Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #63 U2 – Achtung Baby

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

At number 63 is the seventh album by Irish U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno and was released on 18 November 1991.

Their 1988 release, Rattle and Hum, had been criticised for its pedestrian  feel, so the band incorporated new influences from alt rock and electronic dance music into the new album. This album saw a divided group however and the recording was far from happy or smooth.

I have to admit that I have never got U2. I appreciate the odd song, but have struggled to enjoy the music despite, on paper, being the sort of thing I should like. The confidence of the band members can often come across as smug, which isn’t really their fault of course!

The opener Zoo Station is a modern take on a 60’s single and seems to merely set the scene for what is to follow.  It’s not a strong song, unlike the following two. Even Better Than the Real Thing has the sound and hooks that make it a great driving track. One is a classic of course, covered many times and avoids the sound effects and experimentation of many of the other songs on the album. You can almost hear the crowd singing along as it builds and the strings come in.

Until the End of the World sounds like a Bowie outtake and seems to drift along without doing anything. I find the bland Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses a bit annoying. The vocals and lumbering arrangement are boring despite the chorus.

So Cruel is just boring and forgettable. The album comes back to life with the experimental and odd The Fly and Mysterious Ways which has an edgy guitar despite the twee lyrics.

Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World and Ultraviolet (Light My Way) are just built on their titles and offer nothing more. In fact, the last two songs, Acrobat and Love Is Blindness, do nothing for me to close an album that had such good reviews.

I listened to the album twice and I felt bored most of the time. Was I missing something?

You can say that there is a consistency in the guitar sound, but too much of a reliance on one particular sound. Despite Brian Eno being involved on most of the songs, I don’t hear that influence as much as I would like. There are far too many fillers and as we know they wrote most of the music as a group jamming, it often sounds unstructured and any inspiration is flattened out to appeal to a group consensus.  Sorry U2, you’ve still not won me over.

My rating: 5/10

Standout tracks: Even Better Than the Real Thing, One

Listen to the album here.

See the Top 100 here.

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This entry was posted on August 19, 2015 by in music and tagged , , .

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