Tuesday, 14 December 2010

'I'm ready to take it to the street.' by @diaryofaledger

This is like a confessional:  Achtung Baby never really leaves me alone.

When U2 disappeared, after Rattle Hum, for three years, they said they were going away to 'dream it all up again', and they came back with their best album, ever.  Maybe one of the very best albums I own, certainly one that I often say is my favourite.  No one is more aware than me of how not cool that is.  As per, I really don't care.

I was in Australia when it came out, was already a fan and I can remember watching the video for the Fly and people saying that U2 had blown it.  That it was so far away from what they were as a band that the fans would turn.  Like many others though I bought Achtung, out of almost curiosity and it quickly became the album that soundtracked that trip and the relationship I was in at the time.  Had they blown it?  Nope.  They'd nailed it.

That opening still takes me back to the old Wembley and seeing them for the first time live.  Bono high on a perch way above the stage, hopping to that dirty industrial guitar sound.  The voice messed with and all over the place way before it even starts to sound like U2 at all.

Everything feels different on Achtung and yet it's still U2 at its heart.

Next year it's twenty years old but for most fans I suspect it's the one album that gets a regular airing.  The symbolism and sexuality in the lyrics and at times just the sheer simpleness of it all make it a complete joy to listen to.

Of course it contains One.  I've been thinking today about what I say about it.  How do I describe a song that means so much to me?  What does it mean to me?  That might be where I dry up because it's someone else's words, that I suppose embody the relationship that I was in at the time and the aftermath of it ending.  And then it's about all the others that have followed too.  It's not a painful listen it's just one bound up in a shed load of memories.   Truly the most beautiful thing Bono ever wrote.

Until the End of the World still sounds amazing and still takes me back to those days living in Bondi.  I love the religious references and the the no holds barred blow job moment.  It's so far away from the Joshua Tree in the quality of the writing.

Let's pretend the one about the Wild Horses isn't on it m'kay?  Cheers.  ('Hey hey sha la la....' WTF?!!!)

There's a sense throughout that U2 thought they were fighting to stay where they were as a band.  Forget the tax dodging and preaching shit of the now.  At the time, despite selling well, Rattle and Hum had been widely ridiculed, they had to make a record that changed everything.  For me, despite the brilliance of One it's on the album tracks like So Cruel and Ultraviolet that they really achieved this.

So Cruel is understated brilliance.
Desperation is a tender trap
It gets you every time
You put your lips to her lips 
To stop the lie
The Fly has lost the shock factor now and feels a bit throwaway, sort of a Get on Your Boots of its time.  Mysterious Ways is still the one really uplifting song on the album and it still brings a smile to my face but it's the darker shit that I really love on the album.

The last three tracks are three of my U2 songs.  Ultraviolet (Light My Way) which they're still playing live, is a truly brilliant piece of work.  It's dark but there's hope within it all.  Acrobat which follows is probably one that gets forgotten, possibly because it's kind of like those last few tracks on Joshua Tree, kind of dense and full of The Edge.  But lyrically it's pretty special and I love Bono's voice on it, breaking and croaky like a smoker.  'Don't Let the Bastards Drag You Down,' has never sounded better.

Then it ends with Love is Blindness.  Beautiful and U2 at their best.  And also on reflection quite odd.

So there you go, I rather like U2.  Kill me now, put me up against the Twitter firing squad, I doth not care.  Achtung is still up there for me.  Life defining stuff.

No comments: