Monday, August 31, 2009

You too (can tell me what CDs to buy)

I've wondered off and on what U2 are like, wandering past their section of the CD shops, and so it just took a little encouragement from Ben McInnes to convince me to dart out at my lunch break and pick up a copy of Achtung Baby.

It's a great album - and, while I understand that it represented a bit of a reinvention of themselves for U2, it is certainly more than enough to convince me to plunge more into their music, with its bigger than life tunes and beats.

The beat draws you in and sweeps you up from the opening synthesizer swirls of “Zoo Station”, and its promise of excitement. The synthesizers dance and spin with the voices – you really do feel like you are on a train, and that it’s going fast. Smooth vocals from Bono become almost like another instrument in the way they blend and entwine with the music, breathing melody into even the album’s moments of most feverish rock. It's all about a new romance, and the world - and the music - are aflame with the thrill of it all.

But by “One”, the excitement of new love has become tempered with fears and regrets of a love already on the brink of being lost. And yet even when the song is saturated in sadness, (“Love is a temple, Love the higher law, You ask me to enter, But then you make me crawl, and I can’t be holding on to what you’ve got, When all you got is hurt”, for example) even then, the music has your body rocking to its irresistible beat.

That seems to be the tone throughout much of this album – a remarkable ability in this music to be upbeat and broken-hearted at the one time.

In “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” we find the music transformed into what seems like a more experimental sound, vast and echoing, giving the song a massive sense of space, as if it’s coming from an enormous cavern – somehow fitting with its message of big hopes that seem destined to come to nothing.

The effects in “The Fly” are no less imaginative, with low voice and falsetto intermingling to create in a strange sound world, with an almost space-age effect, as the song describes stars falling and a universe exploding because of one lie.

But it’s not all about loss and sadness by any means. I found “Mysterious Ways” almost lifting me into the air with its optimism. There is the comfort of “Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World” – which could almost be a post-punk reincarnation of “Bridge over Troubled Waters” – and the challenge to keep trying of “Acrobat”.

But the last word is with the beautifully sad “Love is blindness”, with melodies shifting hauntingly from minor key to minor key that are enough to bring tears to any eyes, but above a beat that still keeps you going, and leaves this music pumping away inside of you long after it has finished.

Thank you so much Ben for steering me to U2, and down a path that I hope inclues more treasures even half as good as Achtung Baby!

1 comment:

  1. The one song on this album i did not like was Lemon. It was bland in comparison and fairly repetitve. Then I heard it live. I was blown away by the sounds and the Bono's voice control. I know can reflect on this everytime I hear the song, however to get the true feel, I can only use a line from Good Morning Vietnam..."Just play it loud OK!"