Best U2 Albums Ranked from Good to Great to Transcendent

I want to take you on a tour of U2's discography. We'll cover every U2 album, from good to great to transcendent.

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Earnest. Arrogant. Religious. Innovative. Overrated. Inspiring. Big. Groundbreaking. These are just some of the words that come up in any conversation about U2 albums or the Irish rock band, in general. Indeed, the public and many critics have long been divided about the band. And here, you’re going to get one very subjective view.

Across 14 LPs, countless globe-spanning concert tours, and more than four decades, U2 has achieved astonishing success and worldwide fame.

In light of the positive nature of this site (and my own fandom), I want to take you on a tour of U2’s discography. We’ll cover them all, from the good to the great to the transcendent.

So, here they are: all the best U2 albums ranked.

U2 Albums Ranked

Cover of October by U2

14. October (1981)

October is probably the least-known of all U2 albums, but it’s still worth a listen.

We’ve all heard of the “sophomore slump”–that second project that just doesn’t seem to measure up to the stronger debut. And many have dubbed U2’s sophomore outing as such a slump.

This isn’t quite right. The band’s debut, Boy, was far from a smash hit, making the lackluster October less a failure and more a learning experience. In fact, the early stirrings of what would ultimately make U2 great pop up throughout their second record.

Gloria, the opening track and closest thing to a radio hit on October, features many of the hallmarks of the classic U2 sound. In this anthem, we find an early version of the Edge’s jangly guitar work and Bono learning to let his voice soar. More importantly, Gloria sees Bono approaching his lyrics with a sense of honesty and self-revelation.

But what of the rhythm section? Simply put, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton are the core that holds this spotty record together. It took Bono and the Edge one more project to come into their own. Yet, the creativity and skill of this metronomic rhythm section packs enough punch to keep you listening.

October was never going to reach the heights of U2’s more mature work. Yet, any true U2 fan or post-punk aficionado will find a lot to love.

Standout Tracks

  • Gloria
  • I Fall Down

13. Boy (1980)

U2’s debut album, Boy, shows the promise of a young, energetic band searching for its sound.

Many will be surprised to find U2’s debut album, Boy, so low on this list, and that’s reasonable. In fact, Boy is an excellent record with a lot to offer.

My reasoning for its low placement on this list, though, is simple: it’s just not U2 . At least, it’s not what most of us have come to recognize as the true U2 sound.

For a debut LP from a new post-punk band just getting its footing, it’s a splendid listen. In fact, memorable tracks like I Will Follow, Out of Control, and Stories For Boys have become classics in the U2 catalog.

And yet, the album sounds like much of the same kind of post-punk stuff that was all the rage at the time. Admittedly, the Irish foursome did it exceedingly well, but they were far from breaking the new ground that later outings would accomplish. While there are several tracks that show the promise of things to come, Boy just doesn’t quite hold up across its 11 tracks.

Standout Tracks

  • I Will Follow
  • Twilight
  • Out of Control
  • Stories for Boys

12. Rattle and Hum (1988)

Though flawed, Rattle and Hum produced some true classics.

Rattle and Hum is one of the more difficult U2 albums to characterize. It’s part live album, part studio album, part covers album, part soundtrack, and all a bit confusing. That said, it’s one of the records that first got me interested in the band. And yet, many critics found the album “misguided” and disjointed.

I’m of two minds when it comes to Rattle and Hum. On the one hand, the live versions of older songs provide a glimpse into the amazing experience that is a U2 concert. The gospel take on I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is stunning. And the ferocious performance of Bullet the Blue Sky shouldn’t be discounted.

On the other hand, it might have worked better as a simple studio album. Such an album could have better highlighted great tracks like Desire, Angel of Harlem, and All I Want Is You.

Some have said Rattle and Hum showed U2 was resting on the laurels of The Joshua Tree. That may be true to an extent, as the themes and general aesthetic are nothing new. Yet, I’m grateful to have this collection. The U2 catalog would certainly miss a classic like All I Want Is You. Even the stark Van Diemen’s Land, a rare lead vocal performance from the Edge, is a true gem.

In the end, I think Robert Christgau’s take on the album sums it up quite well, calling Rattle and Hum “underrated if grandiose.”

Standout Tracks

  • Van Diemen’s Land
  • Desire
  • Hawkmoon 269
  • Angel of Harlem
  • Bullet the Blue Sky (live)
  • All I Want Is You
Cover of Pop by U2

11. Pop (1997)

Though very much of its time, Pop is a great record that deserves reevaluation.

