Box-Set Face-Off: U2 vs. Nirvana

See how the season’s two biggest 20th anniversary boxed sets fare in a stadium-worthy showdown

Two seminal ‘90s albums are being re-released in the fancy 20th anniversary boxed set editions this fall: U2’s Achtung Baby and Nirvana’s Nevermind. Each set will be released in multiple configurations, from the basic 2 CD versions aimed at the average listener to humongous limited-run editions, complete with extra CDs, DVDs and assorted gee-gaws (see below). Not sure which to spend your hard-earned cash on? Check out this quick comparison.

Achtung Baby





 Originally Released

November 19, 1991

September 24, 1991

 Other albums released on the same day

 Luis Miguel’s



Talk Talk’s

Laughing Stock


The Yngwie Malmsteen Collection

 Red Hot Chili Peppers’

Blood Sugar Sex Magik


A Tribe Called Quest’s

The Low End Theory


Status Quo’s

Rock ‘til You Drop

 What did it mean?

 The most earnest band in rock discovered irony

 Fame-averse loners from the Pacific Northwest become the kings of popular radio

 On the cover

 Bono in make-up, a nude Adam Clayton, a phallic snake

 A swimming pool, a nude baby and a dollar bill

 Hit song



” –

An endlessly-covered

ballad about a torturous relationship

 “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—a throat-tearing anthem about… uh…something about an albino?

 Recorded in

 Berlin at the end of the Cold War—specifically a ballroom once used by the S.S.

 Los Angeles at the end of the hair metal era—specifically a studio once used by Dio and Ratt

 Inspired by

 Europe (the continent), and all the electronic dance music being made there.

 Europe (the band), who were staying next door to Nirvana’s hotel and were the constant butt of Cobain and co.’s jokes

 Fashion Accessories

 Jackie O sunglasses and leather pants

 Torn jeans, thermal underwear and indie-rock t-shirts

 Drug of Choice



 Unfortunate After-Effect of Album Success

 U2 spent the next nine years trying to be funny

 Hundreds of rock bands spent the next nine years trying to be miserable

 Critical Pan

 “An ambitious failure” – Jim Greer in


 “The band has little or nothing to say, settling for moronic ramblings by singer-lyricist Cobain.” – Steve Morse in

The Boston Globe

 Crazy Girlfriend

 Cell phone-throwing supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was engaged to bassist Adam Clayton not long after the album came out.

 Rumor has it, if we even mention her name, she will appear out of nowhere and devour our souls.

 Most Over-the-Top Box Set Available

The Uber Deluxe Edition

: six CDs, four DVDs, five 7-inch and two 12-inch vinyl records, 16 art prints taken from the original album sleeve, an 84-page hardback book, a copy of Propaganda magazine, four badges, a sticker sheet, and a pair of Bono’s “The Fly” sunglasses. A bargain on Amazon for only $478.38

The Super Deluxe Edition

: 4 CDs — including demos and the never-before-heard “Butch Vig mix”– and 1 DVD, plus a 90 page book with rare photos and documents. A total steal at $110