It must be getting close to Christmas time.
That would certainly explain all the expanded editions and boxed sets that have come down the pike in recent weeks. From The Who and Pearl Jam, to Brian Wilson and Leonard Cohen, nothing says Merry Christmas this holiday season like your favorite artists re-imagined, remastered and repackaged, complete with everything but the bow on top.
Of all this years crop of deluxe retrospectives however, none of them are as elaborate and over-the-top as the 20th Anniversary Edition of U2's Achtung Baby. In fashion befitting a band not exactly known for its subtlety, U2 have pulled out all the stops here, providing fans a multitude of options to choose from.
For most, the 2-CD "Deluxe Edition" should prove sufficient. It features the original album remastered, along with a second disc of remixes, B-sides and alternative takes that covers the Achtung Baby period quite nicely, without overdoing it to the point of redundancy — a problem that plagues both of the bigger, and much pricier boxed sets.
Both the "Super Deluxe" and "Uber Deluxe" versions contain six discs and four DVDs, with the latter also including everything from a book and some rare art prints, to your very own pair of Bono's sunglasses (the same model he wore as "The Fly" on the Zoo TV tour).
It can all be yours, for somewhere around $400.
All excesses aside, this sort of grandoise treatment is certainly appropriate, given an album as pivotal in the overall U2 story as Achtung Baby. At the time of its 1991 release, U2 had just completed its conquest of the world with The Joshua Tree album and tour. But with that same newly anointed status, the inevitable blowback soon followed.
The bombs hurled at the band back then, most often centered around a perception that they had ballooned overnight from a populist phenomenon into a self-important, pompous and overblown monstrosity. Rattle And Hum, their largely failed concert film experiment, did little to quiet the critics — many of whom were put off by its self-congratulatory tone.
Perhaps as a result of this backlash, U2 sought to reinvent themselves with Achtung Baby. Amazingly, they succeeded. The title is influenced at least in part by the German location where sessions for the album began with producer Brian Eno. Here, the band's mission was to bottle their own version of the synthesized electro-funk rhythms pioneered by German groups like Kraftwerk, and exploited to the greatest effect by David Bowie on his infamous, seventies "Berlin trilogy" of albums (also produced by Eno).