Skip to content

U2: Favourite Five Albums

U2 started the 1980s as a post-punk band influenced by Joy Division and Television. Throughout the decade they beefed up their sound, working with notable producers like Steve Lillywhite and Brian Eno, and became one of the highest selling and critically acclaimed rock bands of their generation

The band’s built a distinctive sound around limited components – they emerged in the wake of punk, when virtuosity wasn’t a prerequisite for success, and were able to build a successful career around each member’s idiosyncrasies. Bono’s soaring voice, and political and religious fervour, and The Edge’s effects laden guitar are their most distinctive musical features.

My journey with U2 has been interrupted – I enjoyed them in my late teens, but burned out on them, especially their most ubiquitous moments like the opening three track salvo on The Joshua Tree. But returning to them to cover them for this page, I’ve enjoyed working through their catalogue – unlike many bands, they remained vital and interesting into their second decade as recording artists.

#5 – Zooropa

u2-zooropa1993
U2 followed the sonic departure of Achtung Baby with an even more experimental, expansive album. Highlights include a deadpan Edge taking lead vocals on ‘Numb’ and Johnny Cash taking centre stage on ‘The Wanderer’, while ‘Lemon’ captures a Prince vibe.


#4 – The Unforgettable Fire

u2-the-unforgettable-fire1984
After three rock albums with producer Steve Lillywhite, U2 connected with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois for a more atmospheric sound on The Unforgettable Fire. It’s sometimes inconsistent, but Martin Luther King Jr. tribute ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ is my favourite song from the band, and ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ and the slower ‘Bad’ are also highlights.


#3 – War

u2-war1983
U2 streamlined the post-punk of their first two records to an arena ready sound on War. ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘New Year’s Day’ are the best known song, but it’s full of great material, like ‘Seconds’, the urgent ‘Two Hearts Beat As One’, and the closing Psalm ’40’.


#2 – Boy

u2-boy1980
U2 were great out of the gate, as their debut album testifies. The raw post-punk sound of Boy is less rigid than you’d expect from the band’s other material, and it’s full of great, overlooked material. Opener ‘I Will Follow’ is the best known song, but I prefer the epic double punch of ‘An Cath Dubh’ and ‘Into The Heart’ and the raw ‘Out Of Control’.


#1 – The Joshua Tree

u2-the-joshua-tree1987
The Joshua Tree didn’t emerge until almost three years after The Unforgettable Fire – it takes that album’s atmospheric sound and applies it to a much more consistent batch of songs. The opening trio (‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, and ‘With Or Without You’) are arguably the band’s three best known tracks, but the rest of the album is great too. The excellent ‘One Tree Hill’ was a New Zealand number one.

I know that I’ve left one very acclaimed U2 album off this list – Achtung Baby has a bunch of great songs, and it successfully reinvents the band’s sound, keeping them relevant for their second decade, but it’s a victim of the CD era bloat. It would have made a great forty minute album.

 

43 thoughts on “U2: Favourite Five Albums Leave a comment

  1. Those are all great ones and I am with you on The Joshua Tree at #1. Only U2 album I have never liked at all was POP. Caught them twice in concert last summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll have to give Zooropa another listen. Their stuff between Achtung and All That You Can’t Leave Behind never appealed to me much as I dove into the deep end of all things Neil Young and Dylan for most of the 90’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I allowed compilations, I’d probably go with the 1990-2000 best of for my 5th choice. There are some great songs on all four albums from that era (and Miss Sarajevo from Passengers), but they’re all a little patchy/overlong. Still a pretty good second decade from them – they successfully reinvented themselves.

      Like

  3. I’m not really a fan of Bono & Co. but you certainly listens the albums worth bothering with. Aside from the exclusion of Achtung Baby, I’d find it had to disagree with your list (Achtung for Zooropa, I reckon).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The live mini-album was my introduction to U2. ‘This is Red Rocks!’ – Bono always knows where he is.

    I rather like Achtung Baby too. Their Kid A except not so interesting. But mostly U2 leave me a bit lukewarm.

    Thanks for the read, though. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list! I have wanted to dive into their albums and rank them and this gives me a little motivation to tackle that. I found a mint condition Joshua Tree on vinyl and it sounds incredible. I think I would agree on that one as #1.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a good term for it – an interrupted U2 journey, I can relate.
    Though like you, I did enjoy revisiting for the purposes of writing about the albums, just haven’t felt inspired to invest in any of the post-2000 material.
    I actually quite like all that you can’t leave behind, so it would likely join my top 5!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sadly, I never warmed up to War. I think it has some mesmerizing tracks, sure, but it also has some tunes that do nothing at all for me, so I find it rather irregular.

    I am surprised Achtung Baby did not make it, but I can understand where you are coming from given it is a bit bloated indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think War and Unforgettable Fire are both a little spotty, but the high points are really high – I really like ‘Seconds’ and ’40’. Achtung Baby was one of the first CDs I ever bought, so it got lots of chance to be played, but I rarely made it through the whole thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We share three of the same favourite U2 albums–Zooropa, Boy and Unforgettable Fire. Zooropa will always hold a special place in my heart. Every song is just so eclectic and creative and experimental, with some really heartbreaking moments that always rip me apart like Stay (Faraway, So Close!) and The First Time.
    Boy has this amazing energy that carries through the whole record. I love the idea that such a solid debut came from a group of teenagers experimenting with instruments in Larry Mullen Jr.’s kitchen.
    Unforgettable Fire satisfies my love for moody, atmospheric, ambient music. The record feels like a late night in a smoky jazz club in the city where you’re wearing black velvet and drinking red wine.
    While I have endless respect for The Joshua Tree, especially after seeing the group on the 30th anniversary tour last summer, I’ve always preferred Achtung Baby. It’s more in line with the music I usually like–darker, more experimental and gritty.
    (Also, I tried to comment this once before, but my internet connection at my house has been spotty and my laptop glitched. I apologize if I commented more than once…)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Our opinions don't stink!

CirdecSongs

Music for Eclectic Ears

Loud Alien Noize

Revealing the True Origins of Silence

The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

PowerPop... An Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture

An Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture

Soundtrack To My Year

Fandom Scrapbook

rockrollain.com/

Official website for bassist Rock Rollain

LOST IN THE NOISE

PART JOURNAL. PART MIX-TAPE. PART COMMENTARY.

My Vinyl Hunt

Vinyl Enthusiast from Suffolk

%d bloggers like this: