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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 26 July 2004
Quite why this was so derided on its initial release (and still, to some extent, today!) is beyond me. This was U2 sounding like the biggest band in the world, eons away from the tired stadium act of the Rattle & Hum LP/concert-film/clothing-range/etc, which postured towards trad-Americana, but with none of the soul (instead, sounding hollow and conceited)... this, on the other hand, was U2 sounding fresh and exciting, referencing the music of the time, with acts like Disposable Heroes, the Happy Mondays and My Bloody Valentine, not to mention the edgy music being produced by their post-punk peers, with bands like Talk Talk and Depeche Mode both producing self-consciously weird albums with Laughing Stock and Violator, respectively.
So, we had U2 doing likewise with the landmark Achtung Baby, which remains their greatest album... though, for all intensive purposes, it was still the Joshua Tree, just with more layered and modernised production. Zooropa on the other hand is the first step towards the alien-U2 landscape that would be further developed on the Original Soundtracks album; a record so 'out-there' they had to release it under a different name (The Passengers). This was a band that had little in common with the group that had released such earnest, political, new-wave stuff like Bullet in the Blue Sky, I Will Follow and Sunday Bloody Sunday, & instead, produced music that was self-aware, ultra-post modern and seemed to be taking the p*ss out of the whole idea of U2 as a franchise (" all that you can be"). Understandably, the fans and critics of the time wrote the whole thing off as an arty-self-indulgent exercise, criticising U2's decision to experiment with dance rhythms and techno production and generally, missing the point of the whole endeavour, entirely.
It seems stupid to think of this now, with Zooropa prefiguring Radiohead's similarly elating trek into the realms of ambient, experimentation, with albums like Kid & Amnesiac... though, there too, we saw a public furore, all because music critics seem to think all modern rock bands should sound like Coldplay & Keane. Yawn!! Still, U2 were pushing the boundaries in 1993 and the world seemed a better place. Don't believe me? Just sit back and pop this record on and force yourself to put aside all reservations you have about U2 doing anything other than All That You Can't Leave Behind, & just listen. Then, when it's all over, go back to the start and listen again. This is intoxicating stuff, filled with tight rhythms, bold instrumentation and soaring lyrics. The production too, from Flood, Eno & the Edge is great, sounding positively futuristic for 1993 standards, and still holds up exceptionally well, over a decade on.
Listen to the opening of Zooropa to see what I mean; with the three producers creating a real Dark Side of the Moon moment, with distorted sound-scapes, white noise, breaks from commercials and a rising bass. It picks up where Achtung Baby left off, with emotional lyrics fusing with advertising slogans and really shows U2 as still, perhaps the most pretentious band in the world, but certainly having fun with it. Babyface continues this with the sound of the opening, as beautiful as any U2 ballad that came before, with Bono's vocals fitting the instrumentation perfectly, before the whole things shifts and pulsating keyboards and Adam Clayton's bass emerges, as the chorus "babyface, babyface, slow down child... let me untie your lace" becomes a sort of mantra. Numb was the single, and takes off around a dirty-guitar loop, with lots of synthesised back-beats devised by Eno going on around it. The Edge even raps over it, in a way that seems like a joke, until Bono's fat lady, soul-singer backing vocals come in... (suggesting Lou Reed's Satellite of Love, which is incidentally, back in the charts with a disco beat!).
Speaking of which, Lemon is post-industrial, loved-up U2 techno soul in all it's neon glory, with the band creating a really funky back-beat for Bono to sing nonsense lyrics over the top of. At almost seven minutes, it remains the album's centre piece, and is a great deal of fun if you can buy into Bono's disconcerting vocals, sounding almost like Van Morrisson on classic track, Linden Arden Stole the Highlights. It's all fairly throwaway and has a touch of the novelty about it, until the Edge and Eno come in on backing vocals and breathe the refrain "man paints a picture... a moving picture, through the light projected he can see himself up close" which is one of those beautiful, transcending musical moments that are so very rare in our days of homogenised pop. The next track, Stay (Faraway, So Close), was used in Wim Wenders' sequel to his angels film, the Wings of Desire, and sound absolutely stunning... up there with other great U2 ballads like With or Without You, One and If God Should Send his Angels. It's probably my favourite U2 song of all time, with Bono's most heartbreaking lyrics ("stay... with the demons that you drowned, stay... with the spirit that you found, stay... and the night would be enough...").
The following tracks all continue the same formula, being both edgy and experimental, but also conforming to that trademark U2 emotion and intensity. Daddy's Gonn'a Pay for Your Crashed Car finds the group sampling the fanfare from Lenin's Favourite Songs and a loop from MC900 ft Jesus, which is quite audacious, whilst The First Time is more of that bleak, almost spoken-word stuff. However, the band leave the most bizarre construction till last, with closing track The Wanderer, which could have been a gay disco anthem... which is shocking really, trying to imagine the punters at the G-A-Y shaking it to the dulcet tones of the late, great Johnny Cash! Still, that said, Bono's infamous backing-vocals don't help matters much, fusing, as they do, with an electronic-muzak take on an old country and western theme, which tows the line between sublime genius and high camp. It's all great fun though, and is followed by a brief silence, then a short burst of ambient white noise (very Motion Picture Soundtrack!), which brings the record to a close in a way that could just about be described as perfect.
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on 25 March 2003
Zooropa, in my opinion, is an album that marks an interesting milestone in U2's career. It seems as though by 1993 they'd grown tired of their existing successful 'straight-rock' formula and wanted to experiment and diversify with some new and more modern and different ideas.
Zooropa is a mixture between conventional U2 instrumentals and dance/synth effects. With the exception of a few, more conventional, ballad style tracks that wouldn't have been out of place on Achtung Baby (Stay (Faraway, So Close!)), this album is essentially a chillout album complete with weird synthesized sounds and vocals.
This formula works but is so fundamentally different to U2 of old that it is hard to know quite how to react to it. My own impression is that though this album is very easy to listen to, it is better to listen to when you want music to chillout to. I can't see myself playing it as regularly as U2's earlier material and ATYCLB - dance music is not one of my favourite musical genres but it is that genre to which Zooropa essentially belongs.
Track highlights include Lemon, Dirty, and the two ballads of the album - the aforementioned Stay (Faraway, So Close!), and the haunting finale, The Wanderer.
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on 14 May 2003
I purchased Zooropa from Amazon as it was the last CD needed to complete my U2 collection, and I wasn`t disappointed and neither will you be if you are a true U2 fan.
Zooropa,Babyface,Lemon and Stay!(Faraway, so close) are all strong tracks with a typical U2 sound mixed with a dash of techno, but the strongest track for me is Numb with Edge`s rapping mixing superbly with the drumbeats and guitar line.
Tracks 6-10 are probably not as strong as the first 5, but The First Time is another belter.
My only regret is I never bought it in 1993.
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This is one of three U2 albums that I own and I sometimes wonder if Bono (a.k.a. (the self-appointed) "God") and company actually feature on it - it is so far removed from their over earnest and flag waving sound of the 80s and it makes their widely documented reinvention on 'Achtung Baby' appear tame in comparison. For 51 minutes and 16 seconds, they sound like a band reborn. They loosen-up and God, for the most part, steps down from his pulpit and the result is a five star classic.

