How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is the eleventh studio album by Irish rock band U2, released in November 2004. Much like their previous album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb exhibits a more conventional rock sound after the band experimented with alternative rock and dance music in the 1990s. The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite, with others involved in the production including Flood, Jacknife Lee, Nellee Hooper, Chris Thomas, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, and Carl Glanville.
U2 lead singer Bono described the album as “our first rock album. It’s taken us twenty years or whatever it is, but this is our first rock album.” Although not a concept album in the traditional sense, most of the music on the record deals with the world at the crossroads of its existence. Love and war, peace and harmony, and approaching death are themes of the album.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and its singles won all nine Grammy Awards for which it was nominated. The album also was the fourth-highest-selling album of 2004, selling over 10 million copies, and it yielded several successful singles in “Vertigo”, “City of Blinding Lights”, and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”. The album was also included in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Best Albums of the Decade” at number 68.
In 2003, Bono said how one of their new songs called “Full Metal Jacket” was “the mother of all rock songs” and “the reason to make a new album”. A similar demo called “Native Son” was also recorded. Both of these demos would later become “Vertigo”.
A demo version of the album was stolen while the band were having their photo taken for a magazine in France in July 2004. It contained unfinished versions of several songs that made it onto the album. The band publicly announced that if those tracks were leaked online, they would release the album immediately. Several months later, tracks from the album were released online, but they were the finished products, and not the rough demos from The Edge’s stolen CD.
“Vertigo” was featured on a widely-aired television commercial for the Apple iPod. Apple, in a partnership with the band, released a special edition iPod bearing the black and red color scheme of the album, as well as laser-engraved autographs of each member on the back. The Complete U2, an iTunes Store-exclusive box set featuring 448 tracks, including previously unreleased content was also released. Proceeds from the iPod and iTunes partnerships were donated to charity. A live version of “Original of the Species” from the concert film Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago was later featured in commercials for the video iPod.
U2 made various promotional appearances on television. On 20 November 2004, U2 appeared as the musical guests on Saturday Night Live, performing “Vertigo”, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”, and “I Will Follow”. Two days later, on the day of the album’s release, U2 performed on a flat-bed truck, which drove through much of downtown New York City. The drive ended at the Brooklyn Bridge, under which the band performed a “secret gig”, some of which comprised an MTV special and an EP called Live from Under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Much like its predecessor, this album was generally well received by critics like Rolling Stone (who described it as “grandiose music from grandiose men”), Q, NME, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe, among others quite vocal in its praise. Following the 22 November 2004 release, the album debuted at #1 in 34 countries, including the US Billboard 200 (with sales of 840,000), the UK album chart, and the Aria charts. The album has gone on to sell 9 million copies worldwide. This album is often described as the album which has firmly entrenched U2 at the top after the commercial and critical let down of 1997’s Pop. The album received an average critic score of 79%, according to Metacritic
Like Santana’s Supernatural, this album was awarded nine Grammy Awards overall in 2005 and 2006, winning in all of the categories in which it was nominated. It was awarded the Album of the Year award in 2006. “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” from the album was awarded “Song of the Year” and “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal”. “City of Blinding Lights” was awarded the award for “Best Rock Song”, and the album was also awarded “Best Rock Album”. Album producer Steve Lillywhite was also awarded Producer of the Year, Non Classical in 2006. In 2005, the single “Vertigo” from the album won in all three categories in which it was nominated: “Best Rock Song”, “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal”, and “Best Short Form Music Video”.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was rated the best album of 2004 by USA Today, Paste Magazine, and The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn called it the second-best album of the year, and it was ranked third and fourth respectively by liveDaily and Q in their lists of the best albums of the year. Village Voice rated it the eighth-best album of 2004, while PopMatters.com ranked it 25th. It was included in Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Albums of 2004, and they later rated it the 68th-best album of the decade, while “Vertigo” was ranked the 64th-best song.
All lyrics written by Bono except where noted, all music composed by U2.
|1.||“Vertigo”||Bono and The Edge||Steve Lillywhite||3:13|
|2.||“Miracle Drug”||Bono and The Edge||Lillywhite||3:54|
|3.||“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”||Chris Thomas||5:05|
|4.||“Love and Peace or Else”||Bono and The Edge||Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois||4:48|
|5.||“City of Blinding Lights”||Flood||5:46|
|6.||“All Because of You”||Lillywhite||3:34|
|7.||“A Man and a Woman”||Jacknife Lee||4:27|
|8.||“Crumbs from Your Table”||Lillywhite||4:59|
|9.||“One Step Closer”||Thomas, Lanois||3:48|
|10.||“Original of the Species”||Lillywhite||4:34|
|11.||“Yahweh”||Bono and The Edge||Thomas||4:22|