U2 is the latest in line to get the re-release treatment on vinyl and the occurrence serves as a great reminder of the band’s ability to redefine their style again and again.
Their latest records to get a proper 180-gram double LP treatment are 1991’s Achtung Baby, 1993’s Zooropa and their first of two hits packages, “The Best of 1980-1990”. Achtung Baby was their first proper studio album in four years, following up the phenomenally successful Joshua Tree (the in between record, Rattle and Hum, a hybrid live album/documentary soundtrack, was quickly written off by many fans and critics at the time as little more than a placeholder). The band made a calculated, if risky decision not to simply remake Joshua Tree, rather they took a step away from their more obvious American rock influences for a more European feel. Recorded in Berlin, the comparisons to late ‘70s Bowie are obvious and though not exactly a dance record, there is a bi move toward electronic music with this album. Though not quite as big a seller as Joshua Tree, it is still a remarkably satisfying record, having spawned a slew of songs that would go on to become U2 staples like “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “Mysterious Ways,” “Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” and “One”.
Zooropa, initially planned as an EP, morphed into a full-fledged album and continued the band’s move into separating themselves from their earlier, more Americana/rock-based sound. Reflecting the band’s polarizing Zoo TV Tour, where Bono debuted his smarmy “The Fly” character, Zooropa is crammed with themes of technology and sensory overload and that’s reflected not only in the lyrics, but the synth-heavy music itself. Though still a great album, Zooropa lacks both lasting singles and suffers from a bit from its rushed nature.
The Best of 1980-1990 is obviously exactly as billed, a hits package, the first from the band, originally released on CD in 1998. The 16 tracks here include songs from the band’s first three albums, Boy, War and October, but obviously leans heavy on Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. This vinyl re-release also includes “One Tree Hill,” off of Joshua Tree, a song that was not included in the original CD version.
U2 – Achtung Baby, Zooropa and The Best of 1980-1990/Vinyl/Island & UMe/2018