I probably won't buy the new Achtung Baby cover album, created to celebrate the original's 20th anniversary. U2's original record is, indubitably, my favourite record of all time. It's certainly one of my deserted island albums. Getting the covers version would be like cheating on your wife with a woman that looked 80% exactly like her --- what's the point?
This isn't to say the covers album isn't good. I've certainly listened to it (thanks YouTube!) and all in all, it's an interesting set of interpretations. Here's the track listing….
1. Nine Inch Nails/Zoo Station
2. U2 (Jacques Lu Cont remix)/Even Better Than The Real Thing
3. Damien Rice/One
4. Patti Smith/Until The End Of The World
5. Garbage/Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
6. Depeche Mode/So Cruel
7. Gavin Friday/The Fly
8. Snow Patrol/Mysterious Ways
9. The Fray/Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World
10. The Killers/Ultraviolet
12. Jack White/Love Is Blindness
If there's a common element it's that several of the covers take the same tack of reducing vibrant songs to somewhat straightforward, more acoustic numbers. Snow Patrol's cover of 'Mysterious Ways' strips all of the danceability from one of the grooviest songs ever, which kinda ruins it. Conversely, Patti Smith's bare bones version of "Until The End Of The World" is quite powerful, giving it a Johnny Cash, American Recordings kind of vibe. Somewhere in between is Nine Inch Nails' cover of "Zoo Station" and Gavin Friday's cover of "The Fly," neither of which has nearly the rocking energy of U2's originals, but they carry JUST enough of that energy to pull it off.
The only tracks on the album I didn't care much for were Snow Patrol's tune and "Even Better Than The Real Thing," which wasn't actually a cover, but rather U2's version heavily remixed by Jacques Lu Cont. They couldn't find a band to do a proper cover? Seriously, I'm not sure Lu Cont's version is even in my list of top five EBTTRT remixes…oh yes, I've heard several! Besides these two songs, most everything falls into the category of acceptably good. Garbage's version of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," for instance, is exactly what you'd expect a Garbage cover of that song to sound like.
I've highlighted my three favourites below. There's Patti Smith, first of all. The Killers deliver a nice, playful version of "Ultraviolet," which I'd argue is one of U2's most underrated songs and a tune that, for most other bands, would've been a huge hit single rather than a semi-unknown song buried on the back of a record. Then we have what's unsurprisingly my favourite, given my love of the White Stripes. Jack White's "Love Is Blindness" is just raw and yearning and shredding guitars and pure awesome. God, do I ever wish the White Stripes were still active, or if Jack White did a proper solo album instead of submerging himself within the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs or producing covers of Mozart songs by the Insane Clown Posse.
"Until The End Of The World," Patti Smith
"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)," The Killers
"Love Is Blindness," Jack White