Listen-Along: “Achtung Baby”


1) Zoo Station

Tucker Phillips: This is not the U2 I know.

Michael Frett: Those dives though. Sound like the U2 you know, now?

TP: Yep. The U2 of yore has returned. I kinda love Bono’s voice. Even through the laughing gas.us_nov12_2007_bono_emporio_armani_9285

MF: Even when it’s all faded like this?

AndrĂ© Theuerkauf: Doesn’t he always talk like this?

MF: Distorted is probably the better word choice, though.

TP: He’s actually a robot. Not a lot of people know that.

MF: Bonobot, standing by.

TP: BONOBOT NEED LONGER ARMS TO SPREAD. I’m a sucker for a good thunky, flammy snare sound.

MF: I love the bass groove running through here.

AT: All right.

TP: It’s alright. That bass groove is pretty killer, I can’t argue.

MF: Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton totally don’t get the credit for what they do with U2’s music. Totally an undersold but incredible rhythm section.

TP: It’s hard to have the spotlight in a band with Bono and The Edge.

2) Even Better Than the Real Thing

TP: I can dig this. I can dig this HARD.

MF: Honestly, it’s not my favorite song on this album…

TP: But those guitar doodly doos! The bass on this album has stolen the show so far.

MF: I feel like it’s a more superficial track compared to some of the other ones on this album.

TP: Only time will tell.

MF: I do love that hook, though. The Edge’s slide solo is pretty cool, too.

TP: Is this basically the one where the Edge got to play with all his effects knobs and such?

MF: There’s so much more Knobby stuff coming up, man.

3) One

TP: Oh gosh, it’s this song. Perhaps the most U2 song ever?

MF: Incredibly fair assessment.

TP: That bass is killing it again. BASS STOP IT’S ALREADY DEAD.

MF: Saved the band, too. #TheMoreYouKnow

TP: I wish I knew more U2 history. Because I know, well, basically nothing.

MF: They were about to break up, but the recording of “One” kind of reunited them. And this verse is one of my favorite verses of all time. “Have you come here to play Jesus, to the lepers in your head?”. One of my all-time favorite lines right there.

AT: There should be more posters in dorms that say “One Love” with Bono on it. Bob Marley seems to dominate that fan base.

MF: It seems like an incredibly Bono thing to say.

TP: This is a purdy song. There’s a lot more going on in it than I remember.

MF: That falsetto, man.

TP: voice of the sunglasses-wearing angels.

4) Until the End of the World

TP: This is fownky.

MF: As I said, Larry Mullen Jr. And Adam Clayton. Fun fact: this is Judas telling his side of the story.

TP: Michael, I believe you may have listened to this album before. I have a hunch. This guitar is doing things for me. NICE THINGS.

MF: The Edge totally knows how to work his way through a fret board. And a sound board.

TP: And a surf board.

AT: Is Michael to Achtung Baby as Andre is to In The Aeroplane Over the Sea?

TP: I believe that may be the case.

MF: Breakdown time!

TP: I love the sound of this album. It’s so early 90s in the best way possible. Like they were experimenting with stuff we take for granted now.

MF: I feel like it fits in with the canon alongside Loveless and similar albums.

TP: I can totally see it, lots of the same boundary pushing.

5) Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

MF: That intro always does so many things for me. I love this intro so much.1013404_636741153004715_2036985160_n

AT: This is an album I have never listened to before, and I’m not big into U2, but it’s dece yo.

TP: It’s rockable, I can rock it. This seems like it might take a few more listens to unspool than most U2.

MF: Totally threw a ton of people for a loop when it first came out.

TP: It’s still got that worldwide hug thing going on but it’s a lot less forthright with it.

MF: I feel like it can be applied like a worldwide hug, but at the same time can connect on a far more intimate individual level.

TP: I get ya. It feels a lot more personal. Or, I can picture the band working through these songs better than I can with their other albums.

AT: It’s like that time I had brunch with U2. Very personal. Very personal feel to it.


MF: Bono had free trade toast. His bananas came from a plantation in Cote d’Ivoire.

AT: He got the Peace Love and Understanding Combo Platter, over easy.

TP: Blech. I haven’t said much about this song but I like it. So there.

MF: I love the imagery in it. Also, I like horses.

6) So Cruel

TP: That drum sound is something else. It’s only hanging on. I LOVE HELICOPTER GUITARS AHHHH

AT: Is that what that’s called?

TP: In my head it is.

