November 29, 2011

Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Okay, here's Track 11 of 12 in my goofy series from the big shebang and money-pit, U2's re-released Achtung Baby album. It's a great song, with a gut-slashing blister of a chorus (see the post title above). It's good advice:

I guess we can make this a real post with a quickie bullet-review of U2's "Achtung Baby" super-deluxe 20th anniversary edition:

• The reissued Achtung Baby album is not remastered, but that's ok. It's a bit louder, so that's an improvement. Same goes for a companion polish-job on the follow-up, 1993's Zooropa.

• The B-sides disc contains everything expected (i.e. all the previously released stuff) except for the version of "Until the End of the World" that appears on the soundtrack for Wim Wenders' film of the same name.

• On that same disc, there are old songs with new lyrics and vocals from Bono. It's a slightly odd trend that has happened on other U2 reissues recently—Joshua Tree, War, and Unforgettable Fire all have at least one "newly completed" song. The Achtung Baby reissue has three: "Blow Your House Down," "Heaven and Hell," and "Oh Berlin." I know the first two from the "Salomé" bootleg; they're edited down and aren't bad, but "Berlin" isn't that impressive.

• Also on that disc are contemporary outtakes: "Down All the Days" is a weird vocal take over the music that became "Numb." "Near the Island" is a deathly dull easy-listening Eno-ist instrumental. "Everybody Loves a Winner" sounds like a Rattle and Hum leftover. So, overall an interesting release (the b-side disc), and better than the one reportedly released on the double-disc-only reissue, which is larded with remixes.

• Speaking of remixes, there are not one, but two additional discs full of remixes. Some people might be interested in those, but I'm not one of them. They're pretty much useless to me, just like 2/3 of the "Best of 1990-2000" bonus disc (itself polluted with lame remixes). So much for that.

• Which brings me to the most interesting of the audio releases: the "kindergarten" early versions of the main Achtung Baby tracks. These are suitably shambolic, rough mixes of songs that U2 fans know in their better, finished form. They're fascinating from an archaeological standpoint—despite a purported 2011 overdub on "Tryin to Thrown Your Arms Around the World"—but I don't see myself listening to these over and over again, you know?

• DVDs: There are 4 video discs with this release: a rerelease of "Zoo TV Live from Sydney," a different-than-aired-on-TV version of the new "From the Sky Down" documentary, a disc containing (mostly) re-released music videos from the same period (all the singles from Achtung Baby and Zooropa, plus some extras), and a whole other disc of contemporary videos (TV specials from the US, UK, and the like). Given that the new documentary is getting its own release next month, this is pretty skimpy too.

• The remainder of the package is a big fat book with lots of laudatory essays, plus 12 art prints—which all look really cool, but the bottom line is that it's not really worth the money unless you're a hopeless geek like me. It's arguably an example of yet another U2 cash-in on (mostly) already-released stuff that big fans already own.

But lemme tellya, it was super-fun to get this on my birthday, two days after its release.

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