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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