The first studio album from U2 in 4 and half years, Achtung Baby, reaches record stores on Nov. 19, but don't expect to read many reviews of it before that date. In an unusual move, the band and its label, Island Records, are not making advance copies available to the press until a few days before the record is released. (Press copies of new albums are normally available up to a month before the release date.)
To some in the industry, withholding the album sounds like the music- business equivalent of an old Hollywood practice: not letting critics preview a movie that has bad word-of-mouth. Indeed, Achtung Baby has been dogged by rumors of friction within the band. Yet a U2 spokesman says the band ''wants the people to hear the music before they read reviews.'' U2 is still stinging over the torrent of critical scorn that accompanied the group's 1988 Rattle and Hum album and tour. To further its mystique-and perhaps to whet fans' appetites the band may play one gig per city on a 30-stop tour planned for the U.S. early next year.