Jump to content

Achtung Baby


Overstreet
 Share

Recommended Posts

SPIN has just counted down the top 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 years, and sitting at #1... Achtung Baby.

Thrilled, I'm moved to give this album a thread.

What was your first impression when you heard it?

Has your opinion of it changed?

Is it really a better record than The Joshua Tree or War?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spin is silly, but it is a very good record. I got it for Christmas from my Grandma. (I asked for it). I was 11 or 12 and got obsessed with the buffalo video. When I heard it, it was kind of a revelation. What strange and wonderful sounds! The distorted pounding at the beginning and strange slapback on the vocal! The intro to Whose Gonna Ride your wild horses with the bold strings in one ear and nutty distortion in the other. "One" became my favorite song.

Now there's a lot about it that I find silly/campy in the lyrics. But I suppose the goofy gender transgression juxtaposed with sincere spirituality and social critique was good for me to hear at that age. Plus: my taste in rock music has always favored texture and groove over riffage. This album is probably the reason I like Yo La Tengo over the White Stripes. Give me a weird keyboard wash and a dub bassline, please!

Edited by Holy Moly!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I treasure this album. Didn't actually like (most of) it very much when I first heard it, but man, how times (and people) change!

As for how it compares to The Joshua Tree, they are just such different albums-- both incredible but in very different ways and for different reasons. I simply can't choose which one is better. "With or Without You" is my favorite U2 song, period, and the songwriting on Joshua is second to none... but the sheer giddy joy of musical discovery and experimentation on certain AB songs, and the emotional desperation in Bono's voice and the power of Edge's guitar, in other ones, make Achtung an unforgettable experience in its own right.

The hilariously ironic thing about Spin's #1 ranking of the album here, to me, is that when it was first released, I remember reading the magazine's very lukewarm review of it. The writer judged it to be a largely failed experiment-- but then again, so did I at the time! We were both seriously wrong! :)

Edited by Christopher Lake
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I'll be the grump here. I think Achtung Baby is one of the most overrated albums of all time, and probably ranks somewhere slightly below the middle of the pack of U2 albums. I think "One" is maudlin and cliche-ridden, chock full of Bono's most earnest over-emoting. And since I've already gone on record many times in stating my dislike of Lanois' and Eno's production in general, I might as well do it specifically here. Why would you take the most distinctive guitar stylist of the past thirty years and bury him in the mix? Other than that, "Until the End of the World" is one of my favorite U2 songs. And "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" is great in the usual, anthemic sense, primarily because you can hear Edge's guitars. But this is coming from someone who thinks that the debut trifecta of Boy/October/War has never been improved upon, and who most certainly prefers riffage to the sonic gauze of whoever Lanois happens to be muffling at the moment. Anybody who can make U2 sound like Bob Dylan sound like Emmylou Harris can't be chided enough.

Edited by Andy Whitman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I'll be the grump here. I think Achtung Baby is one of the most overrated albums of all time, and probably ranks somewhere slightly below the middle of the pack of U2 albums. I think "One" is maudlin and cliche-ridden, chock full of Bono's most earnest over-emoting. And since I've already gone on record many times in stating my dislike of Lanois' and Eno's production in general, I might as well do it specifically here. Why would you take the most distinctive guitar stylist of the past thirty years and bury him in the mix? Other than that, "Until the End of the World" is one of my favorite U2 songs. And "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" is great in the usual, anthemic sense, primarily because you can hear Edge's guitars. But this is coming from someone who thinks that the debut trifecta of Boy/October/War has never been improved upon, and who most certainly prefers riffage to the sonic gauze of whoever Lanois happens to be muffling at the moment. Anybody who can make U2 sound like Bob Dylan sound like Emmylou Harris can't be chided enough.

I, too, have a lukewarm opinion of ACHTUNG BABY, and share your lack of enthusiasm for Lanois and Eno. And yes, BOY/OCTOBER/WAR is U2 at its best.

Edited by Ryan H.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Achtung was a seminal album in my life, for many reasons. For one, it showed me just how far a band could run on pure imagination: I heard the album-- like everyone else-- with a certain notion of U2 in my head, a notion that they completely shattered. It's one of rock's great reinventions, and that's something that inspires me still.

It was also my introduction to a lot of more electronically-oriented music-- and honestly, I suspect that, without this album, there would be no OK Computer.

