U2 Dismantles Bomb with Love
By Christopher Stratton
been a lot of talk, maybe too much talk, over the last
few years about Bono. He's in the world's most famous
rock band. He's exchanging shades with the Pope, having
Salman Rushdie over for dinner and writing movies with
Wim Wenders that star Mel Gibson. He even shows up at
meetings with President Bush to discuss third-world debt,
trade and disease problems. So of course it’s not
surprising when the old stories about Bono start to bubble
to the surface again. Some of them seem like mild hagiographies,
things you'd only expect to see come out of Foxe's book
of martyrs. Before he's born his mother visits a seer
who tells her that she'll have a son whose first name
will start with a “P” (Bono's real name is
Paul) and that he will go on to do great things. Then
there is the story Bono's father liked to tell about
young Paul talking to bees in the garden and picking
them up on his fingers without getting stung---a regular
St. Francis. You may or may not put much stock in these
stories personally, but no matter what you think about
him, you have to admit, there's something special about
this guy and his band.
November of 2004, U2 released their highly anticipated
12th studio album, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
The hackneyed title apparently wouldn't leave the boys
alone in the studio and it just stuck. The band offers
no explanation for “the bomb” other than
an oft-repeated anecdote about Bono asking Michael W.
Smith the question at an AIDS fundraiser, "How do
you dismantle an atomic bomb?" To which a baffled
Smith just shrugged and Bono answered, "With love." One
can only imagine the pseudo-knowing yet perplexed look
on Smith's face. "Uh yeah, that's great man. Right
on. What are you talking about?"
it turns out the album is not as enigmatic as the explanation
of its title. At first listen one might be inclined to
pass Bomb off as another, less cohesive version
of 2000’s Grammy-award-winning All That You
Can’t Leave Behind. (A handful of the tracks
came from the sessions for that album). But the truth
is that the songs here have been painstakingly crafted
in a way that shows an extra level of care. They come
off as relatively simplistic at first listen, but continually
reveal greater depth. This is the sign of good art, and Bomb will
undoubtedly continue to move the U2 legacy forward. While
it may not be their best work to date, it's certainly
well-crafted enough to put most of the current pop offerings
on the market to shame. Couple this with all the marketing
hype from Apple and it's destined to sell millions.
I don't imagine most people care so much for marketability
or soundscan numbers at the end of the day. What’s
eminently meaningful about this new album are the lyrics.
Bono has come full circle with his writing. He has grown
up. There is a
spiritual maturity infused here that surpasses any of
U2's other work (even if some of the
rhymes are poor). The themes are at once inspiring and
cleared-eyed. They offer a sober yet hopeful vision of
reality, and they have the feel and texture of a man
who’s learned from failure, someone who’s
willing to make mistakes and who trusts God to be patient
is no failure here sweetheart
Just when you quit… "Miracle Drug"
noted recently that U2's first album was called Boy and
that this one could have aptly been titled Man.
The songs on Bomb resonate deeply with a human
spirituality that's hard fought, consoling and mature.
These are songs written by a man who is coming to grips
with losing a father, a father who he's only just now
beginning to understand ("Sometimes You Can't Make
It On Your Own"). These are songs written by a man
who is tempted by the lure of romantic relationships
with countless beautiful women but has chosen instead
commitment to his wife ("A Man and a Woman").
Most importantly, these are songs steeped in a deep and
abiding faith in God; songs written by someone who's
not afraid to question, to doubt, to fail and to act.
you enter this life
I pray you depart
With a wrinkled face
And a brand new heart
don’t know if I can take it
I’m not easy on my knees
Here’s my heart you can break it… "Love
and Peace Or Else"
In other words, these are songs written by a real human being. When you listen
to songs like "Miracle Drug," "YAHWEH" and "A
Man and a Woman" you understand that you're dealing with someone like
you who's grown and progressed because God's love is "teaching [him]
how to kneel.” ("Vertigo") And that's a pretty great thing
for a rock star to come to grips with, and pretty inspiring for those of
us listening too.
an age where we seek instant gratification, the quick
buck and sex over romance, it's nice to have someone
out front reminding us of our ideals and the difficulties
involved in reaching them. For
U2 the days of being “insufferable little Jesuses” (Bono’s
term for the Joshua Tree period of U2) are over, but
the days of being simple men in search of God are just
beginning, and it’s refreshing to hear.
days saints look an awful lot like flawed human beings;
they don't always have to catch bees on their fingers,
but sometimes they do, and every once in a while they
may just dismantle an Atomic Bomb with love.