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U2's "Achtung Baby" (33 1/3) [Paperback]

Stephen Catanzarite
1.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Nov 2007 33 1/3 (Book 49)
Stephen Catanzarite takes a closer look at what many consider to be U2's most fully formed album through the prisms of politics, spirituality, and culture, illuminating its previously unexplored depths. It features interviews with Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, Flood and more."Thirty-Three and a Third" is a series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the past 40 years. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music.

Product details

  • Paperback: 107 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (15 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826427847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826427847
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.6 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 905,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"If you don't already know about the Christianity present in U2, or have never heard Achtung Baby, find a copy and listen to it. And if you are interested in a thoughtful engagement by a Catholic with the best of modern rock, you might like Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall." -Nathaniel Peters, First Things--Sanford Lakoff

About the Author

Stephen Catanzarite is the managing director of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Centre, near Pittsburgh. He has created a course tracing the history and development of American popular music from Tin Pan Alley to the present - which will be delivered, online, to thousands of high school students across the U.S.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who will read anything about or by U2, i picked this up randomly and found myself surprised but intrigued. It turns out to be quite a work of deep Christian theology - which is I suppose a fair reflection of the way U2 songs provoke thought, inspiration and fervour. And so it might not immediately appeal to someone who is not theologically minded - but i would recommend perseverance (not least because the book is only 100 or so pages).

For the main thesis of the book is that U2's extraordinary album Achtung Baby is a profound exploration of what it means to live in a fallen and lost world, where relationships fracture. Even the most celebrated song on the album ("ONE") fits into this category.

So if you are the sort who doesn't let the words of great albums drift past you, and you want to be stimulated to hear things you might otherwise miss, then this is a fascinating little book. Sometimes Catanzarite's flights of fancy (imagining the conversations and relationships behind the individual characters in the songs) get a bit intrusive which is why i've docked a star. Still - this should enhance your listening - which is the whole point of this series.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Heavy-handed, single-minded, misguided? 12 May 2008
It is my own fault for not reading the first few pages when I bought this book; had I done so, I would not have been surprised by the bizarre angle Catanzarite puts on this album. Quite simply, he goes about bending every aspect of U2, their (seldom publicly discussed) Christian faith and every lyric he can find until it all points towards one great metaphor of The Fall. Far be it for me to point out that this album has more to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall than the fall of man...

If you're up for a didactic, close-minded text laced with messages about how bad humanity is post-fall, be my guest. If you're looking for a reasoned, wide-ranging discussion of Achtung Baby, do yourself a favour and look elsewhere.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Most pretentious book I've ever read 25 Jan 2010
This is by far the most pretentious book I've ever read. A crash course in filosophy, theology, psychology, sociology, quotology, name-droppingology, "why use a simple word if there is one no-one understands"ology. And all that to prove "Achtung Baby" gives the answers to all major questions in life including the Beginning of Life in the Garden of Eden. Lowpoint is the "proof" that the album at one point was meant to be titled "Adam" and Bono's wive gave birth to a baby girl named "Eve".

Best to be avoided.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful. Astoundingly bad. 15 April 2009
This book has nothing to do with U2 and very little to do with Achtung Baby. Rarely do I find that I've bought something that disappoints as much as this book has. I would even suggest that its product description is bordering on refundably inaccurate! If you want to read a short book about the bible, then go ahead and buy this. Catanzarite doesn't realise that no one actually thinks the bible is true any more - we all know it was made up by men, for the purpose of control. Yes, Bono uses biblical imagery on Achtung Baby, and it's beautiful to behold, like the inside of a Cathedral, but it's still the work of man. The author doesn't even get it right on The Fly, totally missing Bono's phone call from the Devil. None of the stunning lyrical or musical depth of Achtung Baby is explored in this book. Missing is the massive change from what U2 had made before, missing is the intense industrial delivery, the incorporation of rhythm loops, the forays into funked-up indie-dance territory and the evocative words and melodies that make it an all time top five album. Where is Berlin? Where is the Middle East in this book? Where is Ireland for that matter? Where is the guitar-story, a man a divorce and a soundscape that could fill a book on its own? Surely, if this record is about anything then it's there in the mission statement that is Zoo Station - `I'm ready to let go of the steering wheel'. Achtung Baby the album is a headlong dive away from U2's past and into a glorious, hedonistic future of irony, lust, intoxication and love. But this book is a waste of paper.
- Steve Wilson, Gods Of Chaos
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best book ever about music and faith 18 Sep 2007
By David F. Watts - Published on Amazon.com
As the author helpfully reminds readers in the very first sentence, this is not a book about U2. If you are only interested in the technical details of how "Achtung Baby" was recorded, perhaps you should go elsewhere. But if you are expecting the sort of "This-is-how-Achtung-Baby-changed-my-life" drivel that often passes for music journalism today, you should also think again.