But what really makes this a special record for me is this: As some here know, I grew up listening basically to Christian music alone. In high school, albums like The Joshua Tree and War helped lead me out of that box, but it was Achtung Baby that really challenged me, really forced me to confront my own ideas about, well, art and faith: It was the first really "dark" album I spent serious time with, the first album that was explicit in its doubt and its shadows. It took me a while to wrestle with it, but I came away from it a changed listener, and pretty much every album I've loved since then stems out of my love of Achtung Baby.

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great thoughts, Josh. Achtung isn't seminal in exactly the same way, for me, that it is for you (it didn't help me to confront dark thoughts/emotions within a Christian context-- Mark Heard did that for me, and I love him for it!). However, AB is an amazing example of artists who are believers (at least two of them, I think?), out on a wondrous creative (and emotional) limb. For sheer musical creativity and excellence from believers, I compare it, favorably, with perhaps my favorite "Christian" album-- Darn Floor, Big Bite, by Daniel Amos. (Overall, I think Achtung is more consistent though.)

Edited by Christopher Lake
Link to comment
Share on other sites

U2 released Achtung my freshman year of high school, which was when I began seriously listening to music and--more importantly to my sense of self--thinking of myself as a music fan.

I'm glad I was able to listen to it filtered only by how it compared to Nirvana and King's X and REM and whatever else I was listening to at the time. I've done my homework since then, but there's something to be said for recognizing the music we naturally gravitate to. Even then, "Until The End Of The World" was my favorite song and "Even Better Than The Real Thing" was my least favorite.

I love the Lanois sound, but it is probably because I heard it first on Achtung and measured so many albums against it. I admit that reading Dylan's counter-take in Chronicles was fascinating.

Side anecdote: I never went on to become a huge U2 fan. I love Achtung and I found a used Rattle and Hum CD $3 in 1994 (Record Store Guy called me a son of a bitch when I brought that one to the counter), and I still listen to it a bunch. I liked the movie too.

I am the oldest of my siblings and all my high school music buddies were the oldest as well. When I got to college it became a funny coincidence that all my friends who had older brothers were crazy about U2. I've seen that now with my younger brothers, who inherited many of my favorite bands that their friends regard them as dinosaurs.

Edit: I meant the below as a separate post:

Picking up on what Josh said about U2 re-inventing itself: I first started listening to music in 1991 when I was 14. The bands that my favorite bands cited as influences (Beatles, Zeppelin, the Clash, Costello etc) seemed like ancient history. I bought those albums, but I approached them differently than the modern music of the era.

So it seems weird that in 1991, music from 1979 seemed ancient while music from 12 years ago now could fit right into the modern landscape. Or do I just have a bad impression of all this because I was so young at the time?

One more thought: when do we want to start fighting about the ranking of the rest of the Spin list? :D

Edited by J. Henry Waugh
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Picking up on what Josh said about U2 re-inventing itself: I first started listening to music in 1991 when I was 14. The bands that my favorite bands cited as influences (Beatles, Zeppelin, the Clash, Costello etc) seemed like ancient history. I bought those albums, but I approached them differently than the modern music of the era.

So it seems weird that in 1991, music from 1979 seemed ancient while music from 12 years ago now could fit right into the modern landscape. Or do I just have a bad impression of all this because I was so young at the time?

This is a very good point, and probably has a lot to do with how we approach the same album at different points in our lives.

Achtung Baby was U2 album #7 for me. By that point I had alread progressed/regressed through several phases of my reaction to the band, everything from "They're the saviors of rock 'n roll AND they love Jesus too!" to "They're really great, but not everything they do is wonderful" to "Meh." I didn't hear AB as a radical reinvention. That was The Unforgettable Fire, which most people, ironically enough, tend to forget. I didn't view the incorporation of electronica/dance elements as a positive move, mainly because I tend to think that most electronica/dance music sucks. I like guitars, loud guitars. And a backbeat, thank you very much. Because of that, I think "Like a Song", from War, will always be the most transcendent music U2 will ever make.

At any rate, my reaction might have been different if AB was the first U2 album I had heard, and it certainly would have been very different if I was emerging from a Carman cocoon and a whole new world was opening up to me. As it was, the world that I heard sounded jaded and muffled. It still pretty much strikes me that way. The overwhelmingly positive reaction to this album still baffles me. But that's me. I think their earlier albums are much better. I even think a couple of the later albums are better. #1 album of the past 25 years? Not even in the Top 5,000.

