I’m not saying that Zooropa was a bad album. I’m not. In terms of U2 albums I have it rated just below average (although numerically it is just above average, but you then have to remember that there is no zero rating and so 5.5 would be average, thus again just below average) (yeah, sorry for nerd diversion there). Zooropa’s biggest problem was that it followed Achtung Baby, and thus the drop-off (a full two points) seemed like a huge chasm of failure. Not true.
Let’s just say that the album was very experimental for its time in the U2 pantheon. If Achtung Baby was a huge right turn, a chopping down of The Joshua Tree, then Zooropa was, umm, another right turn? A left turn? No, that would put them back in the same direction, which is clearly not the case. I know, it would be a downturn.
The album starts with the title track, an immediate odd sound, followed by Babyface and then Numb, even odder. Numb is one of those songs where you listen to it again and again, not because you have to, but more along the lines of watching a car wreck, can’t take your eyes off it. And you know that Daddy Isn’t Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car when it’s this terrible.
Yeah okay, so I can make a whole bunch of puns along these lines, doesn’t make this review any better. I don’t know, what is there that I can say about this album that I haven’t said a hundred different ways before? The early albums had the excuse that the band was still learning their craft. Their middle albums had them exploding in the musical universe. Achtung was a big leap into something different. Zooropa was supposed to be a quick followup, but frankly most of it didn’t work too well.
But the real thing about Zooropa is that nothing stands out, in either direction. The highest rated song I have is a 7, there’s only a couple of albums who’s best song is that low, and the lowest is a 3, and there are only a few albums with the lowest song that high. In other words it’s really average, as the rating suggests. I don’t know why I keep harping on this point, I suspect I’m trying to say that this is the most average U2 album, and that because of that I don’t listen to it nearly as much as any other. I mean, if you were looking for a good song, you’d take a highly rated song, and then end up listening to the rest of that album. If you listen like that, you end up not getting to the album that is the most mediocre.
My top three songs, in no particular order, are Stay, Lemon and The Wanderer. I really like the treatment that Wanderer has gotten during Innocence + Experience, but not enough to raise it up. I like Stay, there are days I want to listen to it, but it’s still outside the best songs for me. And Lemon, well, haven’t gotten to that yet this year. Enjoy but again nothing special.
Maybe that’s why I keep repeating the average and mediocre lines, because that’s what I’m feeling as I write this today. Subject matter.
My rating for Zooropa: 5.3 / 10