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Old 03-23-2009, 11:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default U2 90s Discography Review


The 90s were an interesting time for U2, one of the most successful bands of the 80s. They pulled a Madonna and completely re-invented themselves after anticipating the rising popularity of club/dance music. Their re-invention turned them from wild boys you felt still lived in your neighbourhood to a gimmick act, dressing up and assuming different personas. But no matter what they did to their image, their music was still interesting and occasionally engaging. Although their 80s material is much more genuine than their 90s output, the 90s are arguably more accessible.

We'll explore these statements when my review of Achtung Baby hits MB very soon.
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Old 03-23-2009, 11:09 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm looking forward to these reviews Roygbiv! I'm particularly looking forward to your review of Zooropa since I think it's easily U2's most underrated album.
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Old 03-23-2009, 11:13 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd be lying if I said I had a soft spot for U2's 90s work, but who knows, you might be able to sway me with this thread. That said, Achtung Baby's still a damn good album.
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Achtung Baby [Island; 1991]


When U2 set out to reinvent themselves, they weren’t kidding around. Achtung Baby was released in 1991, three years after the lukewarmly received and bloated Rattle and Hum, to huge critical and fan appraisal. U2 used the dance and electronic music that was growing in popularity as their muse, creating something more ethereal, danceable, denser and, ironically, more rock & roll than ever. The wizards behind the studio are mega producers Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, and Steve Lillywhite; Eno, who most famously produced Talking Head’s most rewarding albums, is key, for the man knows how to mix a key riff and beat, and so is Lillywhite, the man who has been there since the band’s debut. But what does this all mean? It means that everything that needs to be brought to the forefront absolutely is, exactly when it should be, constantly thrilling the listener.

It’s hard to listen to Achtung Baby without anticipating the hits, and the album is filled with them. “One,” “Mysterious Ways,” “Until The End Of The World,” “Ultraviolet” – I can keep going on and on. Truth is, you’ve heard most of these tracks somewhere, from movies to commercials to radio – they are inescapable. For some, the album resonates slightly less so, for they know exactly what’s coming, but if you haven’t heard these songs before, or at least in a long, long while, then Achtung Baby will feel as exciting as it is. For everyone who's tired of the songs, try approaching it from a first listen point of view. It’s what I did, and the album does amaze – there are sounds and soundscapes that radio just isn’t fit for replicating. The album is simply worth it, and this is the only U2 album I can say that about without thinking twice.

There are some weak tracks here, namely the last two songs "Acrobat" and "Love is Blindness," mostly because they don’t resonate the same way that everything prior does. Fortunately, they are trumped by treasures like “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and U2’s absolutely coolest track, “The Fly.”

My verdict is: listen to it, again and again. If you have already done that, listen to it one more time. The album only gets better when you can anticipate it. U2 have only sounded this genuine and powerful in The Joshua Tree. As the years go by, and as long as U2 keep releasing derivative, alt-rock yawn fests like they have this entire decade, and as long as The Joshua Tree remains the most overplayed U2 album of all time, Achtung Baby will continue to impress. It deserves all the praise it gets.

9.7/10

Last edited by Roygbiv; 03-24-2009 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It's funny, my memory of the reaction to this album is a little different from what you describe. I seem to recall a lot of longtime fans thinking they had sold out with this album because of it's glitzier sound and imagery. That may have just been the people I knew though. Personally, I loved it though I agree with you that the last two songs are pretty weak.
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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It's funny, my memory of the reaction to this album is a little different from what you describe. I seem to recall a lot of longtime fans thinking they had sold out with this album because of it's glitzier sound and imagery. That may have just been the people I knew though. Personally, I loved it though I agree with you that the last two songs are pretty weak.
I mention fan appraisal due to the popularity of its singles selling millions among the fans, so while many thought they had sold out, most thought they were pretty amazing, not to mention the slew of new fans they acquired. But I think people today still feel that this is their first "sellout" album. To hell with 'em : P it's deep enough to stand against poorly founded criticism.
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I also liked Achtung Baby a lot at some point in the 90s. Since then, I've of course grown tired of it, but I still agree that it's a very solid album. I much prefer it to Zooropa personally (which I think lacks direction) ..
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I mention fan appraisal due to the popularity of its singles selling millions among the fans, so while many thought they had sold out, most thought they were pretty amazing, not to mention the slew of new fans they acquired. But I think people today still feel that this is their first "sellout" album. To hell with 'em : P it's deep enough to stand against poorly founded criticism.
I've always thought it was a pretty silly criticism of the album too. If anything, I would think making an album with an accompanying theatrically released movie a la Rattle and Hum is more of a sell out move than anything they did with Achtung Baby. In fact, I've never understood what people thought was the big difference between Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree. I mean the band changed their sound a bit but the circumstances were no different; both were Brian Eno produced albums chock full of radio friendly songs. The only real difference I see is that The Joshua Tree has somber black and white photography of the band looking very serious on the cover. Can it really something as superficial as the packaging makes people perceive Achtung Baby as somehow more commercial?
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I also liked Achtung Baby a lot at some point in the 90s. Since then, I've of course grown tired of it, but I still agree that it's a very solid album. I much prefer it to Zooropa personally (which I think lacks direction) ..
I'm totally with you about Zooropa and I actually think the lack of direction is the best thing about that album. They really seem like that were having fun recording it and had a real anything goes attitude about it. I think that translates into one of their most energetic and interesting albums.
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:57 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I've always thought it was a pretty silly criticism of the album too. If anything, I would think making an album with an accompanying theatrically released movie a la Rattle and Hum is more of a sell out move than anything they did with Achtung Baby. In fact, I've never understood what people thought was the big difference between Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree. I mean the band changed their sound a bit but the circumstances were no different; both were Brian Eno produced albums chock full of radio friendly songs. The only real difference I see is that The Joshua Tree has somber black and white photography of the band looking very serious on the cover. Can it really something as superficial as the packaging makes people perceive Achtung Baby as somehow more commercial?
Somber photography can also make one look more douchey, but at the time U2 were "superheroes." If they pulled that stunt today we'd all laugh at them, like how they titled their second album this decade "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb." That's an inspired title, but we all scoffed. So the predominant perception at the time allowed them to get away with the photography, which in turn made the album seem more mysterious, and everyone loves mystery, hence the reason why some people thought Achtung Baby had too much flash. I thought that the raw photography was perfect for the era.
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