Playing God: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

This article inspired by Stylus Magazine’s Playing God” series.

With this first Playing God article, I’ve decided to take on arguably the easiest target. Whilst HTDAAB isn’t, in my view, an utter artistic write-off, it nonetheless can be improved, and there are b-sides and other era tracks to be added. That said, though, the end result was surprisingly conservative; overall, four tracks were jettisoned (“Miracle Drug”, “A Man And A Woman”, “One Step Closer”, “Yahweh”), and two others (“Vertigo” and “Fast Cars”) were pushed back into their older, rougher forms, with nothing actually added, albeit much of the track order shifted about. Overall, it results in a harder and leaner album – side one brings the rawk and side two adds a bit of tenderness. I was tempted to keep “Miracle Drug”, and add “Smile”, even toying with the inclusion of “Mercy”, but factoring those in would drag the album out almost as long as the 53 minutes of its UK release. Here, the album clocks in at 36:41, utterly flab-free as a result.

Native Son (3:08)

This new HTDAAB has a slightly more political edge, at least in the first half, and hence it kicks off with the most overt polemic – whilst the basic framework of “Vertigo” is good, this fits better for the album.

Xanax And Red Wine (4:38)

“Fast Cars”’ hard acoustic strums are replaced with its predecessor’s purer riffage, and Bono’s largely similar lyrics but somewhat more unhinged delivery add a darker feel, something the album largely lacked.

Love And Peace Or Else (4:50)
Album, track 4.

There’s a bit of a cooling off here, but only initially – the drums crash in, and we’re off again, to complete a riff-filled opening trio to counter the synthblast of Pop’s first quarter.

Crumbs From Your Table (4:59)
Album, track 8.

I’d say this is the best ballad on the original album, with a simply fantastic outro that barely needs any vocals at all – it hence becomes the first ballad on this revised album, providing a bit of a break from the initial third of the album. From here, the songs largely soften, lengthen and gain a bit of warmth.

City of Blinding Lights (5:46)
Album, track 5.

Sure, it apes “Streets” with the song-length forward drive, but there’s some nice subtlety to the guitar and it is, in all fairness, the sort of song you can get elected President to. It’s also a good way to open the “personal” side two – having zeroed in from Africa down to a crowd, the next two songs then zero down to…

All Because of You (3:34)
Album, track 6.

…an individual. This is the fourth song on this eight-track album that can indisputably be called a “rocker” (and “COBL” isn’t too far off either), which I reckon makes for a better ratio than the three-from-twelve of the album actual.

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own (5:05)
Album, track 3.

And so, “All Because of You” is counterbalanced by “Sometimes…”, a song which AMG described as “slyly soulful” and which I actually don’t have much of a better description for. Probably because I’m getting lazier as a writer, to be honest.

Original Of The Species (4:41)
Album, track 10.

And so the album finishes, having said farewell to a prior generation, with a baton handed to the next – and the final song on the album genuinely has a somewhat anthemic feel, as opposed to the slightly insipid “Yahweh”. Incidentally, it’s revealing that every single from HTDAAB has made it onto this album – it seems like the songs with little single potential truly faded into an MOR background on this album.




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