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smoke & mirrors
on 11 October 2011
U2`s best albums `The Unforgettable Fire & The Joshua Tree ` are indisputably great but i think `Achtung Baby` is a confused, overreaching record that impresses with its dynamic musical range but somehow isn`t fully convincing. I heard the bootleg album sessions and it was obvious the band were in disarray. It`s only through enormous reworkings & the sheer skill of the producers Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois that they managed to mould the material into a cohesive whole.
The opening track is the rather dreary industrial grinder `Zoo station` which underneath the bangs & crashes is standard U2 fare. Track 2 ` Even better than the real thing` is much better with its loose, fluid groove. Next comes `One` which is one of the most lauded songs of recent years. Although It`s undeniably a nice song with a universal message it`s fatally hampered by lines such as " Did i ask too much, more than a lot ! " After that is `Until the end of the world` which tells the story of Jesus` betrayal in the context of a gaudy, trashy rock song. Although it`s apparently what Bono & co were aiming for and musically terrific it`s rather vulgar & lacks the poise & elegance of many of their other religion themed songs. Next song up ` Who`s gonna ride your wild horses` is a prime example of what`s wrong with this record. By all accounts it`s actually two songs that were bolted together and it shows. Bono lapses into rock n` roll cliche with lines like ` don`t turn around, don`t you look back`. Finishing side one is `So Cruel` which to me is the most fully realised song on the record. Beautifully sung and played & lyrically free of clunkers apart from.. " Between the horses of love and lust we are trampled underfoot " you can almost imagine Scott Walker singing it. That`s the first side then & despite my reservations so far so good. However it`s the rest of the albums lack of great songs which makes me wonder why as a whole it`s considered a classic. Starting with the turgid & contrived ` Fly` and the funky but mechanical ` Mysterious Ways` the remaining tracks sorely lack the musical spark of side one. I also don`t think the band are suited to the whole ` dark & decadent` vibe as that`s not the kind of people they are or the lives they lead. Because of this i feel that the likes of the last track `Love is blindness` has a slightly camp, self concious theatricality.
Personally i would recommend their following album, 1994`s `Zooropa` over this as it`s a more relaxed, freeflowing experimental record which covers a broader emotional spectrum & even finds room for some humour.