Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review preaches to the choir. It's a fun, in-depth look at the album which helped reinvent the biggest band in the land.
As a personal preface, prior to Achtung Baby I kinda thought Bono was an asshole. Yes, yes. I was young and foolish and I thought I knew it all.
It's so fitting, then, one of the messages that flashes on the video screens during The Fly, the video to the first single off the album, is "Everything you know is wrong."
Further drawn in by the equally un-U2-like Mysterious Ways, this wet-behind-the-ears wannabe journalist took another look at the Irish band. The album was most definitely something different, something extremely European in tone. It was night compared to The Joshua Tree's day.
Kicked in the arse by the double whammy of Achtung Baby and its monumental tour, ZOO-TV, I have been a proud Bonoholic ever since.
So what does this unauthorized look at Achtung Baby have to offer? For those not in the know, it's an education and a revelation. For those already singing in the choir, it's affirmation, confirmation and revisitation.
This DVD is not officially sanctioned by the band, and they did not participate in its making. But, on the plus side, unlike other "unauthorized" discs, such as Joel Gilbert's documentaries about Bob Dylan, this one does include snippets of U2's music and clips from their videos.
The main feature is a 68-minute examination of U2's masterful reinvention from heart-on-the-sleeve do-gooders to irony-on-the-mind mischief-makers. It starts with a quick 10-minute recap of the band's beginnings and rise to fame thanks largely to Live Aid. Following their massive success with The Joshua Tree and the well-intentioned, but often misconstrued follow-up, Rattle and Hum, tensions rose in the ranks and the band went away to "dream it all up again." The commentators, a band of journalists from a slew of well-respected English and Irish media outlets, including NME, BBC Radio 1, Mojo, Uncut and The Times, cover the uncertainty of this period in U2's history and note the genius move in the band's unlikely switch from the heartland of America to Berlin, the very heart of European turmoil and uprising in the late '80s and early '90s.
The timing was perfect and the location that inspired '70s Bowie performed similar magic for '90s U2. This disc somewhat eloquently explains, via a track-by-track analysis, the significance of the album and looks into some of the musical influences that can be heard in the album's dark-hued tracks.
The commentary is not a necessity for true believers, since there's not a heckuva lot of new information here. But hey, when Andrew Mueller uses the phrase, "They're kind of contemplating the possibility of Cupid as an assassin rather than an angel," that's hot stuff.
There aren't a lot of supplemental materials, but what's included is good.
The best attraction is roughly five minutes of additional interview footage with the commentators.
There's a little something called The Hardest Interactive U2 Quiz in the World Ever. Its title is spectacular and, yes, even better than the real thing. It's a collection of 25 trivia questions; some of them can be answered from the show's content. Others will be known by the Bonoholics in the house.
Also on tap are bio pages for each of the commentators and a self-promotion page of other U2-related titles from the Chrome Dreams label.
The main program is a mix of new interview clips with the journalists, assorted travel footage of some of the key cities involved in this era of Zooropean history and fuzzy clips from U2's videos. Overall, it's acceptable, but not eye-popping.
The sound is also serviceable in two-track stereo.
If you've lived under a rock for the past 16 years and haven't heard the whole album yet, first listen to Achtung Baby.
Watch the main program. Watch the extended interviews. Real fans should also take a stab at the not-that-difficult trivia questions.
Go back and listen to the CD over and over and over...
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.
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