I actually vacillate quite a bit about U2’s last two albums (2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb). Don’t get me wrong, I really want to like them, and sometimes I really do, but there’s also some cringing involved as well.
ATYCLB was hailed as “U2’s third masterpiece” (I trust I don’t need to tell you what the first two were). In my view, this album has some high highs (Kite, Beautiful Day, Walk On), but unlike their other two magna opera, it also has some pretty low lows (Wild Honey, Peace on Earth).
HTDAAB, I think, is the better of the two. Its best songs (Original of the Species, City of Blinding Lights, Crumbs From Your Table) may not have the staying power of Beautiful Day, but its lows (A Man and a Woman) aren’t as low as Peace on Earth, either.
On to Bono’s lyrics. He has obviously stopped trying to consciously write beautiful lyrics (which he hasn’t done since 1988’s Rattle and Hum), but sometimes it seems like he’s stopped trying altogether:
“Freedom has a scent, like the top of a newborn baby’s head.”(And don’t even get me started on the whole “monkey stealing honey” debacle.)
“I like the sound of my own voice; I didn’t five anyone else a choice; an intellectual tortoise, racing with a bullet train.”
“Where I grew up there weren’t many trees; where there was we’d tear them down and use them on our enemies.”
“In New York summers get hot, well into the hundreds; You can’t walk around the block without a change of clothing.”
Still, when you see or hear them live, they’re still the best band in the world. I just wish Bono would take better care of his voice so it holds up until the tour ends. And lads, drop me a line and I’ll help you choose your set lists….