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U2 Evokes the Mania of Tour Life With 'Zooropa'

By Kerry O'NeilSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / August 27, 1993



BOSTON

U2, the most visible rock band on this planet, has just released their latest album, "Zooropa." The group pressed it out at home in Dublin, during a spring break from "ZOO TV" - their multimedia, worldwide tour.

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"Zooropa" follows in the shadows of "Achtung Baby," the 1991 breakthrough album that restyled the group for the '90s. Both LPs shed the band's former earnest and high-minded image for one that is more aloof and high-tech.

The latest album, however, delivers little of the intensity and passion of the best U2. Instead, it's a splatter of the glossiest and most insipid songs of the worst U2. Unlike the tempered restraint found on "Achtung Baby" - a string of intimate love songs that are layered with noisy mixes but still take you places - the 10 tracks on "Zooropa" come together randomly and coarsely. Programmed layers of wah-wahs, gurgles, loops, and samplings abound, which makes for a detached feeling.

On top of such mixes that do more to push us away than pull us in, "Zooropa" delivers a dose of empty-headed lyrics. Liquid, spiraling Bono-esque landscapes are glaringly missing. Any attempt to bore into his repetitive ramblings in search of an emotional and intimate world should be abandoned: It will make you go gaga.

An example: In the simpleminded "Some Days are Better Than Others," lead singer Bono manages to wander into even shallower waters: "Some days are slippy, other days sloppy/Some days you can't stand the sight of a puppy."

The title track, on the other hand, is a little more complex. It both sweetly and disturbingly seduces us into an information-age spin. Haunting chords are layered with a foreboding piano melody and a garble of voices from advertisements, which turn into white noise. Bono steps in and takes off, offering us jaded pleasures and instant gratification: "Zooropa... better by design/Zooropa... fly the friendly skies/Through appliance of science/We've got that ring of confidence...."

The group makes its point best about sensory overload in a track titled, "Numb," sung by guitarist The Edge. To the backdrop of hypnotic rhythm and industrial screeches, the singer blankly intones a list of disconnected injunctions: "Don't move/Don't talk out of time/Don't think/Don't worry everything's just fine/Just fine." Bono, in a falsetto he calls "the fat lady," coos faintly: "I feel numb/Too much is not enough."

The music in a few of the sparser, slow-building tracks - "Stay (Faraway, So Close)," "Dirty Day" - are weightier in emotion, though they obviously fit U2's tried-and-true love song template.

From a larger perspective, it shouldn't be surprising that U2 has released an unrestrained album: They are following urges to break free from the deliberateness of their MTV-sponsored behemoth spectacle tour.