U2 - Achtung Baby (Deluxe Edition)
There are, broadly speaking, three kinds of re-issue. There's the warts and all kind: fan service, vault clearing affairs, like Suede's back catalogue reissue - some of it barely listenable, but everything on the table. Then there's the "will this do?" kind, where a vague sweep of the vaults has been made, holding enough back for a lucrative box set later (Queen, we're looking at you). And then there's the shameless cash grab.
"If you pile a lot of extra material and packaging and design work into a super-duper box set, there are people who will pay quite a lot for it, so you can budget it at a very high level and pump up the value." So said U2 manager Paul McGuinness, speaking to Rolling Stone earlier in the year. When they announced in October that the most expensive version of the Achtung Baby re-release (don't call it a remaster) was the better part of £300 and included a pair of sunglasses, no prizes were awarded for guessing which category this reissue would fall into.
And so it proves - to gain access to any substantial unreleased material, it's necessary to part with £75, which grants you access to the Achtung Baby demos, or "Achtung Baby Kindergarten" as it's known (see what they did there?) which is the jewel in the crown of the Deluxe Edition (the recently televised documentary notwithstanding). Not willing to invest that amount? Don't fancy buying lots of material you already own? (the live DVD is previously released, the albums are 'tweaked' rather than remastered, and the remixes were dubious at the time and haven't become more essential in the interim). Tough. Fancy downloading the new tracks from iTunes to your shiny U2 iPod? Tough. Remember what your uncle Paul says, kids - it's piracy that's killing the music industry.
But what of the 'entry level' reissue, the Deluxe Edition? Well, it falls between two stools - a bit too much for the casual fan, and nothing new for the afficionado. On the second disc there's a couple of interesting covers - 'Satellite of Love', 'Paint It Black', a couple of B-Sides (of which 'Blow Your House Down' is our favourite), and a handful of iffy remixes.
There's nothing wrong with the main album, though. Achtung Baby may be U2's masterpiece, and 18 million sales and 20 years later, it's no less impressive. The singles alone are an embarrassment of riches - 'One' might be over familiar now, but it stands as one of the finest ballads in modern rock. The crunchy riff of 'Mysterious Ways'. The distortion of 'The Fly' (it went to number 1, but it was the public's first introduction to the new, more challenging U2). The soundbite that it was "four men chopping down the Joshua Tree" wasn't that far off the truth.
Our view? If you've already got Achtung Baby and aren't prepared to pony up for one of the boxes, save your twelve quid (too much for a version with barely any unreleased material, not a word of liner notes, nothing) and seek out the recent issue of Q (Blasphemy! - Ed.) - not only do you get at least some insight into the band, but you get a re-recorded version of the album by various movers and shakers on the current 'scene'. If it's not in the collection, now's the time - this is the sound of a band kicking off one of the most successful career second acts in history, and it still stands up to scrutiny.