I kissed your lips and broke your heart

Declan's selection today is the much anticipated Achtung Baby by U2 and I'm sort of overwhelmed by the thought of writing anything about this album. I think I might go with just the collection of random thoughts that have been popping into my head as I'm listening to it (that's really not much different than any other day now that I think about it).

1. I've never really been a fan of early U2. Achtung Baby was the first album of theirs I bought and, for a long time, the only one I owned.

2. It's also one of a very small number of albums that I first bought on tape then felt it was important enough to repurchase on CD. So enjoy it U2 - you got my money twice.

3. I didn't really like Achtung Baby when I first listened to it. There was so much hype on MTV for the video for "The Fly" that I just had a built in aversion to the whole thing. It was the release of "Mysterious Ways" as a single that made me think I should change my mind.

4. Achtung Baby is almost exactly 14 years old (released on November 19, 1991 according to Mr. Amazon) and it still sounds amazingly fresh. There aren't any kitschy synthesizers or stupid overdubs that date it. It's just clean and classic.

5. When my parents were looking for a surround sound system, we took a copy of "Mysterious Ways" to every store. It was great fun turning it up really loud to test the stereos.

6. I was secretly rooting for Eric Clapton when "Tears in Heaven" kept beating out Achtung Baby in the 1992 Grammy's. Do I ever listen to "Tears in Heaven" now? No. Sorry U2.

7. I still listen to Achtung Baby about once a month so today's album is hardly a chore.



Josh said...

Best. Album. Ever. Was it really released on November 19? That means I bought it the week it came out! I bought Use Your Illusion II that day, too. But it did not change my entire life.

J-Will said...

My favorite album and one of the best rock albums of all time!

I remember when I was listening to CFNY out of Toronto and the DJ said "get ready to hear U2 as you've never heard them." Then he played "The Fly," and he was right!

I'm somewhat embarassed to confess that I didn't get the album until my birthday in June 1992! When I did get it, I played mostly the singles -- One, Mysterious Ways, etc. -- as young music listeners are wont to do. But over the years I have come to appreciate and be amazed by all the songs on the album.

The album takes the listener on a sonic and lyrical journey that is worth the trip EVERY time. It demands to be listened to from beginning to end. Great to listen to in the car and on a long run!

As for the music itself, everything works. Larry and Adam's rythyms are integral to the songs and Edge's guitar work is absolutely brilliant. And finally Bono dropped the earnestness and dived right into rock stardom. Plus the pacing is perfect, unlike on some of the band's later records, such as "Pop."

The band recorded the bulk of the album in Berlin after The Wall fell and you can hear it in the sonic textures and the lyrics of alienation. I don't think a band has ever been as influenced by it's setting as much as U2 was influenced by Berlin on this album. Makes me wish they would go back there to record!

I don't think anyone could remake this album. Earlier U2 has plenty of imitators but I have yet to hear a band that makes music like U2 did on this album.

Don't be fooled. "Joshua Tree" (or anything else by U2) is not their best work. It's "Achtung Baby."

Josh said...

I bought it totally by accident, almost. My friends all seemed to have favorite bands (Harleigh's was the Doors, Swanson's was the Dead, Patrick's was En Vogue, and so forth), and my mom had ordered the whole U2 catalog from Columbia House a year or so earlier. So I stole her tapes and started learning the band, and I was really barely conscious of what a transition they made, soundwise, between Rattle and Hum and Achtung Baby. But I liked "Mysterious Ways." (This seems to be a recurring theme here.)

And then most of the Fargo South boy's cross-country team went to the Kinney races in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Thanksgiving weekend in 1991, and we got to spend one glorious evening in downtown Chicago, rocking. All I really remember is that a Pizza Hut employee yelled at my friend Ryan (favorite artist: Madonna) for trying to order Canadian bacon, and that I bought the U2 and G 'n' R tapes.

And it's weird, and it was weird at the time too, but I have a perfect memory of hearing the opening riff of the album, on "Zoo Station." And I remember that the moment I heard it, I thought, very quietly, that this moment was crystallizing in my memory. I can't really articulate it, except to say that it was like I was remembering that I would remember it. It was like remembering the future. And this was before I had ever smoked the pot, kids.

And after that, everything changed. Gosh, this was adolescence—life was constantly in flux, and my psyche was so malleable! Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd bought Out of Time instead? I shudder—I shudder—to think.

J-Will said...

For me the memorable riff is the beginning of "The Fly." Takes me back to that radio broadcast from Toronto. i remember exactly where I was (nothing so exciting as a cross-country team trip to Chicago, however.) Plus, it's like my theme song. I often think of it before races and get fired up, or I think of it when I'm walking around town and it puts a boost in my step.

Eileen said...

The riff from "The Fly" is what runs through my head whenever anyone mentions "The Edge" at work.

Shawn said...

U2...they're that one band from Scotland or something, right?

This album didn't knock me out at first. It actually took a long time to sink in. Probably because I didn't buy it back then. Also, at the time I was really more into singles and didn't have the patience to listen to albums all the way through...