U2 – Achtung Baby

On Demand recently tossed up some classic films in their HD section and I couldn’t be happier. Aside from the greats like “Dirty Harry” and “The Shining,” they also through in some nice cult films like the Mark Hamill vehicle “Corvette Summer.”  F-Yeah!

All they need to do now is make my HBO ON Demand all HD too and I can stop going out at night!

While perusing the listings the other day with my girl, I discovered that she had never seen “Annie Hall”…which I couldn’t allow.  It was a worst travesty than my Ex several years back who had never seen “Jaws.”

There’s a part near the end of the movie though where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are on a plane back from LA and they realize their relationship is over. Woody Allen says “A relationship is like a shark…it has to be constantly moving forward or it dies…and what we have here is a big dead shark.”

And in a way, that sums up music as well.  It has to keep evolving, or it just dies out. Luckily, this was something U2 understand very well, as displayed by their 1991 masterpiece “Achtung Baby.”

Formed in 1976, the group of Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton really weren’t very adept musicians to begin with…but they learned, releasing their first album “Boy” in 1980.  They were and still are a great live act,  but despite some great 80’s albums they had no real commercial success until the release on “The Joshua Tree” in 1987.  I was tempted to go with “Joshua Tree” for this post because it rocks so fucking much…and introduced much of the world to U2’s signature sound.  But for real musical growth and maturity…as well as a truly rocking time it’s hard to beat “Achtung Baby.”

The problem with bands like U2, that have a signature sound, is that they run the risk of becoming stagnant.  I mean, how long can you listen to someone do the same thing?  So in 1990, when the band started working on their seventh album, they were faced with that dilemma.

The eighties were over, music was changing and the tide was shifting…how would they stay relevant?  Bono and The Edge had a plan to incorporate new sounds that the band hadn’t delved into before, like electronic, dance and house.  Larry and Adam weren’t so sure, and didn’t want to loose their “sound.”  The argument nearly broke-up the band.  The tension lasted until one day in the studio, while working on two bridge sections of the song that would become ‘Ultraviolet’, producers Brian Eno (always on point) and Daniel Lanois suggested that he combine them into a new song.

When said song began to merge into the hit single ‘One,’ Larry and Adam saw the light and rallied around the track.  With tighter producion and more personal writing from  the band, “Achtung” was ready to take flight. The band had worked it out, and thank God they did.  The result was a perfect blend of what made U2 so popular in the past with and what would make them more popular in the present.

Now, I’ve always liked U2…and if you’ve ever seem them live, you know that their performances are more than worth whatever you paid to see them.  I saw them on the Zoo TV tour back in the high school and walked away shaking my head at the sheer hugeness of it all.  U2 plays stadium anthems, and there aren’t many bands left that do that still. To  tell the truth, there isn’t a bad track on this record…and living in a world where one good song seems enough to launch a band’s career, that seems like no small feat.


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