U2 Achtung Baby
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Okay, I'd like to get one thing out of the way first and foremost. This is, in my opinion, the greatest album ever recorded. Maybe I'm blinded by my obvious U2 fanaticism, but listen closely. This album features twelve songs. When I look closer I notice that it not only features twelve songs, but it features twelve *great* songs. Yes. Every single song on Achtung Baby is an absolute gem. That's something that not even 1987's The Joshua Tree could achieve. Truly remarkable. Anyway, that's the disclaimer, now to the meat of the review...

In 1987, U2 perfected their sound with The Joshua Tree. They'd taken all of their previous work, matured, then unleashed a sonic masterpiece. Afterwards, they kind of celebrated The Joshua Tree with a semi-live album called Rattle and Hum. It was almost like a documentary on the tour for The Joshua Tree. Anyway, U2 had quickly become the biggest band in the world with their late 80's work, then late in that decade their future was in question. The years of touring, playing the same songs over and over, having the same image, the same sound, the same attitude began to wear thin. The band contemplated retirement, in fact. That is, until Achtung Baby came into form. This was the band's saving grace and ticket to post-80's success. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

This album represents U2's biggest turning point in their 20+ year career. They changed so much in one quick swoop that it was almost uncanny. But it was also for the better, in my opinion. Just four years after the simple and straightforward The Joshua Tree, U2 unleashed the danceable Achtung Baby, I doubt many could believe their ears.

Let's see what makes this album so special. Everything. Yes, everything. From the opening guitar riff of Zoo Station to the final bass line of Love is Blindness, this album is all incredible. The album pulls no punches when it comes to informing you that this is not the U2 you heard in The Joshua Tree. The first track, Zoo Station starts off with the producer tapping a spoon on a glass which then leads to The Edge's guitar ripping into the main tune of the song. It's a dance song... by U2. Not many were ready for this. Anyway, Zoo Station is kind of like the disclaimer for the album. It basically says "This is how we are now and if you don't like it, **** off". Quite a gutsy move. Anyway, after the initial shock of a U2 dance song in Zoo Station, the listener is instantly rocketed into a hot guitar riff that sounds slightly more traditional in U2 terms. The song is Even Better Than the Real Thing and it's a beauty. It's got a great tune, playful lyrics, and it's fairly short and to the point. A great song that's appeared in every tour U2's done since it's creation, and deservedly so. Next up is probably the most important song they've ever recorded, One. This song is the single reason why the album was created. Song ideas and everything musically needed to record an album were sparse until this song came into the picture. I can go on for multiple paragraphs about this one song but I won't. It's great, and it's important. That's really all that needs to be said. Next on the album is easily one of the band's best moments, Until the End of the World. The song has an incredible guitar to it, a booming bass track, and pounding drums throughout. Oh yeah, it also features Bono taking the role of Judas Iscariot when he betrayed Jesus Christ. Just a completely perfect song. The music and lyrics match each other's perfection.

Moving on from the first four, the band takes a kind of step back from the 'new' sound with the next two songs - Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses and So Cruel. They're both beautiful songs, both lyrically comforting and musically mesmerizing. They're 'Joshua Tree-like', sort of. That really sets the stage for what's to come. That song would be The Fly (named after Bono's over-the-top alter-ego). The Fly is quite simply, the album's biggest statement. That statement is this: "**** you, **** what you think you know, and **** you again." Yeah, quite the statement. The lyrics tell you this in more subtle terms, trust me. It's just a collage of cynicism spun together in a gripping chorus and an amazing guitar solo. This is almost like the brother of Zoo Station. Where Zoo Station created the point, The Fly drives that point home. The best song on the album. Love it.

Next on the list of songs is Mysterious Ways. This is a pretty fun song. It's got a great beat, great bass, and lyrics that are almost sexually delightful. Yes, it's got a good beat. And you can dance to it. :-) This song represents the true super-sexy swingin' sounds. The next song is Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around the World. This is the slowest, simplest, and most 'down to Earth' song on the album. It's just a nice little tune to let your heart beat recover from Mysterious Ways, I guess. It's lyrically there, but the music is a little boring for this album. Still a great song though. Just kind of a black sheep in the thick of things. Now we're moving to the final section of this album. We start with Ultraviolet (Light My Way) which kind of goes hand in hand with Until the End of the World because of it's religious overtones. While they're not apparent at first listen, if you think, you might find it. A wonderful song through and through. The final 10 minutes of Achtung Baby are closed somewhat oddly. You're not going to be let off of this album happily. The final two songs are pretty much downers, but are really thoughtful and beautiful. Acrobat has some great lyrics and music as Bono tells you "Don't let the bastards grind you down". And while on Love is Blindness you might just want to cry. These two songs are vastly different from the other material on the album and really set a whole new stage. Which is what Achtung Baby does well. It has so many stages that you really don't know what the message of everything is. So after a while you just stop thinking about it and listen to the music for what it is. In Until the End of the World Bono tells you that "You miss too much these days when you stop to think." Listen to him.

- - Chris Rivera

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