Often maligned as one of the worst U2 albums, 1997’s Pop deserves reconsideration. Of course, Pop doesn’t deserve top billing in any list of U2’s best work. Even Bono expressed disappointment about the record, calling it “the most expensive demo session in the history of music.”

That said, I want to suggest that this very 90s recording is misunderstood, at worst. In fact, it’s a rewarding listen for the open-minded. At the very least, it’s far from the “disaster” that some critics labeled it.

Certainly, Pop is very much a product of its time and a band trying to adapt to a changing music climate. Yet, the album is most successful when it returns to the hallmarks that made Achtung Baby and Zooropa great. That is, a more thoughtful balance between experimentation and respect for their previous work, rather than wholesale reinvention.

While you’re unlikely to see U2 perform any songs from Pop live these days, there are a handful of essentials here. We’ll just look past some of the more disappointing efforts like The Playboy Mansion and Mofo.

If God Will Send His Angels and Staring at the Sun are lovely melodies that explore characteristic lyrical themes: yearning, spiritual uncertainty, and identity.

Gone and Please, on the other hand, take a more aggressive approach. The sound is akin to many of the best songs on Achtung Baby, and they are the strongest and most memorable moments on Pop.

Standout Tracks

  • If God Will Send His Angels
  • Staring at the Sun
  • Gone
  • Please
Cover of Zooropa by U2

10. Zooropa (1993)

The sounds on Zooropa are just as colorful as the album cover when U2 goes electronic.

Part of what made Pop less successful is that it attempted to do something that U2 had already accomplished with Achtung Baby and Zooropa. That is, incorporate new technologies and electronic sounds to adapt to a new era in music. Zooropa proved that U2 could shine in this sonic space as well as anyone.

Unlike the less-focused Pop that would come four years later, Zooropa fully commits to its electronic influences. The six-plus-minute opening title track is the proof of concept. A nearly two-minute-long intro weaves audio samples with ambient sounds, eventually giving way to the Edge’s spaced out wah-wah riff and Bono’s lightly-processed vocals. The song’s lyrics are as enigmatic as its sonic textures but ultimately lead to a classic Bono-ism: “She’s going to live out loud.”

The sonic experimentation continues on the sparse and ironic Numb, which features the Edge providing the entirely monotone lead vocal. Not to be left out, Bono chimes in with some great falsetto hooks in the not-so-distant background.

I’m a sucker for Bono’s falsetto, so I was thrilled to find the theme continue on the next track, Lemon. Another lengthy outing, Lemon is held together by a killer bassline from Adam Clayton and a true earworm of a melody.

I don’t know you,
And you don’t know the half of it.

Dirty Day

Dirty Day, a deep cut if there ever was one, is one of the album’s greatest achievements. It’s less electro-heavy than the rest of the album. But this slow-burner cleverly rides Adam Clayton’s slinking bass before erupting into a barrage of distorted guitar and a perfect send-off chorus: “These days, days, days run away like horses over the hill.”

Standout Tracks

  • Zooropa
  • Numb
  • Lemon
  • Stay (Faraway, So Close)
  • The First Time
  • Dirty Day
Cover of No Line on the Horizon by U2

9. No Line on the Horizon (2009)

No Line on the Horizon has the potential to earn the title “forgotten classic.”

I suspect 2009’s No Line on the Horizon will largely be forgotten, coming at a time when criticizing U2 was becoming en vogue. And that’s a shame, because the record is easily one of the band’s strongest efforts in their later career.

And while the album itself didn’t make a huge splash, its associated concert tour certainly did. The aptly titled 360° concert tour featured a 165-foot tall center stage with an expanding 360° video screen. The set for the concerts broke the record for largest set design, doubling the size of the previous record holder. Oh, yes, and the concert tour is the second-highest grossing tour of all time, bringing in over $736 million in ticket sales.

While, sonically, the album takes few risks, No Line works because it plays to the strengths that made their previous two records so successful. It’s yet another prime example of how the combination of U2’s stalwart rhythm section, the Edge’s calculated experimentation, and Bono’s earnest-as-ever vocals somehow always seem to just work.

The opening title track is striking in its aggressive tone, while being coupled with largely optimistic lyrical themes. The percussion is particularly notable, as Mullen is said to have experimented with a variety of beats, which were then manipulated by longtime producer and collaborator Brian Eno.

Next, the sheer exuberance of Magnificent is quintessential later-career U2, though some have noted its atmospheric kinship with earlier works like The Unforgettable Fire.

