U2 wins raves in The New York Times today, and look great in the photo that accompanies the article. (That photo’s sure a lot more interesting than the album cover, which is the most unremarkable in the band’s history.)

Here are some choice quotes:

Tensions between intellect and passion, and between pragmatism and faith, drive the songs on “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”; so do burly guitar riffs, galvanizing crescendos and fearlessly emotional vocals. The album easily stands alongside the best work of U2’s career – “Boy,” “War,” “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” – and, song for song, it’s more consistent than any of them.

Many of the songs ponder faith. The album’s finale, “Yahweh,” is nothing less than a prayer. When Bono was singing nonsense words to come up with a melody for the song, he found himself singing “Yahweh,” a Hebrew name of God.

“There’s cathedrals and the alleyway in our music,” Bono said. “I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you’re slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder and wondering if there’s somebody following you. And then you get there and you realize there was somebody following you: It’s God.”

Bono’s mother was a Protestant and his father a Catholic, and when he was a schoolboy he was severely beaten up when walking through a Catholic neighborhood in the uniform of his Protestant school. Speaking just days after the American presidential election, which might have hinged on the votes of evangelical Christians, Bono said: “I don’t talk about my faith very much, because the people you might want to talk with, you don’t want to hang out with.

“To have faith in a time of religious fervor is a worry. And, you know, I do have faith, and I’m worried about even the subject because of the sort of fanaticism that is the next-door neighbor of faith. The trick in the next few years will be not to decry the religious instinct, but to accept that this is a hugely important part of people’s lives. And at the same time to be very wary of people who believe that theirs is the only way. Unilateralism before God is dangerous.”

“Religion is ceremony and symbolism,” he added. “Writers live off symbolism, and performers live off ceremony. We’re made for religion! And yet you see this country, Ireland, ripped over religion, and you see the Middle East. Right now, unless tolerance comes with fervor, you’ll see it in the United States.”

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