood the test of time - i.e. the ones that are being played today on tour - are those same faster songs.
I can’t say much about the album that I haven’t already said in reviews of the songs on it. At the time it felt like a shift in the band’s music, not a seismic shift like Achtung Baby, but certainly a shift from ATYCLB, which had been a shift from Pop. So maybe it felt like a searching, rather than a shift, looking for something new that was out there. But the following album, No Line, was a definite musical shift back toward what ATYCLB had been. That tends now to make How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb stand out a little in the timeline, rather than being part of a continuous flow, more like a blip that quickly came and went, shone like stars for a little while before the blinding lights went away.
I like Atomic Bomb, but the problem is what I said earlier, I like some of it and dislike others. I suspect this album is the one where I skip songs more than most if not all others. Not because I don’t like those songs, some of them are good by themselves, but rather that when I get into it I want to hear those really good songs together, and ignore the rest. I should probably make a playlist from the album, rearrange the order to satisfy what I think it should be.
My rating for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb: 5.6 / 10