September 8, 2011

From the Sky Down

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of U2's groundbreaking album Achtung Baby. I'll give you a moment to let that one sink in...

I vividly remember going to the now-closed brilliant Kingston music store called House of Sounds to purchase the album in cassette form on release day in November of 1991. I was in third year at Queen's and living in Victoria Hall residence. I recall sitting in my rez room with my best buddy Pravin, unwrapping the cassette and popping it in. The look on our faces when the opening distortion of "Zoo Station" was classic WTF?!

This was U2? We were hardcore second-generation U2 fans, raised on The Unforgettable Fire (1984), The Joshua Tree (1987), and especially Rattle and Hum (1988). We did not recognize our beloved band.  Where were the open landscapes, the poetry, the sound of rockabilly and desert hymns? 

It is forever to U2's credit that they released Achtung Baby. Considering the trio of albums that preceded it, it is almost hard to believe the same band created the sound that Bono famously referred to as "four men chopping down the Joshua tree". 

And yet Bono's quip is so very insightful. Achtung Baby was the album that U2 had to make in order to survive as a band and, ultimately, as friends. There was a great possibility of U2 imploding, and the crisis bore what many consider to be one of the finest and most influential rock albums of the past 25 years.

To mark the occasion, U2 allowed esteemed Academy Award winning documentarian David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) to film the story of the making of Achtung Baby. The documentary, From the Sky Down, just opened the 2011 TIFF. You can catch a cool preview of the film here.

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