Achtung Baby

U2

Island Records, 1991

http://www.u2.com

REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/18/1998

Personally, I consider this album my first U2 album. Though I bought Pop first, I remember hearing and seeing this album come out and thinking how great it was. I also remember hearing some other people complaining about U2 selling out and being tools of "the man." I never got it and still never do.

Achtung Baby was U2's follow-up to Rattle And Hum. (Though, technically, there was an EP released in between. Also, I think Achtung Baby is more of a follow-up to The Joshua Tree than to Rattle And Hum, but those are discussions for another time). After the amazing success they had in the late 80s, the public and the fans wanted to find out what this band of Irish lads would put out to follow up their success. They were rather surprised, I think.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Gone were the four quiet lads with their acoustic guitars and their dreams of changing the world. In came four seasoned rock gods that were more concerned with getting one more chance at satisfying their babies. They were loud and glitzy and glammy -- definite shock to their fans. But listen to the music and you will find that U2 just changed the wrapping. The candy bar was still the same.

Yes, the album was filled with noises and tweaks. You couldn't find the dreamy landscape of "Where the Streets Have No Name." Instead, you got the sonic barrage of "Even Better Than The Real Thing" and "Zoo Station." They mixed in their own brand of rock with techno ("The Fly") and managed to still retain that rock edge ("Until The End of The World").

But you see, the band had moved away from talking about the problems of the world. Now, they were interested in the problems of the soul. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," "So Cruel" and the over-played "One" all deal with more personal themes. Add to that the album-closer "Love Is Blindness" and "Throw Your Arms Around the World" and you can see that the band still spoke the same language.

They were also smart enough to add other elements to the album. "Even Better Than The Real Thing" and "Ultaviolet (Light My Way)" have lyrics that could have been written by any of the glam rock bands of the late 80s. That's just it. In the 80s, they opposed those bands. In the 90s, they took their place and made fun of them at the same time. Furthermore, the songs are great -- so you don't mind them being happy and horny for a while.

Finally, there's "Mysterious Ways." I think that this is one of their biggest triumphs ever. Not only because of the cool guitar licks by The Edge or the way that it slithers, but because this combines both sides of U2. The song is both deep and light at the same time. You forget that this is U2 and listen only to the song.

Achtung Baby marked a change in the style of U2 -- which was later accented by Zooropa and by Pop. At this stage, the band was able to create an album that is as far away from what they were, but an album that was close to who they were. So much was going on in there that, I think, they may not equal it. But what do I know.

Rating: A

User Rating: B-


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© 1998 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.