Dave's Music Database books

Tuesday, November 19, 1991

U2 released Achtung Baby: November 19, 1991

Originally posted November 19, 2012.

image from u2interference.com


Release date: 19 November 1991
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Zoo Station / Even Better Than the Real Thing (6/20/92, #32 US, #8 UK, #1 AR, #5 MR) / One (1/4/92, #10 US, #7 UK, #1 AR, #1 MR, #24 AC) / Until the End of the World (2/1/92, #5 AR, #4 MR) / Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses? (1/25/92, #35 US, #14 UK, #2 AR, #7 MR) / So Cruel / The Fly (11/2/91, #61 US, #1 UK, #2 AR, #1 MR) / Mysterious Ways (11/23/91, #9 US, #13 UK, #1 AR, #1 MR) / Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World / Ultra Violet (Light My Way) / Acrobat / Love Is Blindness

Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 1.2 UK, 20.4 world

Peak: 11 US, 2 UK

Rating:


Review: “Reinventions rarely come as thorough and effective as Achtung Baby,” AMG an album in which “U2 discarded the arena-rock sound that catapulted it into stardom on The Joshua Tree in favor of feedback, electronic beats and introspective lyrics.” RV They “detour[ed] into the darker realms of irony, decay and turmoil on accessible avant-garde rock tunes recorded in Berlin.” UT In addition, U2 loosened up “after fostering a dour public image for years…cracking jokes and even letting themselves be photographed in color. ‘It’s a con, in a way,’ Bono admitted to Rolling Stone in 1992. ‘…It’s probably the heaviest record we’ve ever made.’” RS500

“Coaxed to Berlin by producer Brian Eno, U2 spent several chilly months arguing over how they wanted to sound in their second decade. Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were in the ‘Ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ camp while Bono and The Edge campaigned for changing everything.” TL

“This radical shift in style is loudly declared on Zoo StationRV with “crashing, unrecognizable distorted guitars” AMG and “postmodern, contemporary European music. Drawing equally from Bowie’s electronic, avant-garde explorations of the late ‘70s and the neo-psychedelic sounds of the thriving rave and Madchester club scenes of early-‘90s England, Achtung Baby sounds vibrant and endlessly inventive.” AMG

Throughout the album, U2 “use the thick dance beats, swirling guitars, layers of effects, and found sounds to break traditional songs out of their constraints, revealing the tortured emotional core of their songs with the hyper-loaded arrangements.” AMG They experimented “with a wall of sound, using waves of melody emanating in Until the End of the World and Ultra Violet.” RV

One

“In such a dense musical setting, it isn’t surprising that U2 have abandoned the political for the personal on Achtung Baby, since the music, even with its inviting rhythms, is more introspective than anthemic.” AMG “Bono has never been as emotionally naked as he is on Achtung Baby, creating a feverish nightmare of broken hearts and desperate loneliness.” AMG “U2 capped its reinvention with…One,” RV “one of the most beautiful songs U2 ever recorded.” RS500 It is “a fragile ballad that shines amidst a whirling soundscape of strings, guitars and Bono’s anguished voice.” RV “Bono wonders whether individuality also means eternal loneliness and comes down on the side of hope.” RS500 The song “started as a bitter take on Bono’s relationship with his father, twisted into a commentary on the state of the band, became a staple at weddings and now is used as an anthem to fight global poverty.” TL

“Unlike other U2 albums, it’s filled with sexual imagery, much of it quite disturbing, and it ends on a disquieting note. Few bands as far into their career as U2 have recorded an album as adventurous or fulfilled their ambitions quite as successfully as they do on Achtung Baby, and the result is arguably their best album.” AMG

The Fly

Mysterious Ways

Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?


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Tuesday, September 24, 1991

Nirvana's Nevermind was released: September 24, 1991

Originally posted 9/24/12; updated 9/25/13.

image from picturesdepot.com


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Smells Like Teen Spirit (9/10/91 #6 HT, #7 AR, #1 MR, #7 UK) / In Bloom (12/12/92 #5 AR, #28 UK) / Come As You Are (1/18/92 #32 HT, #3 AR, #3 MR, #9 UK) / Breed / Lithium (2/8/92 #64 HT, #16 AR, #25 MR, #11 UK) / Polly / Territorial Pissings / Drain You / Lounge Act / Stay Away / On a Plain (1/18/92 #25 AR) / Something in the Way

Sales (in millions): 11.0 US, 1.81 UK, 30.0 world

Peak: 1 2 US, 7 UK

Rating:


Review: Nevermind was stuffed into enough stockings over Christmas of ‘91 to boot the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, from his roost at the top of the Billboard album chart. The album went on to sell over 10 million copies domestically – a feat accomplished by less than 100 albums in the history of music. Nirvana were “scrappy garageland warriors setting their sights on a land of giants.” IR After their “undistinguished 1989 debut, Bleach, [which] relied on warmed-over Seventies metal riffs,” IR Nirvana made the leap to Geffen because frontman Kurt Cobain “wanted the group to be popular, and could see them maybe selling as many records as Sonic Youth.” AD

“The production team of Butch Vig and Andy Wallace ‘tidied’ up the sound of the early Nirvana” AD while still emphasizing the “guitar-heavy blend of bubblegum punk” SK the band crafted on Bleach. “Nirvana…created precisely the sort of record…Sub Pop [strove] for with bands like Mudhoney and Tad since its inception in 1986.” SK