Stephen Catanzarite has done something almost miraculous: he has written a powerful and uplifting book of meditations about music and faith that shows he is incredibly knowledgeable about both subjects. (That's the miraculous part.) Much has been written about U2's spirituality, most of it centered around the band's early days and Bono's latter-day humanitarian efforts; you have probably read those books already. The subject of what Catanzarite argues is the band's most deceptively faith-based album -- and why it that is so -- has been left almost untouched, until now.

Because of Catanzarite's approach, this volume seems destined to have a long life outside this series. To call it an inspirational book seems the most accurate description; it seems like the sort of thing you might want to have on your nighttable for reading during those dark nights of the soul. I was reminded of the work of the late, great Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a guy who would probably have loved this album (and this book).

I was happy to see that the author makes no apologies for the way his Christianity informs his approach (also a novelty in the world of music writing), but this is not a "Christian" book, per se, nor a book about one man's faith. It is simply a book for everyone who grapples with the big issues; who loves clear, lucid (and often very funny) prose; and who cares about what we are all doing here on Earth, and how to make the best of it - as explained through the lens of one remarkable album, and one remarkable book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 13 Dec 2008
By ichbindane - Published on Amazon.com
First off, I think Achtung Baby is one of the best albums ever recorded. And true to the title, this book was a tremendous and well written meditation on love told through the album. It really did Achtung Baby justice and made me think about it in a way I hadn't before.

And yes, the book is obviously religious, but it doesn't overtly proselytize. Instead its payload is based on the core theme of Christianity, presented in an uncluttered fashion: it is a book on love and the sacrifices necessary to maintain it. The message is universal and it cuts straight to the heart.

Many of the songs on Achtung Baby are about people failing to make these sacrifices. Catanzarite writes about why these failures occur in human relationships. It is a difficult narrative to thread through the album, but, in almost all cases, he really pulls it off.

As the previous reviewer wrote, it is a book that transcends its subject. Even if I had never listened to the album, I still would have enjoyed Catanzarite's book and will likely pick it up again in the future.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Smart and Soulful Contemplation of a Musical Milestone 29 Feb 2008
By Tim Ogline - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just lovely... compelling explorations of each track with the attendant subtleties and nuances of the joy and heartache of love as Stephen Catanzarite leads the reader through this lyrical meditation of "Achtung Baby." Gripping metaphorical character sketches and beautiful turns of phrases as well as poetic discourse on instrumentation make this wonderful little book a worthy companion to this landmark album.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There need to be more books like this 25 Jun 2010
By Mark LaBelle - Published on Amazon.com
I listened to this album a lot before reading this book, so that I could have a good reference point for the text. What I found in this book was a bridge between the world of Christian thought and the world of pop culture. Granted, Catanzarite gives a disclaimer that this is a work of his own interpretation and that there are other approaches that can be considered, but that hardly discredits the work as a whole and the ideas contained within it.

This essay challenges the reader to intellectually reconsider the Christian narrative in light of the human experience, using the story of U2's "Achtung Baby" as the scaffolding in which the ideas develop and grow. As the preface states, it is not a book about a rock album, or the personal beliefs of Bono and his bandmates, but a book about love, sin, and the interplay between these two forces. What Catanzarite has done is use Christianity as something of a literary criticism (or in this case, a musical criticism), much like one could do with Marxism or Feminism. He gives the reader (and the listener) an example of a Christian point of view and its effect on the way one experiences pop culture. The idea itself is a good one, and it only gets better from there.

In a time when Christian music is stuck between bubble gum pop tunes and tired old church hymns, in a time when the secular world and the church seem to only think of ways to one-up each other, Catanzarite's meditation on "Achtung Baby" is a breath of fresh air. Pair it with "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller, and you will have a brand new understanding of Christian thought.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of 33-1/3 29 Jun 2009
By Harts - Published on Amazon.com
I have long felt that U2's `Achtung Baby' was their most explicitly Christian album but could never say exactly why. Thanks to Catanzarite and this exciting, intelligent and well-written book, I can now articulate what I have long felt. U2 is a group that has always explored the highs and lows of humanity. On "Achtung Baby," they dug deep into the lows in a way that was breathtaking and engaging. You don't have to agree with all of Catanzarite's interpretations to understand that he has paid the band and its work a glorious tribute - the most intelligent and best-written book in the 33-1/3 series. Catanzarite writes with a poet's flair and understanding and is clearly at home in both the sacred and the profane. Only those with a pronounced bias against the more Christian aspects of U2's work (which to anyone, except those angry anti-Christians, are very hard to ignore) can dismiss this truly extraordinary little book.
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