Most Influential Modern Rock Albums, Part 4

Ok, ok, I know I’m behind on this list. Number 5 will come later this week…

U2, Achtung Baby : For me, Achtung turned the musical world upside-down… the first CD that I owned, which I received as a gift with my first CD player, was The Joshua Tree — with Rattle and Hum, this was the culmination of 80’s-era do-gooder U2. Intensely spiritual, earnest and direct, Joshua Tree cemented the band’s positive public image, while simultaneously launching them into the ranks of superstardom, causing even Time Magazine to dub them Rock’s hottest Ticket.

But, the band was about the re-invent itself. I remember seeing the first video from Achtung, The Fly, and thinking what the hell is this?. Gone were the soulful tunes and cowboy hats… instead we heard a jarring guitar riff, Bono singing in falsetto and walking along the edge of a rooftop, while clever slogans flashed across a nighttime city landscape. WATCH MORE TV. EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG. It was an assault on your eyes and ears, and couldn’t have been more different from the days when Bono sang about Martin Luther King Jr..

Sure, the album has some terrific songs — One, Mysterious Ways, and So Cruel to name a few. But as a high school kid, I was more intrigued by the media critique Bono and the band presented. ZooTV was the first tour that used video as a medium for more than providing the people in the cheap seats with a better view. Instead, the band played a multimedia mixture of clips — anything from CNN, to cricket matches, to those clever little slogans mentioned above.

And Bono’s on-stage persona, “The Fly”, was a rejection of the do-gooder U2 image of the 80s, and an embrace of the excess and self-gratification that fans and critics expect of celebrities. “Tongue-and-cheek” to be sure, but for all the satire, the music still kicked ass.

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