Edited by Andy Whitman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

But this is coming from someone who thinks that the debut trifecta of Boy/October/War has never been improved upon, and who most certainly prefers riffage to the sonic gauze of whoever Lanois happens to be muffling at the moment.
Oh, thank God I'm not alone.

My first impression of Achtungwas blech! I warmed up to it over time and certain songs are undeniably good/great. I think End of the World stands as one of the best songs they've ever written and One is chessy, but can still deliver a punch. The production on the album has not stood the test of time. Some of their Berlin-inspired disco sounds like the music from a bank commercial, today. Joshua Tree has fared much better over the years and still has legs.

But War is a monster record. The sound of that album will never be cheddar... well, with the exception of Refugee. It's loud, it's passionate, it's raw and despite some slapback echo, it is remarkably free of the Effects Wall that trapped the Edge in subsequent 90's albums.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For whatever reason, I've been on a big Achtung Baby kick lately, so it feels only appropriate to see this thread pop up.

I'm somewhere between Andy and Josh on the Achtung Baby spectrum (though closer to Josh's end). On the one hand, I think that if U2 had called it quits after Boy, October, and War, we'd still be hailing them as one of the greatest bands of all time. And I also think that The Unforgettable Fire gets overlooked by many folks as one of the most important albums in U2's oeuvre (which is why I wrote about it for Josh's "With a Shout: Celebrating U2" article). In fact, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, I'd probably pick any of those albums over The Joshua Tree if I were about to be stranded on a desert island.

OTOH, Achtung Baby was the first U2 album that I recall listening to in its entirety. Sure, I'd heard "With Or Without You" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" plenty of times before that, but I don't think I'd listened to an entire U2 album before Achtung Baby. And while I thought it was cool at the time -- and it made me a rabid fan driven to get, and love, all of their other albums -- my appreciation has only grown since then (though I no longer consider myself a rabid fan).

The inclusion of dance and electronica facets is seamless and never gimmicky, and might be the best I've ever heard from any band (Radiohead included). The production of Eno and Lanois doesn't feel heavyhanded to me, and in fact, as I listen to tracks like "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways", I hear The Edge doing things he's never done before or since, and it's magnificent. It's such a dense album, especially on headphones, and yet it never feels ponderous or unbalanced. It skips all over the place stylistically -- blues ("One"), psychedelia ("The Fly", "Mysterious Ways"), cold David Bowie-esque electronica ("Acrobat", "Love is Blindness") * -- but never feels schizophrenic or unfocused. For my money, it's the sound of a band pushing themselves to heights they didn't even know existed 5 years prior, and subsequently, they've been in the shadows of those heights ever since.

* - FWIW, these last two tracks on Achtung Baby are the ones that I find most interesting and compelling. They're obviously U2 songs, but they sound like they were made by a U2 from some parallel universe where Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were more influential than the Beatles and Dylan. I'd love to hear the band do an entire album of similar material, but then again, I love almost anything that smacks of Bowie's Low.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They're obviously U2 songs, but they sound like they were made by a U2 from some parallel universe where Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were more influential than the Beatles and Dylan.

Ah man, time to dig this out again. What a great parallel universe.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They're obviously U2 songs, but they sound like they were made by a U2 from some parallel universe where Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were more influential than the Beatles and Dylan.

Ah man, time to dig this out again. What a great parallel universe.

I certainly enjoy my visits there.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joshua Tree was my first U2 album, and by the time Achtung Baby came out I had already pretty much memorized their back catalog. I agree with what someone said earlier, that Unforgettable Fire was their first big reinvention, but that was primarily in sonic terms. Achtung Baby took not only their sound but also their entire image and turned it on its head. Instead of world-weary pilgirms wandering in the desert, they became leather-clad rock gods dancing with transvestites. (And in the case of the One video, they were transvestites!) This shocking makeover probably threw a lot of their Christian fans for a loop (me included), but at the same time the lyrics took on an even deeper spirituality.

