The band U2 has been around for a while now. I first became aware of them in the 80s. I had a friend who was into all of that kind of New Wave music that included bands like U2. I remember distinctly when a friend I had declared that “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was the song of the summer. For the most part, I like the band. I have enjoyed their music. However, the DVD “Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review” is a horrible piece of crap.
The good thing about it is that it is not an official U2 release. It says so right on the DVD cover that U2 really had nothing to do with this DVD. This DVD is an analysis of the album “Achtung Baby” which was released by the band in the early 90s. Also, if you believe the intensity and gravity with which the people who talk on this DVD do then it also cures blindness, baldness and lumbago.
This is the most pretentious piece of junk I have ever seen. This DVD does exactly what many critics of the band accused them of doing just before they released this album. At the time U2 had become the band of the 80s with the album The Joshua Tree. They then followed this up with an album and movie called Rattle and Hum. People accused them of being self-indulgent and pretentious. In short, everything this DVD is.
The interesting thing was that Achtung Baby was not supposed to be self-indulgent and pretentious. It is a very good album. It is one of two U2 albums I actually own. However, it was only released a little over a decade ago. Isn’t it just a tad early to declare it one of the greatest albums of all time and the greatest album the band has ever released? Last I heard they were still performing and still releasing albums.
Of course the band has gone back into pomposity several times since this album. This album was a reaction to some of the negative press they got from Rattle and Hum. It was an album that supposedly showed a sense of humor and an ironic side to the band. It was deliberately European in flavor and had a lot of electronic manipulation and music added. Whereas Rattle and Hum was a very serious tribute to American Music this album was meant to be a deliberate departure and, in a way, poked fun at the pompous creature U2 had become.
These days, of course, Bono, the lead singer, nearly walks on water. He still wears strange sunglasses that seemed to have their genesis with this album when he created his supposed alter-ego “the Fly.” He speaks to world leaders and hangs out with Bill Gates. He preaches more than Billy Graham in his hey-day and apparently embraced pomposity and self-righteousness as his moral right. At the same time the band can still crank out a great pop tune.
Still, this DVD starts out by giving a brief history of the band. A very few sentences discuss how the members met. There is a cursory review of their first albums. There are some profoundly disturbing shots of Bono wearing some kind of Uber-mullet. They are shown recording this album, Achtung Baby, in Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall coming down. The way the experts talk and talk and talk about this album you would think that the album itself is what brought the wall down.
There is a point where the experts begin to dissect the album a song at a time. Rather than doing what would have actually been interesting, namely playing the music, you get these people droning on and on about how this song was recorded and what that song could possibly mean. They speak in such serious terms and sentences you have to wonder if any of these people have lives. My guess is that they do not. Very shortly this becomes very boring. The entire DVD is only about an hour but it felt roughly like sixteen.
There are no extras even worth mentioning. Since this is not an official U2 production there aren’t even any interviews with the band. At least that might have been mildly amusing. Instead if you haven’t been completely bored to tears by the movie itself you can watch actual extended interviews of the people talking endlessly about this album. I have found the cure for insomnia and you can put away your Ambien and Lunestra, just pop in the DVD “Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review.”
If you are a diehard U2 fan you might feel entirely different about this DVD. Maybe you sit around with other U2 fans and discuss their albums and their deeper meanings at length just like the people do endlessly during this DVD. If you do then you will probably love this DVD and you should immediately go out and buy many copies to give to all of your friends.
For me, it would have been a much better movie to have an official DVD release by the band. I would love to know more about how they got together. I would love to have clips of the band collaborating and recording. There is talk about how the band struggled in the initial stages of the recording of this album and the band was near breaking up. Of course there is no official footage of any of this anywhere so it is all just second-hand information. A film showing the actual recording of this album and showing the band getting together to put the songs together and fighting and working it all out would have been interesting. That’s exactly the kind of movie and music documentary that I love to see.
In the end this one is like watching a bunch of newspaper music critics sitting around telling you how they feel you should appreciate this album more. Yeah, sure, I liked the album. I would gladly listen to the album. I have enjoyed listening to this album. I would have loved to have seen footage of the band recording this album or performing this album. None of this is evident or on this DVD.
In the end, I would rather just put Achtung Baby in my CD player or listen to MP3s of the album than watch this DVD again. If you are a real U2 fan, I am willing to bet you would rather do that as well.