Achtung Baby had such a different vibe from The Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum that it was in many ways a shock to the system to be listening to it. In contrast it set up Zooropa in some ways, so that when the album came out there was some preparation for wildly different. But even then you couldn’t be prepared too much for the first song, the title song, which somehow managed to be six and a half minutes long, with the first couple of minutes of that being just strange noises coming out of your speakers, before the song proper kicked in. And when it did, it got itself into the weird section pretty quickly and stayed there for a while.
Something I will admit is that I sometimes conflate this song with Zoo Station, and both of them with Zoo TV, for the simple reason that they all have zoos in them. Now, Zoo Station and Zoo TV go hand in hand, at least that’s the right album. But I have to remind myself that Zooropa is a separate entity to Zoo Station, even though it also got into the Zoo TV tour. Confused? You should be. I don't mean the music, I mean just the titles are confusing.
So to the strange noises: it starts with a humming sound, then quickly a buzzing in the background which appears to be voices, many of them. Slowly additional sounds are added, a piano, a wailing voice, everything gets louder, then the guitar starts and everything else fades. Drums and guitar begin. Bono says “what do you want” and the song begins. A bunch of advertising slogans are sung for the lyrics, with repeated zooropas being sung between them. Finally we get some real lyrics, not just the slogans.
So, what’s it all about? Is it a new direction the band is going in? No compass, no map, no reason to go back. Don’t know the limit of what we’ve got. They could be signaling a new direction, although despite my first paragraph I would tend to say that Pop is much more a new direction from Zooropa than Zooropa was from Achtung.
If I were to take on the movie theme again, it would be some kind of sci-fi movie, I think. There is definitely a growth into something, or coming out into a new world sort of theme, throwing off or escaping the old to get into the new. Although it might also have a horror aspect to it, because you have those voices following you in the background, off to the sides, and maybe it’s trying to escape from them too.
Although Bono has said it’s supposed to be a futuristic city, with a person coming up out from the underground and being assailed by all the advertising, all the noise and sensory overload, if you will, kind of like we got at the start of the Zoo TV concerts. So, possibly I’m in agreement with him there.
And it all ends with a whiny screeching sound, which is really annoying. It might be a sound that has been following through the song, but quietly, and at the end it punches out into the open and irritates.
My rating for Zooropa: 5 / 10