Achtung Baby German Reunification
November 19, 2011 by staff
Achtung Baby German Reunification, Having grown up watching MTV, I developed a love for U2 and Bono through the tube. ?? Not the self-righteous specimen with the ubiquitous sunglasses who was caught getting handsy with girls half his age on a yacht, but the pale, baby-faced young Dubliner with the wild black hair and a voice that wailed with all the earnest fervor and ecstasy of a heartbroken gospel singer at a seedy speakeasy.
U2 to me was The Edge with his relentless, driving guitar and Bono pouring his very self into the piercing, raw lyrics about war and injustice.
In 11th grade, when my friend Amit offered to lend me the new U2 CD, I couldn’t wait to get it home and listen to it. (And also “borrow” a 90 minute blank tape from my mother’s stash for use with clients and dub the thing on the family tape deck). ??
The new album had a strange name – Achtung Baby – the German for “stop” coupled with the cliché Hollywood pet name, which connoted for me both Nazi imagery and American excess. (“Achtung” is what those SS men must have shouted at my grandmother when the farmer whose barn she was hiding in gave her up.) How odd.
The cover was a colorful collage that looked nothing at all like any of the band’s previous covers. I sat through French class in a daze, counting the minutes until I could put the damn thing in our CD player in the living room.
I finally got home and fed the CD to the player, turned up the volume on the tuner, and waited. A snaggle-tooth saw-edged electric guitar, groaning, crushing machine noises. A pause. Again, the grunting guitar and the clash of steel on steel, the clunky thunk of a saucepan for percussion. Had they recorded this work in an old munitions factory? Then Bono’s voice— distant, distorted, cold. Jesus. He wasn’t kidding about the laughing gas. What the holy hell was this?
I listened to the whole thing. It left me… mildly irritated. I hated it. But I taped myself a copy anyway.
The next day, I sat next to Amit in French class and gave him back the CD.
“Well?” he said, “What do you think?”
“I think I kind of hate it. It’s… I don’t know. It’s weird.”
“Listen to it again. It’ll grow on you.”
I went home and put the album on the little tape deck in my room, borrowed from my piano teacher. I listened to it again. And again. And again. I began to realize that I really hated the way the album disappointed my own ideas about what a U2 album should be. I was frustrated with its unfamiliarity and strangeness. And I realized I had to listen to this strange thing called Achtung Baby with fresh ears, as though I was listening to a new album by a completely different band.
Eventually, I grew to relish the crunch of metal on metal, the crushing gears, the peculiar humanoid rhythm of machines. The oddly dissonant noises became music. I still bristle with anticipation when I hear those distorted machine grunts at the start of “Zoo Station.”
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