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U2’s ‘Zooropa’ a departure

After releasing some of the most innovative rock ‘n’ roll records of the past dozen years, U2 decided to try something else on its new album.

The band’s ninth Island Records release, “Zooropa,” arrives in stores today spinning in a completely different direction from what observers might expect from a new U2 record.

The rock edge usually generated by Bono, Dave (The Edge) Evans, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton is generally gone, replaced by keyboard-oriented technopop-influenced sounds.

Part of the clue to the new direction may lie in the production. Credits listed include cool-school techmaster Brian Eno along with Flood and the Edge (the latter’s first production credit).

Rhythmically, “Zooropa” grooves, but U2 has created more of a “cool” dance record than authentic rock, undoubtedly because of Eno’s influence. Although the album sporadically hints at the fire of its predecessor, “Achtung Baby”– particularly in Bono’s delivery of “Stay” and the title track — U2 seems to have sprung a leak in its passion.

Songs, for the most part, miss compelling melodies, particularly through the verses. Only the title track explores the sort of melodic range usually associated with U2.

U2 experiments with atypical sounds, using various instruments and synthesizers throughout, while the last cut features a surprise appearance from country veteran Johnny Cash on lead vocals. Cash, undoubtedly warming up for his upcoming sessions with avant garde producer Rick Rubin, sings about a spiritual quest, atop synthesized bass and chorus.

Will “Zooropa” sell? Put the name U2 on anything and you’ll attract attention , and it might even pull in new fans of the techno crowd. But fans of passionate , authentic rock ‘n’ roll should look elsewhere.

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