If you’re a music geek (and let’s face it – you probably are, if you’re reading this), you know that music labels love springing expensive collector’s packages and box sets on gift-givers as the holiday season approaches (and like it or not, Christmas is less than five months away). Nirvana’s Nevermind is being reissued with a bunch of extra content for its 20th anniversary (because duh), Sting’s getting his first multi-disc career retrospective and even underrated or forgotten acts are getting the deluxe treatment.
This year marks 20 years since U2 released Achtung Baby, one of the landmark albums of the ’90s. Even after monumental successes like Achtung (and killer cuts like “Mysterious Ways,” “Until the End of the World” and the heartbreakingly gorgeous “One”), the biggest rock band in the world toys with its audience. Sure, this year they put on the highest-grossing tour of all time, but Bono and The Edge also wrote the music to the Broadway disaster Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark. A revisiting of Achtung could easily be the key to bringing U2 back into the light; after all, the band’s previous reissues of nearly every album of theirs from the ’80s (sorry, Rattle and Hum) were nicely-packaged deluxe affairs that offered both hard-to-find B-sides and unreleased outtakes alongside the albums themselves.
But “deluxe” doesn’t begin to describe the plans U2 recently unveiled for Achtung Baby. The 20th anniversary edition of this album will be available as a standalone remastered edition or a double-disc set with B-sides and remixes, or even as a quadruple-vinyl set. That’s not particularly crazy. What is particularly crazy is the deluxe box set edition, which includes Achtung Baby, the 1993 follow-up Zooropa, two discs of remixes and two discs of B-sides and alternate takes as well as four DVDs of content, including music videos, a new documentary on the making of the album and the band’s Zoo TV tour special from Sydney, Australia. That’s ten discs, essentially devoted to one album (two, if you don’t think Zooropa was included as sort of an afterthought). And, as if that weren’t crazy enough, that deluxe set has its own deluxe set, including vinyl, collectible badges and stickers and – wait for it – a pair of Bono’s aggravating sunglasses, as he began to wear them during the Achtung era.
Look, I’m all for great albums being expanded into special packages. I proudly own The Beach Boys’ four-disc Pet Sounds Sessions box and I’d buy at least twice that many discs’ worth if Michael Jackson’s estate comes calling with Thriller in 2012. But is this really what we want from the behemoth that is U2? Do we really need CDs and vinyl in the same package? And seriously: sunglasses? I live in New Jersey – I can go to a mall and pick out douchebag accessories at Sunglass Hut. This set is certainly going to have its share of buyers – but if you stumble across this page, let’s have a chat – not only because I wonder what makes you tick, but because you clearly have enough money to buy me a copy, too.
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