MF: So, I’ve always kind of interpreted Achtung Baby as a story. This is the last song before the turning point, where things are more retrospective before breaking into a more intense second half. Only, intense is really a poor word choice.

TP: Visceral?

MF: More self-deprecating actually.

TP: Gotcha.

MF: Like, U2 goes to war, but with itself.

TP: Boy, that’d be Unforgettable.

MF: Guys, we need to stop the U2 puns before they get Out of Control.

TP: Any strong thoughts on that U2 album from 2009, Michael?

MF: The things I’d have to say about No Line would probably best be said somewhere else. I have lots to say about it. But I still really liked it.

7) The Fly

AT: I like this guitar, very much.

TP: I can definitely sense a shift in mood.

MF: This is Edge’s huge guitar moment.

AT: It stands out about as much as “I’m the Man who Loves You” by Wilco from the last listen-along.

MF: And yeah, this is like the album’s turning point.

TP: Yeah, this is definitely grabbing me. Woah, hey right speaker! Didn’t see you over there.

AT: But you heard him.

TP: He made his presence known. It does my heart good to know the Edge can play guitar just as well as he can make it swooshy and phasey.

AT: Lead guitar gotta show his mad face-melting skillz at some point.

MF: So many people give the Edge crap for not being as technical in his playing, but the man can totally play.

8) Mysterious Ways

TP: This is the kind of intro that makes MBV comparisons make sense to me. They don’t sound the same, but there’s a certain feel they both have.

MF: The bass in this song blows me away.

AT: Hey, I recognize this song!

TP: I recognize this too!

MF: Yeah, this was one of the album’s big singles back in the day.

TP: That bass though.

MF: What the Edge does with that guitar here is one of the things that makes me love playing guitar.

TP: The second half of the album is clicking with me a lot more than the first half.

9) Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World

TP: Well golly, this is a beautiful song.

MF: This song really hit me way back in the day. It’s a long story, but way back when, I over extended myself trying to help everyone that I totally lost sight of things back home. It’s like, really hard to describe, but it was cool to have that feeling put to song. Which is kind of why I love this album so much.

AT: Seemed more in line with the first half of the album, as far as ear-grabbing guitar attention seekers.

Tucker was absent during this part because his internet exploded. He loves this song. MOVING ON.

10) Ultra Violet (Light My Way)

MF: The next three are probably the three most personal songs on the album. I’ve always felt like the second half was kind of like Bono versus himself.

TP: I’d have to relisten a couple of times to get into that more. This first time it just feels like they’re soaring above the storm clouds of the first half.

MF: Well, I mean, “The Fly” would be his ego, “Trying to Throw Your Arms” is one man trying to take on all of the world’s problems, and these last three are his insecurities. Especially “Acrobat”. SPOILER ALERT.


MF: I really like the guitar on this song, though. It’s so simple but sounds so amazing.

11) Acrobat

MF: Feedback. I love me some feedback.

AT: That guitar note, goin’ crazy.

MF: There’s so much emotion behind that crazy guitar stuff.

AT: I’m a fan.

TP: How do I become The Edge

MF: That drum shuffle’s pretty crazy, too.

AT: Yeah, this song is taking the podium in my book. I don’t know which place, but it’s up there.

MF: This is secretly Michael’s other favorite song. Everything that was thrown into that solo is something that every guitar player should study. It’s crazy what the Edge conveys with so few actual notes.

TP: Does he ever do acoustic stuff?

MF: Actually, yeah. And it’s all very pretty.

TP: I bet!

MF: Can I give a quick shout out to the lyrics on “Acrobat”? They’re probably my favorite U2 lyrics out there. Kind of like every side of Bono comes out, even the incredibly contradictory ones. Hence, a lot of the emotional intensity behind that song. It’s literally Bono tearing away at himself.

TP: I’ll need to go back to this one with lyric sheet in hand.

12) Love is Blindness

MF: One of U2’s darkest songs right here. Get your angsty Irishmen. Angsty Irishmen here.

TP: I’ll take 4!


TP: Brooding Bono.

MF: That background guitar is beautifully haunting.

TP: I was gonna say, even in the piano ballad the guitar is awesome.

MF: I think the Edge is the only guitar player out there who would’ve ever played a solo like that in a song like this.

TP: It fits though.

AT: I am not the biggest fan of Bono’s voice in this song. But I do like the guitar when it shines.

MF: This finale right here is just so great.

TP: I can take one Bono-ass song per U2 album.