Nirvana displayed a knack for “evocative wordplay” STE and “crisp pop melodicism.” BL The songs “exemplify the band’s skill at inscribing subtlety onto dense, noisy rock” IR that was “positively glistening with echo and fuzz-box distortion.” STE “This is hard rock as the term was understood before metal moved in – the kind of loud, slovenly, tuneful music you think no one will ever [make] again until the next time it happens, whereupon you wonder why there isn’t loads more.” RC

What lifts Nevermind to the status of one of the greatest albums ever made is how it defined a new genre. “Nirvana planted the alternative flag on the Iwo Jima of American consciousness when Nevermind erupted onto the music scene.” CS “Few albums have occupied the cultural consciousness like this one.” DW It “served as the antidote to the musical holocaust of the ‘80s.” CS “This is now an omni-present all-time classic” AD “and just may be compared in the same breath to albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” CT

If the sound of grunge feels overly “familiar now, it’s only because thousands of rock records that followed it were trying very hard to cop its style.” DW The album served as a “foundation for most of the rock…of the ‘90s…loud, distorted guitars; raging, sometime screaming vocals; and lyrics that range from the pessimistic, to the positive, and to the apathetic.” JC “Like a meteor crashing into earth, Nevermind left a lasting impact on music and won’t soon be forgotten.” CS

Smells Like Teen Spirit


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Tuesday, September 17, 1991

Guns N' Roses release the Use Your Illusion albums: September 17, 1991

Originally posted September 17, 2012.

image from iamexpat.nl

Following up a monster debut is no easy task. Guns N’ Roses exploded in 1988 with Appetite for Destruction, making them the biggest rock band in the world. After the 1989 GN’R Lies interim package which slapped four new songs together with GNR’s Live Like a Suicide EP from 1986, they released not one, but two albums. They were packaged separately, but with the names Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, they were generally treated as a double album.

The general consensus has been that the pair of albums was a bloated, over-the-top follow-up. This is “a shining example of a suddenly successful band getting it all wrong and letting its ambitions run wild.” E1 A nice argument has been made that a single-disc album not only would have reigned the band in, challenged AC/DC’s Back in Black as the biggest and best hard rock album ever, and, most importantly that it might have kept the group from splitting apart. DF

However, it didn’t happen that way and from a chart and sales standpoint, the general public didn’t appear too disappointed. The two albums have sold a combined 14 million in the United States and 35 million worldwide. Nine of the albums’ songs charted on the album rock charts from 1990 to 1994.

“Tensions between Slash, Izzy Stradlin, and Axl Rose are evident from the start. The two guitarists, particularly Stradlin, are trying to keep the group closer to its hard rock roots, but Rose has pretensions of being Queen and Elton John, which is particularly odd for a notoriously homophobic Midwestern boy.” E1 “Conceivably, the two aspirations could have been divided between the two records, but instead they are just thrown into the blender.” E1

“Stradlin has a stronger presence on IE1 which makes it the “harder-rocking record.” E1Use Your Illusion II is more serious and ambitious than I, but it’s also considerably more pretentious.” E2 “It can be a chore to find the highlights…amid the overblown production and endless amounts of filler,” E1 but “grandiose epics” E2 such as November Rain and Civil War make for “ambitious set pieces” E1 and there are some songs with “a nervy energy.” E2


Awards for Use Your Illusion I and II:

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Tuesday, September 10, 1991

Nirvana charted with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: September 10, 1991

Originally posted 7/12/2014.

image from badgersenate.com


Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”


Writer(s): Kurt Cobain/Nirvana (see lyrics here)

Released: --, First charted: 9/10/1991

Peak: 6 US, 5 CB, 7 AR, 11 MR, 7 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 8.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 165.66


Review: The song that sparked the grunge movement of the ‘90s owes its inspiration to perspiration. Kathleen Hanna of punk band Bikini Kill scrawled the phrase “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit,” a reference to a deodorant, on Nirvana singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain’s bedroom wall. However, he interpreted it as her suggestion “that he could incite teenage rebellion” LW and crafted an anti-commercial message in what became an ironically monstrous commercial success.

As producer Bruce Vig said, Cobain “had the dichotomy of punk rage and alientation…but also this vulnerable pop sensibility.” RS500 Upon arriving at parties, Cobain used to utter the song’s chorus (“Here we are now/ Entertain us”) to break the ice. RS500 Much as the public and critics had embraced punk fifteen years earlier, they now took to this new form of music which would revolutionize the industry.

The sound wasn’t completely new; the classic sounds of garage rock and arena rock were built on the same four-chord sequence. Cobain himself compared the guitar part to “Louie, Louie” RSP and shared “more than a hint of the chord changes” of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” TB Cobain said he was inspred by the loud/soft dynamic of the Pixies. CR

As artist’s masterpieces often do, “Teen Spirit” haunted Cobain; he felt obligated, but tortured, to play the song at every show. As he said, “there are many other songs that I have written that are as good, if not better.” RS500 However, his demons weren’t restricted to a distaste for his career-making hit; he committed suicide on 4/8/1994.


Resources and Related Links:

  • Nirvana’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Creswell, Toby. (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 503.
  • LW Lewens, Alan. (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 170.
  • RS500 RollingStone.com. “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • RSP Rolling Stone (September 8, 1988; Issue 534). “The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years." New York, NY; Straight Arrow Publishing Company. Page 64.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 246.

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