Looking Closer - review of HTDAAB

Looking Closer delivers the most theologically thorough review of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb yet. Amusingly, I was quite ready to link the first version of this review, which made some good points about the many ways in which U2 plays it safe on this album... but that version got retracted. As one who needs a lot of time with every new U2 record not to flat-out dislike it, I completely sympathize. But now I urge you to read this new review even more than I would have urged you to read the first one.

Jeffery Overstreet reads a few of the songs differently than I would, but his list of recurring themes is terrific (although I'd say the album recommends not just "hanging on to" innocence, but also lauds the gift of innocence reborn: "you can make me perfect again," e.g.). This description from the section on "Vertigo" sets up the whole review: [The narrator] bemoans the things he wishes he didn't know, until, at last, he cries out to his Everlasting Teacher to teach him how to kneel. And so the framework for the whole album is set up. The prodigal son, U2's central character through the narratives of Achtung Baby all the way through Pop, is back, and he's at the end of his rope. He knows who to call for help and he's ready to complete the journey. So true - I, also, think I hear a new confidence and finality to the spiritual affirmations throughout this work. Not that U2 may not choose to go out wandering again, of course....

And then on the meaning of the "All Because of You" lyrics: One of the album's highest highlights, "All Because of You" may be the most confidently performed rock single of U2's career. It has the careening guitar motif of "Even Better Than The Real Thing," and messes it up a bit with some raw Rolling Stones energy. And here comes Bono's first song of adoration to God, one of several tracks that distinguish this as the band's most blatantly religious album since October. This is the song in which the Prodigal Son seems to embrace his father at last. He gives credit for anything good in his life to the one who blessed him with life. And in my favorite lyrical trick on the album, (no, not the way Bono rhymes "voice" with "tortoise"), Bono refers to God by the name the Almighty gave himself... "I AM." ...Take off your shoes, folks. He's on holy ground.

Enough quoting. As one well-known blogger often says: Read It All.

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