Acclaimed Albums – The Joshua Tree & Achtung Baby by U2

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 87/250

Title: The Joshua Tree
Artist: U2
Year: 1987
Position: #39
Title: Achtung Baby
Artist: U2
Year: 1991
Position: #80

There are certain musicians where I find it hard to separate how much of an arse I think they are from their musical talent (Kanye West and The Gallagher Brothers being the main examples), but somehow Bono has escaped this. Songs like ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own’, ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘With Or Without You’ rank fairly high on my personal favourites.

The last of those three songs leads me neatly onto the first album of this post – The Joshua Tree. 

Now, this really is an album you can fill stadiums with. The first three tracks on this album are all classics. ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ starts off really quiet, to the point where I was beginning to wonder if the sound on my laptop was working. Leading into ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, which is where the grandeur truly begins, and I began to realise that I would probably enjoy this album a whole lot more than How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

This then goes into the peak of the album, ‘With or Without You’. I know it’s one of those songs that gets a lot of attention, but it does so for good reason. It’s an emotional tour de force and the rest of the album falls just below the level. The problem if you start an album with the three strongest tracks. Still, in terms of stadium albums this is really good and, apparently, perfect to glue LEGO models to.

Now, compare this to Achtung Baby and you have a really different group. Where on The Joshua Tree they were a lot more serious on this album you find more flippant lyrics such as ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. Also, instead of populating a song with ‘worthy’political topics, as one would expect from U2, it looks more inward (such as ‘Ultraviolet’).

In terms of genre Achtung Baby is a lot closer to music that I would choose to listen to. I really enjoy the introduction of more electronic and experimental elements into the songs (just see ‘The Fly’ for what you mean), same goes for the greater sense of fun. The thing that lets it down, for me, is that there is no big stand-out track for me.

Hold on, wasn’t ‘One’ meant to be the big stand-out track? Yes, yes it is. I just don’t get why it is such a big deal. It’s a good song, but it is no ‘With Or Without You’. I prefer a lot of the other tracks on this album to ‘One’; ‘Mysterious Ways’ and ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ being just two examples. I don’t actively seek out contrarianism – it just finds me.

So, that’s U2 looked at for this Top 250. Next time, I am finally going to write up Bjork. I know those albums like the back of my hand so why not just do them?


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