U2? Me Too!
One of the last “real” bands to make albums. There have been some since, but as far as some teenagers getting together with a specific purpose, then growing together with that same purpose still in mind….well they are one of the last.
In the 80’s they had the luxury of being one of the only bands that were actually playing guitars and singing about stuff that mattered at all. There were only a handful at the time. They stayed the course, didn’t go the “hair band” way or “flock of seagulls” way and found real importance because of it.
People occasionally like to say Bono has an “inflated ego”. Well, number one he’s a real rock star, so he should. And number two, hell…he’s one of the greatest frontmen in rock history. He’s gotta be cocky.
Then there is The Edge. His guitar playing has never been predictable. He’s always experimented and pushed his limits. Add that to a pretty damn good rhythm section and it makes sense.
They are also a band that the sum of the parts is much bigger than the whole.
Probably why Bono has never really even considered a solo Bono album. He knows he’s in a band.
Here are their best albums:
– “The Joshua Tree” (1987) – “The Joshua Tree” is U2’s masterpiece that dared you not to pay attention. All wide-open spaces and arena-ready choruses, it crossed Bono’s youthful quest for spiritual enlightenment through a newfound obsession with all things American. And it’s backed it up with great songs. It starts out huge: “Where the Streets Have No Name” into “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, then “With or Without You.” Sure, the sense of gravity is almost overwhelming, but between the Edge’s atmospheric love affair with his guitar and Bono’s soaring choruses, it never feels too heavy for its own good.
It made them into Superstars, and it’s the no brainer for The Black Jacket Symphony to perform.
-“War” (1983) – “War” is where they really came into their own, the first suggestion that you could be looking at one of the most important rock band on the planet. There’s a sense of urgency, from the opening shot of “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” its militaristic drum beat underscoring Bono’s vivid images of “broken bottles under children’s feet” and “bodies strewn across the dead-end street.” It’s almost flawless, packed with any number of the greatest songs they’d ever write, from an impassioned “New Year’s Day” to “Two Hearts Beat as One”.
– “Achtung Baby” (1991) – This reinvention of U2 is one of my personal favorites, and was sparked, in part, by their going to Berlin to work where David Bowie had recorded “Heroes”. This is also where they started dabbling more rhythmic beats and electronic textures. But the biggest – or most notable – departure was Bono’s turning his back on being achingly sincere. It’s as if this is when he decided to ‘lighten up’. Not too much too quick though. From the operatic grandeur of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” to the devastated “One,” there no shortage of heart on “Achtung Baby.” It’s just a little sexier.
-“The Unforgettable Fire” (1984) – This is the first they’d worked with collaborator Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. An atmospheric stepping stone between “War” and “The Joshua Tree,” this album features several of their greatest tracks, including “Bad,” a song inspired by a friend who’d overdosed on heroin, and “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a stirring tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Other highlights of this album range from the skittering funk of “Wire” to the moody soundscape of the title track.
-“Boy” (1980) –U2’s debut album is one of those records that completely pulls you in. It kicks off almost literally with “I will Follow”.
You feel the youthful optimism. You feel that THEY feel this stuff.
Yes, it has a bit of a “dated” 80’s sound bathed in echo and all the effects of the day, but it’s still one of the greatest debuts in all of rock and roll and should be owned by any serious music fan.
What do you think are the “quintessential” U2 albums?