Release Date: Nov 1, 2011
Genre(s): Rock, Pop/Rock
Record label: Island
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At the dawn of the 1990s, most of the biggest bands in the world – Def Leppard, INXS, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Poison – marched blindly into the new decade, releasing a watereddown retread of their last album. Not U2. Abandoning the stadium-size sincerity of LPs like The Joshua Tree, they went to Berlin, drew on krautrock and club music and created what Bono called "probably the heaviest record we've ever made" – a barrage of irony, distortion and still-huge hooks.
Reinventions rarely come as thorough and effective as Achtung Baby, an album that completely changed U2's sound and style. The crashing, unrecognizable distorted guitars that open "Zoo Station" are a clear signal that U2 have traded their Americana pretensions for postmodern, contemporary European music. Drawing equally from Bowie's electronic, avant-garde explorations of the late '70s and the neo-psychedelic sounds of the thriving rave and Madchester club scenes of early-'90s England, Achtung Baby sounds vibrant and endlessly inventive.
"If you give a pop star a shit pile of dough and he refuses to self-destruct, I think it is a bit wet," said a smoking, slicked-back, black-sunglasses-clad Bono in a 1993 interview on the UK music show "Naked City". "I think it's part of the deal. If they don't die on a cross by 33, I'd ask for your money back." Like many of the knowingly audacious quotes from the singer and his U2 mates during this period, it's a little tough to deduce the exact level of sincerity involved.
Achtung Baby is the last great U2 album and one of the best records ever made, but is this $150 six-CD, four-DVD 20th anniversary edition worth your time and money? Short answer: Fuck yeah. The Kindergarten disc offers up an alternative version of the album—including a searing seven-minute take on “Love Is Blindness”—while the B-sides and Other Stuff disc boasts more than half a dozen unreleased songs, such as a smoky, bluesy cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Everybody Loves A Winner.” There are also more than 20 rare remixes here, so you can party like it’s 1991 all over again. .
To express a dislike of U2 seems to have become almost as regular a pastime as shopping for groceries or queuing at the bus stop. It seems to be almost second nature for Bono et al to be castigated for crimes against humility rather than the actual music. That said, it's also probably fair to say they haven't delivered a truly consistent long player in 20 years.
The year is 1991. You’ve just bought the new U2 record. You sit back and relax, expecting to hear The Edge’s trademark chiming guitar and Bono’s soulful vocals. Within the opening 10 seconds of “Zoo Station”, you think your speakers must be broken. The sound coming out is distorted and ….
Right on the cusp between the end of an old age and the start of a new, the biggest band in the world reinvented itself with a record that perfectly captured the mixture of euphoria, hopefulness, and uncertainty fomented by the end of the Cold War. As the Iron Curtain was pried open and nations were either reunified or blasted apart at the heady dawn of the 1990s, Irish superstar band U2 rethought its entire approach for the daring 1991 LP Achtung Baby, an album that saw the group undergoing a drastic stylistic and image overhaul—one it managed to pull it off without a hitch, as five hit singles, several million copies sold, and scores of effusive critical kudos later attest. The outstanding Achtung Baby—a creation that sees a decade-old post-punk band ditch its rootsy late ‘80s Americana obsession to submerse itself in a Technicolor European futurism—is the U2 record to offer people who typically hate U2.
It’s very easy to hate U2; for many, slandering against U2 (other heavy-hitting alternative acts like Coldplay get the same treatment) is a second language. And there is a point for all the slander: U2’s career since ’97 has been flatter than a pancake, Bono has become the posterboy for the obnoxious bridge between singers and activists, and collectively, the egos of the four band members would only be a little larger than the state of Texas. It’s difficult, however, to forget that at a point in time there was, in fact, a reason for U2’s status as “the biggest band in the world.
U2 had everything to lose in 1991, when they reinvented themselves as an electronics-obsessed art project. The six discs in Achtung Baby: Uber Deluxe Edition may seem like overkill, but most everything here, from the raw demos (a stripped-away ”Mysterious Ways” is especially revelatory) to the cache of beat-science remixes that put 1993’s confusing Zooropa into better context, is essential to understanding the most inscrutable stadium-filling band in history. A Download These:Seductive B side Salom[a e]Rumbly Lemon (The Perfecto Mix) .
When the Irish band went to Berlin, roped in Brian Eno, and pressed the restart button. Martin Aston 2011 Hearing again The Edge’s dizbusting guitar and Larry Mullen Jr’s clanking beat that introduced Achtung Baby, it’s hard to believe that, only one album before, U2 were hanging out with BB King and getting lost in a blind alley of American roots music. Bands that broke through in the halcyon days of post-punk ended up in worse places than Rattle and Hum, but U2 themselves knew they’d lost their way.
If "The Fly" winked its compound eyes at megalomania magnified by media overkill, U2's Achtung Baby Super Deluxe Edition bottles that excess. Expanded onto 10 discs, a 6-CD/4-DVD LP-sized box with filler like 12-inch postcards, the album might not even warrant the baseline 2-CD version. After all, 1993's Zooropa, included here, pooled Achtung Baby's runoff during the ensuing Zoo TV tour.
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