This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the last great culturally and musically dominant albums of the rock era — Achtung Baby by U2. The album introduced a wild new industrial wall of sound, rhythm, and psychedelic swirl to the world. It sat on top of the charts for months, won the Grammy for album of the year, and regularly appears on critics’ lists of the best albums of all time. It may be my generation’s Sgt. Pepper.
I think he might go a little far with the Sgt. Pepper comparison. . . .since Achtung, Baby is sooo far superior, IMO (heh). I love this album, probably one that I’ve played as much or more than any other. Yeah, yeah, Joshua Tree is probably the top pick for U2 albums — I like that one (love love LOVE a couple of songs on it) — but Achtung has been played more. I have particularly fond memories of it as far as Egypt goes: I had it on tape (yes, tape!) when I went in 1993 and 1994 and played it incessantly. And I’m still not sick of it! Midnight Oil’s “Earth and Sun and Moon” was on the reverse side so those two are inextricably linked in my memory. I can still picture Cairo’s Maadi corniche in my mind’s eye while hearing both of those.
I mention in the comments at that site (“AJC” if it goes up) that Joshua Tree is probably considered the epitome of “classic” U2 — archaeological phrase there — and Achtung starts their post-classic phase. Achtung was the last one I really liked of theirs, the rest just seemed overproduced and not as “musical” — or maybe just not straightforward enough. Achtung hits the right note for me between simple melodies and straight-ahead rock, but is complex enough to keep me interested. Each song is different and good (mostly) but they form a nice set of related tracks that one can listen to all the way through without getting too schizo. I just love it.
Oddly, most people latch onto albums from their late teens and early 20s as all-time favorites, but this one is in that category for me and I was well into adulthood by that time. Could be because I had been to Egypt a couple of times and was really enjoying being part of that world, but also working at a decent semi-full time job at home as well and making decent money for the first time that gives it that nostalgic glow to it. Either way, it’s definitely one of my all-time favorites.