Is Achtung Baby the defining album of our lifetime?

The 20-year legacy of U2's second masterpiece and the awesome tour it spawned
Like a fly from a wall

Like a fly from a wall

It’s cliché to say you hate U2 these days, and despite being a lifelong fan, I can see the reasons why. For starters, Bono has turned from a rocker with a conscience to some guy in shades who tries to save African kids from poverty while carrying Louis Vuitton luggage. Most importantly, however, their last album sucked despite the rave reviews which made me wonder whether the critics received a different album than the one I heard. That said, from the lukewarm response to the new songs during their last tour, I’m confident I’m among the grand majority who thought it was bland and uninspiring. But despite the band’s recent inability to make great music, it’s only appropriate that we remember a time when they did, and there was no better time than in late November 1991 when the masterpiece known as Achtung Baby came out.

Achtung Baby was gifted to me by a close friend on my 14th birthday back in 1993. Up to that time, I must confess that I was not exactly a fan of U2 although I had heard most of their major hits on the radio (including some of Achtung‘s hits). And even though it did not win me over immediately, over time I became irrevocably hooked, to the point that I was eventually convinced that it was the best album I had ever heard in my young life. Who would have thought that, nearly two decades later, I would still think so? But more than that, Achtung Baby promptly triggered an almost pathological need to get my hands of every U2 album made until then and a near-religious devotion to Ireland’s most famous sons since. I have all their albums (except the last one which royally sucked). I have most of their videos on VHS or DVD. I’ve seen them live four times and one of those, their 1997 showing in Mexico City which was later immortalized in a DVD, is also to this day the best concert I’ve ever been to (I unfortunately missed the Zoo TV Tour). I even read a really great book about them, set during their Achtung Baby/Zooropa days and which I strongly recomment to any U2 fan. No group, with the exception of The Clash, comes even remotely close to the impact that U2 has had in my life. Continue reading