Remarkably, once again, U2 had pulled it off.
Daryl Easlea 2009
U2 was unassailable by the mid 90s – they had married art and commerce in a glorious union. They had underlined the post-modernism of Achtung Baby with the Zoo TV Tour, which saw Bono ridiculing his band's vaunted position with enough sincerity as to not lose their audience, and in the process, gain a new one.
Zooropa took the restless flippancy of Achtung Baby and multiplied it. As every lumpen rock band seemed to latch on to glitter and quotation marks, U2 were still ahead of the pack, releasing this left-turn of a 'mini-album', produced by Flood, Brian Eno and the Edge. It was a European answer to Britpop and grunge, which almost perversely seemed to ditch any trademarks associated sonically with the band.
Using all of Eno's tricks and atmospherics, they took what was essentially some slight material, dressed it in filmic, artificial beauty and continued their march as the greatest band in the world. The title track emerges out of two minutes of atmospherics; and comes in two parts. Numb – a collection of negative instructions – is a critique on the relentless and disposable nature of popular culture.
A lot is down to the album's sound – the synth and percussion clash at the start of Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car; the warmth of Adam Clayton's bass on Some Days Are Better Than Others. The ''man builds a city'' refrain in Lemon is Eno revisiting his choral work with Talking Heads on Remain In Light, using the voice as another instrument, to lustrous effect. It is only the final track, The Wanderer, sung by Johnny Cash, which reinstates the real and provides a link with the mythical heartlands of America they spent the latter half of the 80s searching for.
For something that was essentially an adjunct to its predecessor (and much was made about how quickly it was delivered) Zooropa still has a delightful hi-tech raggedness to it. It is a bit serious and a bit daft at the same time. Remarkably, once again, U2 had pulled it off.