Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Songs #138 & 139 - It's TWOsday!

Song #138 of 9999                                                  Song #139 of 9999

Title: Acrobat                                                          Title: Acrobat
Artist: U2                                                                 Artist: ADD
Year: 1991                                                              Year: 2003
Album: Achtung Baby                                             Album: Achtung Baby


Last week, I laid out my theory about how you can find an artist's most intriguing (not necessarily best) album by going to the record that marks their commercial peak and subtracting one. I cited several examples including The Joshua Tree by U2 as the high point and the previous year's The Unforgettable Fire as the better album. If I had a bigger readership (or maybe just a more motivated one ;), someone would have taken me to task for that analysis and cited Achtung Baby as proof of my foolishness.

Achtung Baby is a great example of art emerging from conflict. By 1991, U2 were superstars, having made their mark worldwide with The Joshua Tree. But they had also received some (rightfully) negative reviews for their follow-up Rattle and Hum, which seemed self-indulgent and misguided. So there was a lot of pressure and tension as the band entered the studio with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who had helped them achieve their pre-Rattle success. Apparently, the writing and recording was hard, prompting the near dissolution of the band.

But the end result is remarkable as the band revamped their sound, juxtaposing melody and noise into a very accessible record. As the novelty of The Edge's guitar sound had worn off and Bono's voice had lost some of its clarity from excessive touring, the band was forced to turn their attention to writing great songs instead of making great recordings. The album spawned several hits, including "One," "Mysterious Ways," and "Even Better Than the Real Thing." I chose to feature "Acrobat" tonight for two reasons: 1) I think it's one of the best full band performances on a U2 record, thrilling as it nearly spins out of control in fast 3/4 time; and 2) because I think my friend Jeff's cover of the song is one of the highlights of his 2003 reworking of THE ENTIRE ALBUM. If you like it, you should check out the rest of the tracks HERE. It's a superb reinterpretation of a classic album that makes me jealous every time I listen to it.

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