INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Irish Times OCTOBER 28, 2011 - by Tony Clayton-Lea
U2: ACHTUNG BABY
Words to embrace: industrial, sexy, trashy. Words to ditch: righteous, earnest, polite. Strong: a song that makes you think your loudspeakers are broken. Weak: a song that reminds you of U2.
As Bono said from the stage of The Point in December 1989 (following the perceived disaster that was Rattle And Hum), it's time to dream it all up again. From November 1990 to March 1991, U2 and producers Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and Flood decamped to Berlin's Hansa Studios, from where they wrought, often bitterly, the batch of songs that would save their career.
The arguments arrived due to the off-centre new ideas being lobbed back and forth by Bono, guitarist Edge and the Lanois/Eno axis, with drummer Larry Mullen Jr and bass player Adam Clayton initially indifferent to the new songs - particularly the noise collages of opening track Zoo Station, the harsh metallic funk/rock of The Fly, and Bono's change of modus operandi in lyric writing.
Achtung Baby is presented on its twentieth birthday in a variety of editions, ranging in price from takeaway chips to room service Kristal. (What we have for review here is the two-CD Deluxe Edition, which includes the remastered original album along with a fourteen-song B-Sides And Bonus Tracks disc.)
It is, largely, an album of beginnings, revision and evolvement: Bono's daughter was born in July 1991, while Edge and his wife were going through a separation in the lead-up to the recording. Weariness, elation and unease bled through the music, but slowly, through the fug of confusion and a burgeoning clarity, the songs began to gel.
The result was an artistic triumph, albeit one that U2's more traditionalist fans took some time to fully accept. Yet with songs as stone-cold classic as One, as intoxicating as Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, as conspiratorial as So Cruel, and as acrid as Acrobat, it gradually took hold, and has since, justifiably, been accorded the status of U2's masterpiece.
Re-released at the same time that, we are led to believe, U2 are sitting on at least three albums worth of new material, Achtung Baby was the one where formula was trashed and chemistry fused. Time, surely, to dream it all up again? We'll soon know.