If every song on U2's new album was as catchy as lead track "Vertigo," it would amount to a reinvention of the band. But "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" is quintessential U2, taken to the next level

If every song on U2's new album was as catchy as lead track "Vertigo," it would amount to a reinvention of the band. But "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" is quintessential U2, taken to the next level. The sound is bigger, the playing better, the lyrics sharper and the spirituality more compelling than anything the act has done in many years. While a fistful of old friends (Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on "Love and Peace," for example) offer additional production to that of main producer Steve Lillywhite, "Bomb" is not cluttered. The Edge has never played with greater confidence (apparent on the DVD) and Bono's mature phrasing puts his well-crafted words across with conviction. Songwriting may be the most impressive part of a record on which U2 scales new peaks: From the gospel of "Lay Down" to the majestic "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," the album is full of great songs, performed with the vitality of a band that keeps surprising us by simply being itself.—WR