Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 106: U2

Admittedly it is hard to follow up Black Sabbath's first record, but I think it could've gone a lot better than this.

Disc 106 is...How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Artist: U2

Year of Release: 2004

How I Came To Know It: I was a big fan of the album preceding this one (All That You Can't Leave Behind) and so quickly bought this one when it came out.

How It Stacks Up: This album is all that you can leave behind. I have seven of U2's studio albums (plus one "best of" previously reviewed). This one is 7th of the seven studio albums.

Rating: 2 stars.

First off, I'll freely admit I haven't given this album many listens in the six years since I rushed out to buy it. I've probably listened to it about seven or eight times in those six years - and three of those are when I bought it, and two more was the last two days. So, maybe I haven't given it all the time it needs. I did enjoy it more the second time around on this listen.

Then again, if an album doesn't grab you after three listens, is it ever going to grab you? I doubt it - and this album certainly hasn't grabbed me.

It isn't that it is offensive - the music is passable enough, but nothing really jumps out at you. It is the worst kind of music - kind of an OK groove in the background, but that refuses to catch your attention.

Case in point - I am listening to it right now (for the third time) to try to pick out which are the best songs for the end of this review. But I just realized I'm four tracks in, and can't remember what I've already heard - and two of the songs that are already over "Vertigo" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own", are singles!

Stylistically, "HTDAAB" (I'm not typing the album title over and over again) picks up where 2000's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" ends. Somehow it can't make it on its own, and never finds the same magic. All the elements are there - Bono can still sing, the band can still play, and they seem to still be feeling it, but all the parts don't come together. It all just comes off competent but OK - and that's not rock and roll.

The hit song "Vertigo" just sounds to me like a bad version of "Elevation", and the atmospheric ""Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" while good, sounds like a less interesting version of "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of."

This is a good time to note that U2 needs to stick to titles of five words or less. Like how about "Sometimes" and "Stuck in a Moment" for those two. Some of the most famous poems in the world are actually "untitled" - take a lesson, U2!

But I digress...

To get back to the point, when a record has good fundamentals, and good writing, but doesn't move you - it is often the production that is in question. It is worth noting that "All That You Can't Leave Behind" was produced by Daniel Lanois - one of the great pop/rock producers of our time. "HTDAAB" was produced by...some other guy. Let's call him "not Daniel Lanois". Note to U2 - next time, call Daniel. You'll also remember him from such albums as "The Unforgettable Fire", "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby". Call him and pay him what he asks for - you're rich, you can afford it.

Best tracks: Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, Crumbs From Your Table

1 comment:

Joel C said...

I have to fully agree with your assessment of this album. I hope you were smarter than me and didn't buy the follow up to HTDAAB, No Line on the Horizon, which makes the former sound like a creative and innovative album.

I really think it's time for U2 to take a break.

As far as the album production goes, Steve Lillywhite is no slouch and is familiar with U2, having produced their first 3 albums, Achtung Baby and co-produced 2 of the hits from 'All That You Can't Leave Behind'.

He, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno get together to produce 'No Line' and the results are really bland and boring. In my opinion, they had little to work with.

It's amazing that 'HTDAAB' won the grammy for Album of the year in 2006. Brutal call.