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Friday, 5 August 2011

Achtung Baby! 20 years later


U2's Achtung Baby celebrates 20 years this November.
Achtung Baby was originally released in November 1991 and was, as Bono said at the time, 'the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree'. The album was a new direction for U2 - led by The Fly, Achtung Baby went on to have four other singles, 'Mysterious Ways', 'One', 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses'.
Sonically, it incorporated alternative rock, dance, and industrial music influences of the time, and the band referred to the album's musical departure as "four men chopping down the Joshua Tree". Thematically, it was a more introspective and personal record; it was darker, yet at times more flippant than the band's previous work. An elaborate concert stage set bearing a logo that reads "Zoo TV", set in a dark stadium. Towers reach into the night sky, illuminated in blue with red warning lights on top. The Zoo TV Tour was a multimedia-intensive event, featuring a stage that used dozens of video screens.
Like Achtung Baby, the 1992–1993 Zoo TV Tour was an unequivocal break with the band's past. In contrast to the austere stage setups of previous U2 tours, Zoo TV was an elaborate multimedia event. It satirised the pervasive nature of television and its blurring of news, entertainment, and home shopping by attempting to instill "sensory overload" in its audience. The stage featured large video screens that showed visual effects, random video clips from pop culture, and flashing text phrases. Whereas U2 were known for their earnest performances in the 1980s, the group's Zoo TV performances were intentionally ironic and self-deprecating;on stage, Bono performed as several over-the-top characters, including "The Fly", "Mirror Ball Man", and "MacPhisto". Prank phone calls were made to President Bush, the United Nations, and others. Live satellite uplinks to war-torn Sarajevo caused controversy.
Achtung Baby CD cover
Quickly recorded during a break in the Zoo TV tour in mid-1993, the Zooropa album continued many of the themes from Achtung Baby and the Zoo TV Tour. Initially intended as an EP, the band expanded Zooropa into a full-length LP album. It was an even greater departure from the style of their earlier recordings, incorporating further dance influences and other electronic effects. Johnny Cash sang the lead vocals on "The Wanderer". Most of the songs were played at least once during the 1993 leg of the tour, which visited Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan; half the album's tracks became fixtures in the setlist
At twenty years old, Achtung Baby is all grown up, and to celebrate an anniversary edition is due this October. The archives have unearthed unreleased songs and treasures from the original recording sessions. There's five different versions featuring a raft of songs, videos, remixes, b-sides and documentary footage - a full album of demo and early versions of the full tracklisting has also been revealed.
Deluxe formats will include 'From the Sky Down', a documentary from Academy Award winning Davis Guggenheim in which U2 return to Hansa Studio in Berlin to discuss Achtung Baby. Due for release on 31 October, the five physical editions include vinyl, CD, DVD and digital options will also be available.

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