I’ve heard, at most, 45 seconds of each song off the new U2 album, and of course all of the nearly despicable single, “Get On Your Boots,” which I have read is east African slang for “put on your condoms.”  I have to admit that “Get On Your Boots” is a lot catchier than “put on your condoms,” but it’s still a crappy, crappy song.  I understand that the first single has to be a statement, a big “hello!  we’re back!” but why oh why does it have to be such an awful song to say so little?  Even “Vertigo,” another not so great “hello! we’re back!” statement, was listenable.  Mindless, but listenable.  I just listened to it this morning in fact and it was okay.

Which brings me to that album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.  It’s not good.  It’s just not.  In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say it: unless No Line On The Horizon is a real stinker, Atomic Bomb is U2’s worst album of studio material.  Yes, it’s worse than the reviled Pop, U2’s “experimental” album that explored disco-influenced rock.  You know why?  Because Pop sounded like U2 trying and trying hardAtomic Bomb didn’t really sound like much of anything.  Sure, there are some nice moments, but they are of the “U2 goes mellow” variety, which they have been doing better and better as they age – “Crumbs From Your Table,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” “Original Of The Species,” “One Step Closer,” and “City Of Blinding Lights.”  But that’s an EP’s worth of material, not enough to float an album.  But an EP of those four songs, without all the fluff-laden chaff surrounding them?  It would have knocked everyone on their asses.  But EPs don’t sell.  EPs aren’t tour-worthy, or news-worthy.  And U2 doesn’t do anything these days that isn’t news-worthy.

I’m going to make another prediction, which is something I don’t tend to do with new albums because I generally go in “clean slate,” but find it impossible to do here: No Line On The Horizon is going to be good, maybe even really good, but not great.  It’ll have the exact opposite problem – it’ll have a handful of songs that just don’t cut it, but enough that it leaves the impression of a slightly deflated album that, without them, would have been much stronger.

I have come full circle with U2.  I wasn’t a fan when it was cool to be a fan.  Then I fell for Achtung Baby, and it remained a favorite – and it still is to this day.  I fell into U2 the right way – slowly – unlike a lot of other bands that I listen to, where I hear one album and insist to myself that I need everything else right now right now RIGHT NOW! For ages I refused to even acknowledge the world of U2 before The Joshua Tree, barely even wishing to acknowledge that album, because it wasn’t Achtung Baby, and nothing could measure up to that.  And now, 18 years later, where am I?   I have all of the albums, a handful of the relevant singles, DVDs, and I’ve seen U2 on almost every tour since the early 90s.  I guess I’m a fan.  A big fan.  And I’m really, really looking forward to the new album.  See, because that’s how new fans feel – excited, even though we know that it might be flawed, because there will be something of beauty in there that keeps us coming back for more.  And, from the little I’ve heard, there’s quite a bit of beauty in the new U2 that is going to be worth repeat visits.