(3 1/2 out of 5)
Story has it that while U2 were in the studio working on this radically altered album the number one rule was no songs that sound like U2 songs, please.
Well, they succeeded. This may be a new U2 album, but you can keep the urge to wave your lighter emotionally in the air firmly in your pocket.
Dark? Phew, you'd be lucky to get through this baby and keep a smile on your face.
Bono rarely sets his vocal cords free - most of the time he just growls - but he sounds much better than he did on that awful Night and Day cover the band did for the Cole Porter Red, Hot and Blue compilation.
The sound is subdued, tightly controlled, introverted - none of this open, earnest anthemic business, thank you.
Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno (The Joshua Tree, Unforgettable Fire) largely at the Hansa Ton Studios in Berlin - where Bowie recorded some of his most eccentric and best work - the band has with this album systematically reinvented itself. The reasons for this could range from sheer creative urge to astute business move designed to create a moderate slump in their career from which they could again build to their previous mega-heights.
For whatever reason - and there will be many, many theories - this is not the U2 of old. In fact, this album is really pretty damn good. Especially its middle section containing the ballad So Cruel, The Fly, Mysterious Ways and Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World.
Too many downbeat moments where songs seem to be going nowhere prevent Achtung Baby from being a truly wondrous affair, but it's not half bad. Actually, it's more than half good.