Originally conceived as a stop gap EP, the sessions went so well that this album resulted. Rush released with minimal fanfare in the summer of 1993 this is a U2 album for non U2 fans, even more so than the aforementioned 'Achtung Baby'. For the most part The Edge's traditional guitar sound takes a back seat and the band and their producers (Brian Eno and Mark "Flood" Ellis) plug in the synths and EXPERIMENT. Opener 'Zooropa' is an epic song of three parts - after a two minute faded-in intro, the songs kicks in at a mid tempo pace and then somersaults at the 4 minute mark and veers off in a totally different direction. God turns in a fine falsetto vocal delivery on 'Lemon' as the synths and keyboards are used to good effect with some cool beats - its U2, but not as you know them. Even the one song that sounds most like U2, 'Stay (Faraway, So Close!)', is ridiculously sublime and God sings it perfectly. Elsewhere there are plenty of electronic beats and some great bass (particularly on 'Some Days Are Better Than Others') and Johnny Cash puts in a solid vocal performance on album closer 'The Wanderer' (a song that U2 wrote and then realised that only Johnny Cash was qualified to sing it). Heady stuff indeed.

In summary this album was, by U2's standards, recorded at a rapid pace and probably for that reason more then any other it sounds like nothing they've recorded before or since. Musically they followed a similar route on the follow-up 'Pop' but it lacked the originality and spontaneity found here.
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on 8 April 2013
Issued after 'Achtung Baby', 'Zooropa' had something to live up to. It doesn't quite do that, bur that's not to say that it's a bad album.

In fact, the first half is as good as anything, U2 ever did. The title track, 'Numb' (with The Edge on vocals), Lemon and Stay (Faraway, So Close) all stand out.

