Achtung Baby 20 – Achtung Baby is U2’s greatest album, according top most people, but if you’re still counting, it’s been 20 years since it’s release. The supernova success of The Joshua Tree was tempered by the disappointment and unfulfilled expectations of the Rattle And Hum experiment, both the movie and album.
The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree albums broke new sonic ground. The Edge’s regular incorporation of echo, along with creation of vast sonic landscapes, became one of the band’s calling cards. It was evident, however, that at the end of 1980s, the glow from those two albums was fading.
Whether U2 were ready to accept it or not, that creative direction had run its course. That musical and sonic territory had already been explored. The goal, then, was to create something completely different, music that would sever ties to the past and help push U2’s music — and rock music in general — into a new decade.
The early 1990s were landmark years for popular music. Alternative rock launched itself out of the underground and into the mainstream with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, paving the way for other alternative grunge bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. Hip-hop music furthered its mainstream rise, with acts like MC Hammer, Dr. Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan dominating the airwaves and sales charts.
Where does Achtung Baby fit into this picture? Right in the middle. Since U2 were consciously steering away from their past, they looked elsewhere for inspiration. The result was an album that blends the band’s own musical perspective with bits and pieces from other genres.
It was 20 years ago and the album combined distinctive U2 elements with new advancements in pop music: distortion; processing; dance, techno and hip-hop beats; industrial sounds; and drum loops.