I love Achtung Baby for kicking off the 90s U2, which I believe remains their best decade overall (with no disrespect to the first three albums, which, like almost everyone else here, I adore). The journey from Achtung Baby to Zooropa to Passengers to Pop is positively thrilling to me, although I could do without the Village People inspired videos of Pop. :)

Re: "the Lanois sound"... I know what everyone means when they say that, but I don't think Achtung Baby is a victim of this. I don't think Lanois had developed his particular sound to the point of being annoying by the time AB was released. Some of Lanois' earlier productions have a definite identity to them, but I don't think it could yet be called "the Lanois sound." Would anyone argue that Joshua Tree was ruined by "the Lanois sound?" What about Peter Gabriel's "So?" I don't think Lanois overshadows projects like those. I think the really intrusive, murky sound starts to emerge around the time of the Sling Blade soundtrack and Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball. FWIW.

Oh, one more thing about Achtung Baby... it spawned U2's best b-side and one of my favorite U2 songs ever, LADY WITH THE SPINNING HEAD (UV1). Total awesomeness right there.

Edited by morgan1098
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

U2′s ‘Achtung Baby’ box set: 6 CDs, 4 DVDs with unreleased songs, Bono’s fly shades

Five versions, all released on 10/31:

1.) Uber Deluxe Edition

- Limited, numbered set in a magnetic puzzled-tiled box

- 6 CDs, including Achtung Baby, Zooropa, B-sides and “re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions”

- 4 DVDs, including the previously released “ZOO TV: Live From Sydney,” the new “From the Sky Down” doc, all of the Achtung Baby videos and “bonus material”

- 5 clear 7-inch vinyl singles in their original vinyl sleeve (although the titles aren’t specified, they’re presumably “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”)

- 16 art prints taken from the original album sleeve

- 84-page hardback book

- 1 copy of Propaganda fan-club magazine

- 4 badges

- 1 sticker sheet

- 1 pair of Bono’s trademark “The Fly” sunglasses

2.) Super Deluxe Edition

- 6 CDs, including Achtung Baby, Zooropa, B-sides and “re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions”

- 4 DVDs, including the previously released “ZOO TV: Live From Sydney,” the new “From the Sky Down” doc, all of the Achtung Baby videos and “bonus material”

- 92-page hardback book

- 16 art prints in a wallet

3.) Vinyl Box Set

- 4LPs, including two pressed on translucent blue vinyl containing remixes and B-sides

- 16-page booklet

4.) Deluxe Edition

- 2CD set featuring the original album plus B-sides and “rarities”

5.) Standard CD

- 1CD edition featuring just the original album

Start saving now, kiddies...

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I pulled this out this past weekend, after having not listened to it in almost a decade. Some of the singles are too much (as Andy mentioned, "One" stands out, as does "Mysterious Ways"). But some of the deeper cuts really make the album: "Until the End of the World," "The Fly," "Ultraviolet" and "Acrobat" all knock my socks off. Really! My socks are on the floor right now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you're right about the deep cuts, Jason; it's the last three songs that really make it for me, and I would almost say that's as good a three-song stretch as this band ever recorded. (But then, I'm also tempted to say that about the opening trifecta on Pop, so what do I know?)

Partner in Cahoots

www.cahootsmag.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I said earlier, I would love to hear U2 record an album's worth of material in the vein of "Acrobat" and "Love Is Blindness". Those are some of the most compelling tracks -- sonically, at least -- in U2's entire catalog.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the "not final" track list... some intriguing stuff on here (dance remixes of "One"?). Disc 6 is apparently early versions/demos of songs for the WHOLE ALBUM. Zooropa gets the shaft a little bit, but overall this is a lot of good stuff...

CD1 - Achtung Baby

01. Zoo Station

02. Even Better Than The Real Thing

03. One

04. Until The End Of The World

05. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

06. So Cruel

07. The Fly

08. Mysterious Ways

09. Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World

10. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)

