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Old 04-22-2007, 07:39 PM   #1
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Achtung, Bono

I didn't even know about that DVD, never heard of it.

Achtung, Bono

By James Parker | The Boston Globe April 22, 2007

The Christian rock band U2 continues to enter the world in some surprising ways. On March 29, lead singer Bono, in a ceremony at the home of the British ambassador in Dublin, was inducted as an honorary knight of the British Empire. ("All I'll say," gushed Prime Minister Tony Blair in a letter that was read at the gathering, "is that, along with millions of others right across the world, I'm a huge fan.") And on May 27, at the church of St. Swithin's in Lincolnshire, England, an Anglican bishop will preside over a Holy Communion service known as the U2Charist, in which the liturgy is punctuated by U2 songs like "Beautiful Day" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." This never happened to Mick Jagger.

The two ceremonies, one secular and one religious, are in fact united under a third category: the political. Bono's knighthood was awarded in recognition of the work done by his Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA) organization toward debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries. The U2Charist began as part of an effort by the Episcopal Church in the United States to focus its congregation on the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals, of which Bono is the recognized global ambassador. In a typical U2Charist service the music will be accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation giving the facts on extreme poverty, and afterward a collection is taken for an appropriate charity.

In the cause of the world's poor Bono has also been working on Christianity's right wing: 2002 saw him tape a video message to be played at Christian music festivals, visit the evangelical hotbed Wheaton College, and meet with megachurch leaders like Franklin Graham and Bill Hybels -- all this despite his well-known disapproval of televangelists and the fact that hardcore Christian music stations will only play U2 songs if they are performed by other artists. Bono, a previously uninhibited critic of US foreign policy, has also had photo ops with George W. Bush (much to the chagrin of his guitarist, the Edge). And he refused to take sides in the 2004 election. His comment: "I will have to work with either of them, and I'm not working on my own account."

Such cool-headed politicking is not what one might have expected from a man who made his name waving enormous white flags from the top of speaker stacks and shouting "Gloria!"

The release last month of the highly informative DVD "Achtung Baby: A Classic Album Under Review" (MVD) helps us understand his journey between these two points. 1991's "Achtung," as the panel of journalists, authors, and professional U2-watchers collected for the hourlong program all agree, represents the moment at which U2 stopped chasing the sacred and dived wide-eyed into the profane. The cowboy-hatted breast-beating and the rock 'n' roll classicism of its "Joshua Tree"/"Rattle and Hum" period were ditched in favor of ambiguity and the nightcrawling Euro-vibe of Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" and David Bowie's "Low" (both recorded, like "Achtung," at Berlin's Hansa Studios). Moral stridor was out: Now we had the creeping complexity of "Until the End of the World," in which Bono sings in a voice that could belong either to a date-rapist plucked at by his conscience or to Judas Iscariot. Onstage, sucking on a cheroot, he would make theatrical sorties into low-grade diabolism, playing now a demon, now a pervert, and now an aging lounge singer at the end of his rope. When a devout fan expressed anxiety at these new manifestations, he advised her to go and read "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis -- a satirical work of Christian apologetics in which the author takes the part of a devil. "Achtung," in other words, was no less religious than any other U2 album.

The critics on the DVD explore the disjuncture between "Achtung" and "The Joshua Tree," but the more interesting comparison is with "October," which was recorded 10 years earlier in Dublin. My favorite U2 album: Ringing, world-spurning post-punk, defiant of subtlety and produced under huge spiritual pressure. The pressure was real: Fellow celebrants in Shalom, the charismatic Christian group to which Bono, the Edge, and drummer Larry Mullen belonged, were claiming to have received a prophecy -- a request from the Lord that U2 renounce their music for him. Bono had also lost all his lyrics before going into the studio, and was obliged to write new ones on the spot. The result is the most naked, rapturous, imperiled, and queerly-lit album U2 would ever make, a seizing at God that dragged their still-unwieldy music clanking behind it.

By the time of "Achtung Baby" such accidental intensities were no longer possible or desirable. Everything, right down to the little red horns that Bono wore onstage when playing the demon/trickster MacPhisto, had been thought through. A different, more worldly creative calculus was at work, one that would serve Bono well as he began to attend summits and glad hand world leaders. As Larry Mullen once said of his singer: "He'll have lunch with the devil himself if it gets him what he needs."

James Parker's column appears biweekly in Ideas. E-mail

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Old 04-23-2007, 06:02 PM   #2
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Here it is on Amazon:

Product Description
This DVD contains the ultimate review and critical analysis of U2's most pivotal album. It offers a previously unobtainable level of insight into the band during the recording of their most dynamic and well respected album. Via the use of live footage, long forgotten videos and the review, criticism and insight of a panel of highly opinionated experts, this package delivers the finest documentary film yet to emerge on Dublins favorite sons. Achtung Baby was the album that fired U2 into the 90s when the four-piece dramatically overhauled their traditional approach to songwriting.

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Old 04-24-2007, 11:13 AM   #3
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i bought when it came out, its pretty good
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