U2, Zooropa

Zoo TV, the inspiration for Zooropa, was supposed to be an exploration of sensory overload and I am relieved to report that the actual album is nothing of the sort (well, maybe the ghastly album art is, but not the music itself). True, stylistically it picks up where the highly experimental Achtung Baby left off, but it develops it and makes it more refined rather than just wallowing in it. Part of that is no doubt the expertise of Brian Eno and Flood, but part of it is also an increased understanding of how to merge their past with the future: they may have thrown it in for laughs, but the classic vocals of Johnny Cash on the final track backed by a marvelously artificial bogus cowboy riff pretty much represents the album in miniature. "Stay" and "Some Days Are Better Than Others" could have come off an earlier work, but with a little sweetening and stylistic assimilation they slot right in. They also add new tricks to their audio repertoire such as drowning The Edge's vocals in the drony mix of "Numb" to impressive effect, and while Bono's falsetto will never reach Russell Mael's it's a fun little counterpoint on that and "Lemon." Good bands mature, but great bands evolve. (Content: no concerns.)