148. Achtung Baby – U2

ACHTUNG BABY (1991)

U2

Lyrics the deal with sex, love, pain, loss, hate and forgiveness. All in one song.

After the career defining “Joshua Tree” and the critically questionable “Rattle and Hum,” U2 returned with a new sound, new direction and new fervor that continue their ascendancy into rock god status. Combining the punk rock sensibilities of Buy, the unbridled passion of “War” and a new found bitter sarcasm with electronic, alternative and European house music the band redefined the world of music…again.

What should not be lost amongst the trappings of the electronic experiments (which would continue and expand on the following release) are several brilliant rock songs and some of Bono’s most poignant and transparent lyrics. Where previous albums focused on the political landscape and social agendas, AB is more aching, personal and troubling. Bono’s response to seeing his dear friend The edge go through a separation impressed the content and personal nature of the album.

One of the sheer delights of Bono’s writings is his uncanny ability to take feelings and events and expand their natural or exclusive potential to make them universal. Bono also take an event and make the song actually point to a totally different universal reality. “One” was originally inspired by the wall being torn down in Germany and the struggle and beauty of the German reunification. But that singular event and its aftermath are expanded to create a message greater than the parts of the inspiration.

Where many critics of CCM (especially from those within int eh charge) is the charge that one cannot tell if the subject of the song is Jesus or the artists girlfriend with easily interchangeable possibilities. Bono goes beyond that to include both blatant spiritual and sexual themes in the same verse. Of course one could argue that the authors of scriptural poetry did the same thing.

I have always believe Achtung Baby is best listened to in its entirety and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Joshua Tree is an amazing album filled with several amazing songs while AB is an amazing album filled with an entire collection of great songs. Outside of “One” there are no real U2 classics here, but when one listens to the album as a whole it is simply spectacular.

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  1. Tim
    February 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    “Outside of ‘One’ there are no real U2 classics here”…

    Holy CRAP, man! Have you forgotten the emotional roller-coaster that is “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”???

    That song has some of the most painful, evocative lyrics I’ve heard. And the music perfectly compliments the mood weaved throughout – you truly feel trapped yet at the same time able to feel the vivid descriptors of rain, sand, winds, river, and again, pain.

    A couple other notes – I wasn’t listening to radio when this song came out so I only knew it in context of the record, not it being shoved down my throat. And I believe that the longer version (YouTube link past lyrics below) has more emotional strength that the shorter one.

    Am I the only one who doesn’t fall completely into this song?

    “You’re dangerous ’cause you’re honest
    You’re dangerous – you don’t know what you want
    Well you left my heart empty as a vacant lot
    For any spirit to haunt

    Hey hey sha la la
    Hey hey

    You’re an accident waiting to happen
    You’re a piece of glass left in a beach
    Well, you tell me things I know you’re not supposed to
    Then you leave me just out of reach

    Hey hey sha la la
    Hey hey sha la la

    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna drown in your blue sea?
    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna fall at the foot of thee?

    Well you stole it ’cause I needed the cash
    And you killed it ’cause I wanted revenge
    Well you lied to me ’cause I asked you to
    Baby, can we still be friends?

    Hey hey sha la la
    Hey hey sha la la

    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna drown in your blue sea?
    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna fall at the foot of thee?

    Ahhh, the deeper I spin
    Ahhh, the hunter will sin for your ivory skin
    Took a drive in the dirty rain
    To a place where the wind calls your name
    Under the trees the river laughing at you and me
    Hallelujah, heavens white rose
    The doors you open, I just can’t close

    Don’t turn around, don’t turn around again
    Don’t turn around, your gypsy heart
    Don’t turn around, don’t turn around again
    Don’t turn around, and don’t look back
    Come on now love, don’t you look back!

    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna drown in your blue sea?
    Who’s gonna taste your salt water kisses?
    Who’s gonna take the place of me?

    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna tame the heart of thee?”

  2. Tim
    February 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    And I forgot to mention the fact that this is one of the few songs that IS musically reminiscent of songs from The Joshua Tree, for those who are into that kind of thing. It’s great that they continued to move forward, but also nice that they left us a few semi-nostalgic tidbits here and there.

    • low5point
      February 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      The point being the album is a more cohesive unit and not a “latest hits” project. When people create a top U2 songs list very few songs from Achtung make it as the album was not a “singles” fest. Horses peaked at #35 and didn’t hit number one in any country, a rarity for U2.

      • Tim
        February 25, 2011 at 3:14 am

        low5point :
        Are you the author of the blog?
        Yes, it is my attempt at a long and excruciating slow motion suicide

        I would love to write you about few things but don’t want to crowd out your comments section with slightly unrelated stuff. We basically have a LOT in common – it’s really freaky reading your reviews!

        Please email me sometime at timKKhen@gKKmail.cKKom
        (just remove the “K”‘s – tryin’ to fool the bots…)

        Thanks!
        Tim

    • Tim
      February 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      I guess “Outside of ‘One’ there are no real U2 classics here” just sounds a lot different than “the album is a more cohesive unit and not a “latest hits” project”.

      Are you the author of the blog? If so, thank you for working on it! I subscribe to the email and very much enjoy your insight and point of view.

      Thanks!
      Tim

      • low5point
        February 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

        Are you the author of the blog?

        Yes, it is my attempt at a long and excruciating slow motion suicide

  3. TopekaRoy
    February 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    That comment struck me as odd too when I read it. Maybe you should have said “no real hits” instead of “no real classics.” In addition to “Wild Horses” I would add “Even Better than the Real Thing” and “Mysterious Ways” to the list of U2 classics from this album. “Mysterious Ways” actually peaked at @9 in the US (one higher than “One”) and “Real Thing” topped out at #32.

    Great album from a great group and I’m glad to see that after 30 years they are still putting out decent music.

  4. October 16, 2011 at 3:59 am

    I’m shamelessly plugging my blog, but not without reason. This incredible album is chock full of Christian soul and one of my favorites is Acrobat. I must be an acrobat to talk like this and… http://isbonoachristian.blogspot.com/2011/10/acrobat-homily-for-hypocrites.html

    Hope it’s helpful, not obnoxious.

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