To call 1991 a busy year would be a gross understatement. While the nation was still transitioning from the not-so-subtle 1980s, news of great significance was being made every day around the globe.
For instance, the Persian Gulf War came to an exhaustive end, South African Parliament abolished Apartheid laws and Russia elected its first president, Boris Yeltsin. And if that weren’t enough, out of the entire decade 1991 was quite possibly the best year for music, as well. It saw the release of monumental records such as Metallica’s self-named Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Pearl Jam’s Ten and of course, Nirvana’s revolutionary release Nevermind. Oh, I almost forgot, there was one other particularly good release that year. What was it again?…It was something foreign sounding…German maybe…oh yeah! It was U2’s Achtung Baby!
U2 may have just chosen the worst possible year to release a stellar album. With a nation already transfixed by the otherworldly funkiness of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the entirely new grunge assault of Nirvana, there was no more room for greatness. The grunge movement had drained all musical curiosity from music fans dry to the last drop. So when Achtung Baby was released in November of that year, U2 found themselves bewildered by weak sales and little hype for an album they thought be to nothing short of spectacular. They were right.
Frustrated by harsh criticism for Achtung Baby’s predecessor Rattle and Hum, the band was not in a good state: sales were low and moral was even worse. Determined to get themselves out of this depressing slump, they took a drastic detour out of their comfort zone.
Seeking musical inspiration that would electrify their souls and reignite the musical creativity inside of them, they set out for Berlin, Germany, a nation thriving on a new found and long overdue personal and political freedom. The trip was successful, and U2 created an album surging with electricity. European influences of industrial, electronic and techno flood the entire album. Distorted guitar riffs and dynamic percussion assault your ears while Bono’s voice takes on a raw and intimate aspect never before heard. U2 was suddenly transformed from earnest rockers to post-modern art-pop stars. Achtung Baby redefined the band and as Rolling Stone put it, “quite simply put them back in the running for the greatest rock band in the world.”
Even though a lengthy 20 years has gone by since its initial release, Achtung Baby hasn’t aged a bit. It still surges with that energy and authority it found in Berlin.
Luckily, U2 decided to reissue this album. Working alongside Universal Records, the album will be released in five very different packages, ranging from a reissue of the original album with no bonus material to the Uber Deluxe Edition, which features (take a deep breath) six CDs, five Vinyls, four DVDs, 16 art prints, an 84 page hardcover booklet, a magazine, four badges, a sticker sheet and a pair of sunglasses worn by Bono. College students beware: to have this mammoth set, be prepared to fork over a hefty $500. I’d leave that one to the wealthy and die-hard fans.
Back in 1991, U2 was robbed of the praise and acclaim they deserved for their innovative masterpiece. Its release was greatly overshadowed by new and more popular acts that brought a different and original sound to the musical landscape.
Luckily, with the 20th anniversary reissue set to hit shelves, fans and new listeners alike can listen to Achtung Baby in a new light, a light all its own and will finally discover the innovation that fans 20 years ago failed to recogniz