Clocking in at over seven minutes, the dramatic Moment of Surrender is one of the longest tracks on any of U2’s albums. And the band uses every second to create a sweeping hymn that ranks among their best work.

But there are many more worthwhile songs on No Line. In fact, I would argue that it’s one of U2’s deepest records and absolutely rewards multiple listens.

Standout Tracks

  • No Line on the Horizon
  • Magnificent
  • Moment of Surrender
  • Unknown Caller
  • I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
  • Breathe
Cover of Songs of Innocence by U2

8. Songs of Innocence (2014)

The bungled release of Songs of Innocence stole the attention from an otherwise excellent record.

Yes, it was a bad idea. An invasion of privacy. A tone-deaf advertising stunt. But it was also a great record.

Unfortunately, every discussion of 2014’s Songs of Innocence in perpetuity will have to consider the infamous stunt that left many Apple iPhone customers furious.

U2 partnered with Apple’s Tim Cook to add a free copy of the LP to the iTunes music libraries of every Apple iPhone user. It wasn’t the free record that offended so many. It was that Tim Cook took this action without the consent of Apple’s customers.

This was a boneheaded move in an era where digital privacy is a major issue. But that’s all I’m going to say about it, because all that fuss distracted from what is actually a fantastic record. So, let’s get to the music.

Those that actually gave the album a chance found a collection of songs featuring a band with decades of experience perfecting their formula.

The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) is a fairly straightforward rocker with a crunchy guitar riff and Bono reaching into his seasoned upper register.

Songs like Every Breaking Wave and Iris (Hold Me Close) are beautifully reminiscent of earlier classics like “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” and The City of Blinding Lights.

Most intriguing is Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, a dirge-like consideration of a pedophile priest. The song’s striking bridge features Bono reaching new heights with an almost breathless falsetto, and the track’s disturbing theme comes full circle with perhaps the most jagged solo the Edge has ever played.

The album doesn’t claim to be an exercise in sonic reinvention, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of surprises and clever twists to keep even a casual listener engrossed.

Standout Tracks

  • The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  • Every Breaking Wave
  • Song for Someone
  • Iris (Hold Me Close)
  • Sleep Like a Baby Tonight
  • This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now
Cover of The Unforgettable Fire by U2

7. The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

With The Unforgettable Fire, U2 finds the iconic sound that would bring the band to soaring new heights.

While U2’s previous album, War, was an example of a young band finding its voice–both aesthetically and politically–The Unforgettable Fire is where the band found its sound.

The Unforgettable Fire certainly isn’t jam-packed with radio-friendly singles or even many outright classics. And yet, the record displays U2 honing in on the sound that would define them for the remainder of the 1980s. You can almost hear the Edge realizing that he’s on to something in the opening chords that chime through A Sort of Homecoming. It’s also on that track that Bono finds his arena-ready voice.

But the song where it really comes together is the instant-classic Pride (In the Name of Love), an homage to MLK. It’s on this anthem of love and civil resistance that the Edge locks in his trademark delay, while the steadfast rhythm section joins him in holding up Bono’s rich vocal and lofty message.

And while Pride is where Edge nails down this new guitar sound, it’s not until Bad, a heart wrenching requiem for a loved one lost to heroin addiction, that the depth of this new sonic landscape is fully realized. Indeed, Bad still stands today as the most skillful and creative guitar performance Edge has ever offered us.

If you twist and turn away,
If you tear yourself in two again,
If I could, you know I would,
If I could, I would let it go

Bad

In truth, much of the remainder of the album is, ironically, somewhat forgettable. But perhaps that is merely a result of the intense impact these two iconic songs had, and continue to have, more than 30 years later. If nothing else, the album is significant for being the first collaboration with Brian Eno, fresh off producing some of the best Talking Heads albums.

Standout Tracks

  • A Sort of Homecoming
  • Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • The Unforgettable Fire
  • Bad
  • MLK
Cover of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

6. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)

Uno, dos, tres…catorce? U2 strikes fire again with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Once again, we find ourselves needing to discuss U2’s long and lucrative relationship with Apple. A decade before the Songs of Innocence debacle, U2 partnered with the tech giant for a variety of promotional efforts. Apple released a limited edition U2 iPod and ran a classic TV advertisement featuring the lead single, Vertigo. This partnership, unlike the one led by current Apple CEO Tim Cook, was an unqualified success. This was due in large part to Steve Jobs’s knack for promotion and keen understanding of his customers.

But enough about Apple and advertising. Let’s dig into this iconic U2 album that helped define the sound of the 2000s.

