I've never seen eye to eye with most record critics on Zooropa. It is generally regarded as one of the better albums in U2's catalog, but no matter how hard I've tried (and believe me, I've tried hard), I cannot hear anything but a lot of good ideas wrapped in half-baked execution.
It's been seven or eight years since I last listened to Zooropa, so when I saw it sitting on the shelf at the EPFL, I knew it was time to try again.
Sonically, this might be U2's most adventurous album. The band completely reinvented their sound on their previous record, Achtung Baby, and it seems as if that album's success gave them the courage to push their boundaries even farther this time around. The production of this CD is nearly flawless.
Unfortunately, while the production of Zooropa is as inspired as David Bowie's Berlin trilogy, the songs could be from Bowie's lackluster Never Let Me Down.
Despite a few gems, Zooropa possesses some of the weakest lyrics that Bono has ever written. Musically, these songs flutter around in circles, which is a shame because most of them could have flown if they'd received the nurturing care that U2 typically gives their songs. Tracks like "The First Time" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" simply revisit great moments in the band's history, while "The Wanderer" makes it hard to believe that either U2 or guest vocalist Johnny Cash had any great moments left. Even the best songs on Zooropa ("Stay (Faraway, So Close!)," "Numb," and "Lemon") sound like b-sides when compared to the band's truly great songs.
The album consists of underdeveloped ideas wrapped in great production. The package consists of great ideas wrapped in bad Photoshop.
Listen if you like: I don't really know. If you love Rattle and Hum, you're probably either open-minded enough or blindly loyal enough to love this album.
If it were food, it'd be: a half-baked cake.