If there’s a silver lining to having your car broken into, your CD WALLET stolen along with your iPod FM transmitter, and knowing that a STRANGE MAN OR WOMAN is now listening to your Genesis CDs and mocking you from afar, it’s that you get to rediscover some other music you haven’t thought of for a while.
This “incident” happened a few weeks ago, and it’s not as bad as it sounds. We left the car unlocked overnight (DUMB), so at least there wasn’t a jimmied lock or a broken window to deal with, just everything in our glove compartment emptied out onto our seat. (Actually, I should check to see if our tire gauge is still there). And besides the CDs and the iPod transmitter, nothing else was taken. (Not that there was anything really else to take, I guess).
I suppose I could start searching the internet for a replacement transmitter, but our iPod is an older model, so you need an older transmitter, and that seems like a bit of work.
So instead, I browsed through our vestigial CD TOWER which is from a time when we mostly just played CDs. The tower still sits in our living room, like a grandfather clock, except that a grandfather clock is almost more useful these days. We only have one functioning CD player in our house right now, in the living room. (The kitchen CD player mysteriously stopped working one evening as I was listening to the “Gone Girl” soundtrack while doing dishes. It is a spooky, atmospheric soundtrack, and now I think our CD player is haunted. Thanks a lot, Fincher. The radio and the iPod dock still work in it (and it has a handy aux port, so what do I care?) All of this is to say, aside from my elderly aunts, who uses CDs anymore?
I guess I do, actually.
In the car.
And not even the “Best” driving around CDs either, because those were all taken in the wallet. I had to dig a little deeper into the old collection to find some “driving around music”, and it’s been really great. On Canada Day, we blasted Jann Arden’s “Living Under June” (1994) all the way to Lower Fort Garry and back, and I’m asking you: is there a better Jann Arden song to see out loud than “Unloved”? I’d gladly leg wrestle any man or woman who disagrees. Heck, I’d even leg wrestle a transgender person, if it came to that.
But the album that I’ve really reconnected with over the past couple of weeks has been U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (2005). The internet likes to abbreviate this album to “HTDAAB”, which I guess is okay, but weird, right? We’ve said it here before, but we’ll say it again: everyone has those one or two bands that they are going to love no matter what, and you don’t even need to listen to their music all that much all the time for it to be a part of what you are all about. U2 is one of those bands for me, and for whatever reason, I just haven’t listened to them in a while, and certainly not one particular album.
I’ve fallen in love all over again with mid 2000’s U2.
I think part of the reason I love this album so much is that it reminds of that night in Milwaukee when we saw them perform in support of it. We were heading to Toronto for a family wedding, and we thought we’d take the scenic route: a couple nights in Milwaukee, a couple in Chicago, and well, there it is. *trails off in Jeff Goldblummy voice
That concert was one of the best U2 concerts I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t because we had great seats. We were actually in the uppers towards the back, but we had a clear view of the stage, and it seems so intimate despite the fact we weren’t on the floor or in the action. It also happened to be the band’s 30 anniversary of meeting in high school, so Bono mentioned that a couple of times, and I still remember that great moment in the encores when they started playing a deep cut off of “Zooropa” called “The First Time” and after the first couple of chords I turned to my wife and said, “They hardly ever play this one! What a treat!” and a second later from the stage Bono said, “This is a bit of a treat for us, we hardly ever get to play this one.” I am not even joking. Another stand out moment from that night was when The Edge started playing the opening bars of “Elevation” and without prompting the crowd just starting singing the “Wooo whooos!” and Bono, in his quiet, raspy, serious voice said, “There are some pretty cool people here tonight” and we all cheered! (I know I’ve told all these stories before, but sometimes it’s good to retell and rehear them. It helps in building the mythology.) The concert sits well in our memory too, because we were at the beginning of a vacation, (a road trip!), and it’s always fun to see a favourite band in another city too. You are amongst strangers, but you are united by a common love.
But enough about that concert! Let me say a few words about the album itself. You know: HTDAAB, or whatever.
The thing kicks off with “Vertigo”, which was never really one of my favourite U2 songs. I always thought of it as the song that U2 wrote to help Apple launch the iPod, which might not be fair or accurate, but I can’t shake that thought. But I found out how to listen to it, guys: you start it at normal volume, and then you just follow the directions. You wait until you hear the Edge say, “Turn it up loud, Captain!” and then you just fucking crank it, in the car, windows down, on a hot July day, and my friends: you won’t be disappointed. Also, people in other cars or people on the sidewalk walking their dogs will turn and smile and nod their heads in approval, because by your deeds they will know you are a cool person. And you know what? When you listen to the words, the whole song is actually about becoming humble in the presence of God. So, that’s a pretty great message to set the tone for the rest of the album.
Next up is “Miracle Drug”, and I just love the notion of tripping inside someone else’s head, spending the day there, seeing the thoughts that go unsaid, etc etc. Could you imagine being comfortable enough and intimate enough with someone else to actually let them know what you were thinking: about them, about life, about yourself? Or being open enough to let someone else in, like those psychic kids in “The Chrysalids”?
Then, you’ve got that lovely song, “Sometimes you can’t make it on your own” written for Bono’s Dad and first performed at his funeral a few years prior. I love that line, “We fight. All the time. You and I. But that’s alright. Because we are the same soul.” Or that simple promise: “You don’t have to go it alone”.
“Love and Peace or Else” is this album’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” number, and it hits and misses with me, depending on my mood. During the concert, it is this song where Bono dons a “COEXIST” bandana that covers his eyes, like a prisoner.
But then you get “City of Blinding Lights” which opened most of the concerts, including the Milwaukee one, and it may be one of the best U2 songs ever. When Bono sings, “Oh you look so beautiful tonight” to us, it really felt like he was addressing the crowd, since it was the first time we were all together since the last tour in 2001. Also, at the end of that number, the FIRST number, they launched a bunch of confetti into the crowd. Why save it for the encores? The first shall be last and all that, etc etc.
Next up is “All Because of You”, which is sort of this album’s “Even Better than the Real Thing”. Many U2 fans, including me, compare everything U2 does to “Achtung Baby”(2001), which is the band’s high watermark. It’s probably not fair to do that. That album came out 25 years ago at the time of this writing, and Lord knows I’d hate to always be compared to stuff I did in 1991, and yet: here we are. *Goldblum voice. It’s not a great song, but it’s fun to play loud in the car, and it has a fun music video, with the band on a flatbed truck being towed through New York and over the Brooklyn Bridge, (if memory serves).
The next three songs, “A Man and a Woman”, “Crumbs from the Table” and “One Step Closer” are all on the quieter side, and there’s nothing WRONG with them, but there just isn’t anything much I have to say about them. If I had to choose between them, (and I can’t imagine what kind of crazy Japanese style game show dream I’d have to be having where this would actually be a situation), I’d choose “One Step Closer”. It’s from the “The First Time” family of U2 songs, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Do I win a prize?
But this brings us to the last two songs of the album. “The Original of The Species” and “Yahweh”.
Man, I just love “The Original of The Species”. Bono wrote it about one of daughters, and it’s hard to not think of my own daughter in some of these lines, like: “You are the first one of your kind.” and “I want a lot of what you got, and nothing that you’re not.”
And then, “Yahweh”. For an album that begins by telling us that God teaches us how to kneel, it ends with a wonderful affirmation and celebration of the Holy Spirit moving in our world today. It’s hopeful and joyful, and the perfect way to cap off a pretty great album.
“Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones. Take this soul, and make it sing.”
And then, before you know it, The Edge is encouraging you to “Turn it up loud, captain”, and we are off again.
So, yeah. It’s not all bad.