Picks and Pans Review: Achtung Baby

updated 12/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST


OK; the Dublin quartet wins weirdest album title of the year. (Is it a cryptic reference to Dick Shawn's beatnik Hitler in the Mel Brooks film The Producers?) But what's in the grooves? More strangeness. Most of this odd, often intoxicating concoction would not be identifiable as U2 were it not for Bono's distinctive voice. The group's other trademark, Edge's high-tensile guitar, is all but absent.

The compositions are as mainstream as anything U2 has ever recorded. But combine these with the group's still evident moral passion and producer Daniel Lanois's echoes, subtle distortions and brooding percussion overdubs, and the result is U2's most exotic collection.

There are just a few disappointments: "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" and "Mysterious Ways," for instance, bring to mind the soggy solemnity of Simple Minds. A more interesting influence—the Doors—can be heard in "Even Better than the Real Thing." ("You're honey child to a swarm of bees/ Gonna blow right through you like a breeze/ Give me one last chance/ We'll slide down the surface of things") A '60s shadow looms, in fact, over the whole album. From the wah-wahing guitars on "One" to the trippy vocals of "The Fly," the style can only be described as psychedelic. And that turns out to be wunderbar, baby. (Island)

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