Classic Rock Battle: U2’s Achtung Baby vs Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

Screenshot 3:26:13 5:37 PM-2At first glance, these are two very different albums separated by 18 years from two groups with vastly different sounds. And yet, for each group the album represents the exact middle of their studio recordings and was both a milestone and a turning point in the bands themselves. For Pink Floyd, this is the first album without the ecstatic and undependable Syd Barrett which defines the sound and aura of Pink Floyd for their greatest achievements for the next decade: Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall. The music is a radical departure from the psychedelic rock from Piper at the Gates of Dawn to Obscured by Clouds – all of which had moments of brilliance but none of which had the coherence and extraordinary production values of Dark Side (and Alan Parsons as a producer!). For U2, Achtung Baby is a radical departure from the visceral, politically charged Boy, October and War and the calm, reflective Unforgettable Fire. I’d argue that it is also quite different from The Joshua Tree in that the lyrics become far more personal and intimate and the music has a sort of U2 formula-rock sound to it that is replicated more or less on all their subsequent work in some degree or another from Zooropa to No Line on the Horizon. One big difference however, is that U2 has kept the same exact lineup since the very start of the band and continue to produce (despite the 4 year hiatus since No Line), whereas Dark Side triggered the beginning of the end for Floyd as Roger started to take tyrannic position in front of the band and created resentments that split them apart 10 years later (see this article). Perhaps, despite Bono being the clear spokesman and bandleader of U2, they found a more democratic management style within the band to keep tensions down. I find that thematically, the albums are also similar: Dark Side talks about the limits between Them and Us, Sane and Insane (Lunatic on the Grass), Poverty and Wealth (Money), and Light and Dark (Eclipse). Achtung Baby talks on a more personal level of the distance between two people (One, So Cruel) and between right and wrong (Acrobat) or east and west (Zooropa). Both albums are concept albums in their own way, with Dark Side being the first and probably most coherent single recording in rock-n-roll history and Achtung despite a very different texture, still maintaining a very common U2 signature throughout. I am not even sure that these are my favorite albums from these two artists (I’d probably choose War or Unforgettable Fire from U2 and Animals or The Wall from Floyd), but I think that these two albums are more similar than they first appear. Do you agree? Feel free to sound off in the comments 🙂

PS. I forgot to mention the winner: Dark Side of the Moon would edge out Achtung Baby for its musical perfection, the frightening brilliance of Claire Torry’s singing on Great Gig, and the eternal quality of it although it would be a very close fight.


About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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3 Responses to Classic Rock Battle: U2’s Achtung Baby vs Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

  1. Rick says:

    Great post. I didn’t realize the similarities between the two. Back home, with March Madness and brackets for everything spreading through every conversation, it would have been fun to have our own take on the top album of all time (based on something like a random draw of Rolling Stone’s top albums or one from a radio station). Clearly, both of these albums would have made it far in such a tournament. (I personally prefer the Joshua Tree, probably due to how unique it was at the time and created a “formula” for other albums to follow, probably influenced by the good times I remember with those songs always in the soundtrack of my mind). But for your comparison, I think you are dead-on.

    Coincidentally, I was just having this discussion with a colleague…the lack of epic concept albums from today’s artists; where songs are constructed to be part of an overall experience (sorry Fino, but I had to use the “e-word”). I miss those examples you gave along with such offers from Genesis, Queen, and even Meatloaf’s one peak of greatness (unless you count his role in Rocky Horror). I know that last one certainly is making you cringe, but the album has certainly stood the test of time. I surely miss the days when you bought “albums” due to the whole of it’s content versus downloading a track here or there from an artist to support your iTunes habit.

    Shine on.

  2. Pingback: Musings about a Heretical Comparison: The Beatles vs Metallica | Fino's Weblog

  3. Bob says:

    Achtung baby wins this one. Achtung>Darkside

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