There comes a time in most bands' lives when they attempt to seek creative higher ground, and try to do things in a different way. This period of profound enlightenment sometimes has a funny relationship with the success of the band. For example, a band hits really big, and no sooner, they are in a deep creative process.
For U2, considering their longevity and success, this exercise had to come about sometime, and began with The Joshua Tree follow-up Achtung Baby, where huge glimpses of the band's constructive fooling around with dance music could be heard. U2 took this urge for creative fulfillment even further, and into their supporting conceptual 'Zoo TV' live tour.
In what seems like the effect of Achtung Baby and the "Zoo TV" tour, the effusive 'creative' phase came about again for U2 with Zooropa, but this time, the band has connected to dance music on a subtle and totally different plane.
Zooropa is, to date, U2's most experimental and complicated record. It has got all sorts of weirdly interesting things happening in it. The album has The Edge singing, or rapping, or whatever he does on "Numb." It has a celebrity on one of its songs -- Johnny Cash singing "The Wanderer." It also has Bono doing his "The Fly" 'fat lady' vocals all over the record.
But, importantly, there are the songs themselves. The subtle inclusions of unusable sound-bytes lifted from advertisements from the band's television set, or the crazy guitar and synthesizers that sound so unlike the U2 that we've all been hearing for the last so many years, create another dimension to the sound of the band, and make the record sound 'media-driven' and 'technology-inspired', which it is -- " Zooropa …vorsprung durch technik (roughly translated, 'advancement through technology')… Zooropa …fly the friendly skies through appliance of science," sings Bono on the title track. Zooropa is an album of non-identical songs, juxtaposed to give this one absolutely vague-sounding record.
Zooropa makes U2 sound not like demigods of rock n' roll with humongous success. It makes the band sound rather like a bunch of musicians on a fearless journey to explore the depths and widths of their creative capabilities. This is a good thing because, minus all the façade of stardom, the sound of the album turns out totally without any pretenses and honest -- but still crazy.