a discussion on U2's growth as a band
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There are many U2 fans who prefer the albums of the 1980s to those of the 1990s, or vice versa, but whatever the argument is there, it is generally agreed that Achtung Baby(1991) was the bridge between the two styles. There are distincively different tones and styles in the albums that make up Pre- and Post- Achtung Baby.
Some of the Early U2 fans would argue that The Joshua Tree was the last good album U2 put out, or that Achtung Baby was the beginning of the end -- in that it led to Zooropa.
I can understand this attitude; The Joshua Tree was the first U2 Album I invested in. I remember hearing Pop on the radio, but that I was never hit hard by such singles as Staring at the Sun or Last Night on Earth. It wasn't until I picked up Achtung Baby and dedicated myself to it that I really gave (or had any desire to give) Pop and Zooropa a chance.
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Achtung Baby doesn't quite fit in with the other albums. It is definitely past the Early U2 stuff -- The Joshua Tree culminated that era -- and yet Achtung Baby is not quite as extreme on the U2 Spectrum as Pop and Zooropa. Achtung Baby's singles managed to maintain U2's mass appeal while the album was just another piece of evidence that U2's music was evolving into a completely different style. Simply compare Mysterious Ways and One to any of their older hits. But however similar Achtung Baby is in style to Zooropa and Pop, it didn't create the controversy that Zooropa gave birth to.
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What changed U2? What happened between The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby? How could the same band produce The Joshua Tree and Zooropa (One an ultimate favourite, the other an ultimate failure) with only one album in between? Doesn't Pop seem to fit in better between Achtung Baby and Zooropa? Did U2 finally learn the lesson and appease us with All that You Can't Leave Behind? What changed U2?
U2's method of expression, lyrics and overall style may have changed, but the substance remained pure U2. Every album has Bono's eternal anthems of love and religion (or some sort of combination of the two) and the Edge's guitar. While not all fans enjoyed U2's albums of the 90s, many found a striking chord in the much-debated Zooropa or Pop. These fans saw what many critics couldn't, or wouldn't, see: that " ... this was just the end of something for U2 ... it wasn't a big deal, it was just -- they had to go away and ... and dream it all up again" (Bono, 1989).
July 17th, 2001
disclaimer: I happen to like Zooropa. When I wrote 'an ultimate failure', I was referring to the general fan base.