Island Records, 1993


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Isn't it a natural for me to review an Irish band today? The Chicago River is dyed green (though it always seems to have that slimey color, so why bother dying it?), everyone I know is Irish for a day, and depending when you're reading this, I've had anywhere from two to ten beers in celebration. (Of course, I'm writing this the Monday before -- I don't think I'd be conscious enough to write anything in English afterwards.)

U2 have made it their point in the '90s to confuse and confound critics and fans alike. After finally grabbing the brass ring on The Joshua Tree (and documenting their tour on Rattle And Hum), Bono and the boys did a major u-turn by going towards ambient-noise rock on Achtung, Baby -- only to gain quite a bit more success.

As if almost to say, "Okay, you thought you could handle change? Handle this !" U2 came out in 1993 with Zooropa, more of a techno album than a rock work. Sure enough, some fans went screaming for the exits -- too bad, 'cause if you allow this album to grow on you, it proves itself to be quite good.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first single "Numb" was a wake-up call in and of itself -- holy crow, that's The Edge handling the lead vocals! Who woulda thunk it? (Actually, seeing how well he held his own on "Van Diemen's Land" off Rattle And Hum, this should have come as no surprise.) Even the heavily-synthesized sound failed to harness the impetus that U2 now had.

The title track captures the mood of U2 perfectly -- both a mockery and rejection of the commercial world, "Zooropa" starts off with a nice, lopping rhythm -- only to turn into almost a dance number that explodes in fury. It's a great feeling -- I always look forward to that cymbal crash in the whooping keyboard work. Likewise, the trance/dance that is "Lemon" is almost instantly addictive -- though on this one, I will admit it was dragged out a little too long at almost seven minutes in length.

There still are some remnants of the old U2 that the nouveau fans fell in love with. "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" is a return to a rock-like feel in a slower-tempo number that will feel more natural to some fans. Likewise, "Dirty Day" sounds like a merging between the early U2 and their techno phase -- and it sounds more natural than you might expect.

The true surprise on Zooropa comes courtesy of Johnny Cash, who takes over the lead vocal role on the closing song "The Wanderer." Some people have pegged this performance as the key to Cash's recent comeback and garnering of Generation-X's interest in his work. Whatever the case, Cash was almost born to sing this track, and U2 even makes Cash sound somewhat happy -- scary, isn't it?

There are a few clunkers on Zooropa - "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car" and "Some Days Are Better Than Others" really fall flat -- but for the most part, the album holds up well to yet another stylistic change from U2.

The only real problem with Zooropa is that this one takes a couple of listens to truly appreciate. The first listen will most likely freak the listener out a bit, especially if they've been raised on a diet of "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." For them, Zooropa will be a hard slap in the face -- but that effect passes quickly.

U2 took a major chance when they unveiled Zooropa on an unsuspecting public -- and to those who could appreciate the album for what it was, that chance was worth the risks.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.