Unfortunately, the second half loses momentum, although it has some interesting elements such as the collaboration with Johnny Cash on 'The Wanderer'. But as a whole, it is still a worthy addition to the catalogue and a more adventurous and interesting album than most of the band's post-'Zooropa' output.
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on 20 July 2016
This album to me is a big bonus, it was only going to be an e.p. as reported in music press late 1992 but things went well and they had enough for full album which was a brave move considering the massive stadium tour they had sold out for summer 1993 (4 nights @ wembley stadium etc), 23 years on it's still sound fresh, zooropa, stay,lemon, dirty day are standouts for me and little gem babyface, U2 pushing the boundries to the limit, number 1 in uk/usa etc, 8 Million sales to date! WOW!!
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on 29 August 2016
Only bought it to get Johnny Cash "Wanderer " cause its a classic song,don't like any of u2's material on this album,although I do own,WAR! UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, UNFORGETTABLE FIRE,BOY, & THE JOSUHA TREE, and they're all brilliant.
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on 6 July 2009
I would agree with the reviewers here who suggest this is an album that never got it's due. Before cult bands like Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie were supposedly subverting expectations by slipping a single krautrock inspired track onto their albums, here were U2, the biggest band in the world, filling an entire record with synth lines, motorik rhythms and general Euro tomfoolerly. Before Radiohead gained plaudits for their electro-epiphany Kid A, U2 were there first, trading rock traditionalism for electronic music with at least as much skill.

The other striking inversion here is in the lyrical subject matter, which includes depression, domestic violence and substance abuse. Gone is any didacticism and the moral certainties of the band's liberal political worldview. Here Bono immerses himself in moral grey areas; in a world characterised by fear and obsession; where communism and capitalism are equally invasive forces and best way to withdraw is to numb yourself with drugs and television. Stern as this sounds, Bono delivers much of it with a knowing wink; Zooropa is probably the band`s funniest album. Where Hewson was once passionately earnest, here he is sly, deliberately playing with perceptions of himself and the band.

At least two of U2's greatest moments are present in the heavenly soul groove of Lemon and the heartbreaking epic Stay. There are also ample delights in the form of Babyface's contrasting twinkling melodies and darkly obsessive lyrics; Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car's thunderous percussion and unsparing gaze; and The First Time's delicate, hymnal beauty. Numb is as if Radiohead had bothered to set Fitter, Happier to a killer tune, and the moment during the title track when the band switch from conveyer belt rhythms and consumerist slogans to Edge's soaring guitar and Bono's impassioned pleas to `dream out loud' is nothing short of thrilling.
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on 15 July 2015
Released and produced almost as an afterthought. This is U2 at their most stark. Bono and co put aside their rock stadium gods status and came up with this wonderful gem. Listen to it now after 22 years after its release and just marvel at how this album has not aged. Stay(faraway so close?) is perhaps the finest ever U2 song. Almost as good as Achung Baby!. Now that is a complement!!!!!
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on 6 May 2008
As the 90s progressed U2 continuously tried to experiment and change their style as much as possible, so much so that it's hard to believe that in just 10 short years they had gone from simple Post-Punk to the experimental sonic soundscapes that make up Zooropa.
The album opens with "Zooropa", with its piano long intro and extensive sampling of commercials, that lets the listener immediately know U2 have not gone back to their roots and have continued on down the path which they started on with Achtung Baby. Once the guitar kicks in the song quickly becomes brilliant, and Bono even decides to reuse the phrase "Dream Out Loud" which was already used in "Acrobat" and would again be used in "Always", Bono sure does like to repeat himself...

The album continues with the tale of obsession that is "Babyface", the monotonous "Numb" and the indulgent "Lemon" all which although being good songs fail to reach any level of greatness. However, this is quickly made up for by what could easily be the best song of U2's entire career; "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)", in short the song is simply perfect, and could also possibly showcase Bono's best vocal performance ever recorded. The biggest letdown on the album however is "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" although not a bad song, it just feels so unworthy of being the song to follow up "Stay" especially when every other song on the album is better than it.

The beautiful "The First Time" and the epic "The Wanderer" (Which makes perfect use of Johnny Cash's guest vocal, so much so that's it's impossible to imagine Bono ever singing it and actually doing it proper justice) both rank up with the best songs of the album and wouldn't be misplaced on any best-of U2 collection, especially "The Wanderer" which nearly reaches the standard set by "Stay", but unfortunately however seems to be completely overlooked by U2 fans in general, mainly due to the fact that it is not sung by Bono.

Overall, Zooropa comes off as an imperfect album, with a lot of highs and a couple of lows ("Daddy's Gonna Pay..." brings the album down the most), still it makes a great listen (especially at night or in winter when the sun sets early) and tracks such as "Stay" and "The Wanderer" alone are worth the album price.
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