National Album Day: Achtung Baby by U2

Yes, The Joshua Tree has the bigger hits, but U2’s seventh studio album is a far more interesting prospect. Dark, tortured, experimental, it’s the sound of a band who were trying to find their way, just a few years after Time magazine had called them “Rock’s hottest ticket”. Stung by the critical backlash that greeted the overly earnest and self-indulgent Rattle And Hum, they set about “chopping down the Joshua Tree” (as Bono would later put it) in Berlin’s Hansa Studios, a year after the wall came down.
Their surroundings, creative tensions, and frustration at trying to reinvent their sound (all captured on the insightful documentary From The Sky Down), resulted in an album that remains the band’s creative peak. Lead single The Fly hasn’t aged well with its early ’90s dance influences, but the likes of Mysterious Ways, Until The End Of The World, and (obviously) One remain staples of their live shows more than 25 years later.
No less impressive are the rest of the songs – especially Ultraviolet and Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, which have been resurrected on the band’s most recent tours. Not convinced? Just listen to Jack White’s blistering rendition of Love Is Blindness, the last track on the album.
Achtung Baby, U2, 1991. Chosen by writer Nils van der Linden
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