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