U2, Album By Album: 1991-2009
“Achtung Baby” (1991)
Berlin, Germany is the place where Eno helped David Bowie commune with desolation on “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger,” and 15 years later, Eno immersed U2 in icy European rhythms and imagery for “Achtung Baby,” one of the most successful reinventions in rock history and arguably the band’s masterwork. Released in November 1991, “Achtung Baby” featured U2 as post-modern sonic adventurers armed with some of their best songs, including “One,” “Mysterious Ways,” and the Judas Iscariot anthem “Until the End of the World.” But it is designed for start-to-finish listening where hidden gems such as the gorgeous “So Cruel” and the beautifully propulsive “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” get a fair shake next to the recognized classics on this essential album.
Often placed in the shadow of “Achtung Baby,” 1993′s “Zooropa” has even sharper kraut-rock edges than its predecessor — a U2 song as cold and bracing as The Edge’s robotic “Numb” was unimaginable just a few years before. This was U2′s transformation made complete: the nightmarish trust-fund anthem “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car” is all clangs, clanks and confused sensuality, and “Dirty Day” is among the band’s darkest visions fully realized. But there are moments of great beauty such as “Stay (Faraway, So Close),” “Lemon,” and the hypnotic “The Wanderer,” featuring Johnny Cash on lead vocal before Rick Rubin officially ushered in the Man in Black’s comeback.
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