U2 Discography: Zoo Station

Previously: In God's Country

Achtung Baby (1991)

As a 12 year old still new to the music scene, I was constantly looking for ways to expand my modest cassette collection. Our family had a Columbia House Music Club membership, so I decided to take advantage of one of their famous Buy 1 Get 2 Free offers. While poring over a club catalog, I took notice of Achtung Baby, which was still relatively new. I recognized the title "Mysterious Ways" from its generous radio exposure, and that was enough to persuade me to include it with my order. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into. For a kid who only knew U2 by The Joshua Tree, this album sounded like it was from another planet. I wasn't familiar enough with the band's history at the time to truly grasp the enormous left turn they had taken, but as I explained in my Desert Island Discs post, that's what makes it my favorite U2 album today. 17 years after that fateful purchase, Achtung Baby can still send me into space.

B-Asides: One of my favorite Achtung Baby stories involves a girl—a particularly self righteous girl—that I was dating while up at Utah State. We were driving back to Logan together at the end of a weekend, and I popped in my trusty Achtung Baby cassette—the very same one I had bought all those years ago. As the sonic barrage of the "The Fly" began, we had the following exchange:

Her: What is this?
Me: Um... it's U2.
Her: It sounds like the devil.

We broke up a few weeks later.
Highlights: The whole thing
My Rating: 10/10

Zooropa (1993)

By far their least accessible album, Zooropa was U2's "I'm Keith Hernandez!" moment. They broke pretty much all the rules of mainstream music because they were the biggest band in the world and they could. The first two minutes of the opening title track is an unnerving build of white noise. Bono sings the song "Lemon" mostly falsetto. The Edge gets a rare shot at the mike on "Numb," and he uses this chance to chant rhythmically in monotone over a screeching guitar and even more Bono falsetto. And Johnny Cash, of all people, is called on to preside over the album's benediction, "The Wanderer." Doomed to follow the brilliant Achtung Baby, I'll admit that I wasn't crazy about the more outlandish Zooropa when I first heard it, but it has grown on me over the years. While the album lacks the big hooks and hit singles that the band is famous for, it has a surplus of strange sounds, pulsating electronic beats, and most importantly, ambition. To truly appreciate its nuances, it definitely requires repeat listens.
Highlights: Zooropa, Numb, Lemon, Stay (Faraway, So Close), Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car
My Rating: 7.5/10

Pop (1997)

Pop was the first U2 album where I remember anticipating its release. But since I still didn't care much for Zooropa at that point, and I wasn't immediately smitten with the first single "Discothéque," I decided I wasn't going to buy it. So how long did this self imposed embargo last? One day. That's right, I broke down and bought the album the day after it came out—and I wasn't disappointed. A junior in high school at the time, Pop arrived during a very impressionable period of my life, so I have a lot of good memories associated with it. For instance, one otherwise uneventful Friday night, me and my friends Spencer and Scott gathered up a video camera, strobe light, and some old guitars, and we made our own version of the "Discothéque" music video in my parents' basement (I was Bono in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, no one is sure if a copy of this video still exists, or else this is where I would provide an embarrassing video link.

Another memorable event from this time was the extravagant PopMart concert tour stopping for a night at Rice (Eccles) Stadium—U2's first performance in Salt Lake City in years. A local radio station even commemorated the occasion by adding a giant "2" next to the "U" on the mountain. Controversy erupted at school when it was discovered that the concert was on the same night as the Junior Prom. After much deliberation, I ended up choosing the concert, and I have not once regretted this decision. I don't think my friends who chose the Prom (cough... Spencer... cough) can say the same thing.

These days, Pop is not considered among U2's best work, and even the band seems to have disowned it. But rather than talk about the merits of the songs, I have used my allotted space (and then some) to talk about teenage memories—because sometimes certain music becomes inextricably linked with little moments in our lives. It has the power to transport us to another place and time, and that's what makes it special to us.
Highlights: Discothéque, Mofo, Last Night On Earth, Gone, Please
My Rating: 8.5/10
Next Time: Walk On


ScottBoomer said...

Maybe it's best that the copy of our music video remake dosen't exist.

Krissy said...

That's what I said. I hope I never ever ever have to see it.

Ben said...

I saw this and said "oh great another U2 post". Then I read it, and even though I don't have much to add, I wanted to mention that I thought the post was well done.

Dave said...

Why thank you, my good man. Your adulation is appreciated.