11. Acrobat

12. Love Is Blindness

CD2 - Zooropa

01. Zooropa

02. Babyface

03. Numb (The Edge)

04. Lemon

05. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

06. Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car

07. Some Days Are Better Than Others

08. The First Time

09. Dirty Day (Bono and The Edge)

10. The Wanderer

CD3 - Uber Remixes

01. Night and Day (Steel string remix)

02. Real Thing (Perfecto Mix)

03. Mysterious Ways (Solar Plexus Extended Club Mix)

04. Lemon (Perfecto Mix)

05. Can’t help falling in love (Triple peaks Remix)

06. Lady with the spinning head (extended Dance remix)

07. Real Thing (V16 Exit Wound Remix)

08. Mysterious Ways (Ultimatum Mix)

09. The Lounge fly mix

10. Mysterious Ways (The Perfecto Remix)

11. One (Apollo 440) – Mix Master [s-109]

CD4 - Unter Remixes

01. Mysterious Ways (Tabla Motown Remix)

02. Mysterious Ways (Appollo 440 Magic Hour Remix)

03. Can’t help Falling in Love (Mystery Train Dub)

04. One (Apollo 440) – Ambient Master [s-109]

05. Lemon (Momo’s Reprise)

06. Salome (Zooromancer Remix)

07. Real Thing (Trance Mix)

08. Numb (Gimme Some More Dignity Mix)

09. Mysterious Ways (Solar Plexus Magic hour Remix)

10. Numb (The Soul Assassins Mix)

11. Real Thing (Apollo 440 Stealth Sonic Remix)

CD5 - B-sides and Bonus Tracks

01. Lady with the spinning head (UV1)

02. Blow Your House – Analogue Mix Bono Edit 190711

03. Salome

04. Even Better Than the Real Thing (Single)

05. Satelite of love

06. Wild Horses (Temple Bar Remix)

07. Heaven And Hell – In Truth Mix 211711

08. Oh Berlin – Analogue Mix 1 190711 (needs an edit)

09. Near the Island (instr) Night train from Rostock.

10. Down All The Days (Vsn 1) [CD#4/07] (needs edits)

11. Paint it black

12. Fortunate Son

13. Alex Descends into Hell for a bottle of Milk/Korova

14. Where did it all go wrong

15. Everybody loves a winner edit between take 2+3

16. Real Thing (Fish out of water mix)

CD6 - “Baby” Actung Baby

01. “Baby” Zoo Station

02. “Baby” Even Better Than The Real Thing

03. “Baby” One

04. “Baby” Until The End Of The World

05. “Baby” Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

06. “Baby” So Cruel

07. “Baby” The Fly

08. “Baby” Mysterious Ways

09. “Baby” Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World

10. “Baby” Ultra Violet (Light My Way)

11. “Baby” Acrobat

12. “Baby” Love Is Blindness

DVD

01. From The Sky Down – a documentary

02. Videos

03. Bonus Material

04. ZooTV Live From Sydney – the concert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Thom Jurek

U2′s ‘Achtung Baby’ box set: 6 CDs, 4 DVDs with unreleased songs, Bono’s fly shades

Five versions, all released on 10/31:

1.) Uber Deluxe Edition

- Limited, numbered set in a magnetic puzzled-tiled box

- 6 CDs, including Achtung Baby, Zooropa, B-sides and “re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions”

- 4 DVDs, including the previously released “ZOO TV: Live From Sydney,” the new “From the Sky Down” doc, all of the Achtung Baby videos and “bonus material”

- 5 clear 7-inch vinyl singles in their original vinyl sleeve (although the titles aren’t specified, they’re presumably “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”)

- 16 art prints taken from the original album sleeve

- 84-page hardback book

- 1 copy of Propaganda fan-club magazine

- 4 badges

- 1 sticker sheet

- 1 pair of Bono’s trademark “The Fly” sunglasses

2.) Super Deluxe Edition

- 6 CDs, including Achtung Baby, Zooropa, B-sides and “re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions”

- 4 DVDs, including the previously released “ZOO TV: Live From Sydney,” the new “From the Sky Down” doc, all of the Achtung Baby videos and “bonus material”

- 92-page hardback book

- 16 art prints in a wallet

3.) Vinyl Box Set

- 4LPs, including two pressed on translucent blue vinyl containing remixes and B-sides

- 16-page booklet

4.) Deluxe Edition

- 2CD set featuring the original album plus B-sides and “rarities”

5.) Standard CD

- 1CD edition featuring just the original album

Start saving now, kiddies...

Don't they have enough money?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fact that this set includes a replica of Bono's glasses reminds me of a comment I read in Q magazine, during my trip through England back in the '90s, which said something along the lines of, "Americans have been taken in by all this -- 'Look! It's The Fly!' -- whereas to we Brits it's just Bono in funny glasses."

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...