Many will argue that the album’s first single, Vertigo, is more than a little played out at this point. And they may be right. That said, there’s no denying the infectious hook and driving rhythm of this mega-hit.

The rest of Atomic Bomb is considerably more delicate than the hit single. Songs like Miracle Drug, Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own, and One Step Closer are tender meditations on love, helplessness, family, and realizing one’s identity. Much of the aesthetic of these songs is a callback to the sound U2 mastered in their previous album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but that doesn’t lessen their impact or depth.

Other strong tracks continue the lyrical themes mentioned above but approach them with different sonic textures. Yahweh and City of Blinding Lights evoke a sense of longing familiar to U2’s catalog, and they’re presented with the oversized sound and bombast the band has turned into an art form.

Some may disagree with my choice to place Atomic Bomb so high on this list, but to relegate the album to a spot further down the list would be to neglect both the emotional depth of the album, as well as its enormous worldwide popularity.

Standout Tracks

  • Vertigo
  • Miracle Drug
  • Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your OWn
  • Love and Peace or Else
  • City of Blinding Lights
  • One Step Closer
  • Yahweh
Cover of Songs of Experience by U2

5. Songs of Experience (2017)

U2’s latest album has all the hallmarks of an instant classic.

My choice for the fifth best U2 album is probably the most controversial. For whatever reason, many people tend to be apprehensive about attributing greatness to something so new. Indeed, Songs of Experience, the follow-up and sequel to 2014’s Songs of Innocence, is U2’s most recent release. And yet, I’m confident in my assertion that it’s one of their best.

Songs of Experience represents a true return to form for U2, but that doesn’t mean the album is without some fruitful experimentation. It opens with Love Is All We Have Left, a soft prelude that marks Bono’s first foray into autotune. Such an experiment could have gone terribly wrong, but they implement the technology with skill, allowing the processed vocal to complement, rather than obscure, Bono’s natural voice.

Lights of Home majestically chronicles a series of epiphanies Bono had while recovering from a harrowing bicycle accident that left him seriously injured. The sing-along outro features some excellent backing vocals from HAIM.

Much of the album is a response to the sense of uncertainty, anger, and disappointment following the 2016 US presidential election. But the album never mentions anyone by name, instead opting to send an audacious message of positivity and hope to a shocked nation and world. Get Out of Your Own Way addresses the dejection many have felt as a result of Donald Trump’s election, with phrases like “resistance” and “fight back” taking on a clear political tone.

But the clear masterpiece on the album is The Little Things That Give You Away. While the majority of the album’s tracks deal with society and politics en masse, this gorgeous piece is intensely personal and finds Bono at his most lyrically self-aware. “Sometimes, I can’t believe my existence,” he ponders as the Edge’s tangled guitar attack momentarily subsides. But then, as Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen slowly increase the rhythmic intensity and the Edge begins a crescendo of chiming, delay-heavy confusion, Bono belts out some of the most profound and personal poetry he’s ever uttered:

Sometimes, I can’t believe my existence
I see myself from a distance
I can’t get back inside

Sometimes, the air is so anxious
All my thoughts are so reckless,
And all my innocence has died

Sometimes, I wake at four in the morning,
Where all the darkness is swarming,
And it covers me in fear

Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving,
So far away from believing
That any sun will reappear

Sometimes, the end is not coming
It’s not coming
The end is here

Sometimes, when the painted glass shatters,
And you’re the only thing matters,
But I can’t see you through the tears

The Little Things That Give You Away

And with those gorgeous verses, I’ve only scratched the surface of an album that achieves everything it sets out to. At moments comforting, at others vindicating, and at still others, deeply human, Songs of Experience is a document of a band whose experience offers an invaluable perspective on politics, society, and what it means to live in this time.

Standout Tracks

  • Love Is All We Have Left
  • Lights of Home
  • Get Out of Your Own Way
  • Summer of Love
  • The Little Things That Give You Away
  • The Blackout
  • Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way
Cover of War by U2

4. War (1983)

War marked the moment when the band found its voice and, with it, one of the most ferocious political records of a generation.

War is such a great rock album that even die-hard U2 haters seem to love it, and it’s easy to see why.

The album’s opening salvo, Sunday Bloody Sunday, is perhaps the most famous song in U2’s catalog, in part due to its bristling statement on the Troubles in Northern Ireland and in part due to its unquestionably deft execution. From the Larry Mullen’s machine gun snare to the Edge’s alternately mournful and spiteful guitar work to Bono’s half-shouting, half-keening vocal, the band married outrage and grief to the perfect musical accompaniment.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes or make it go away

Sunday Bloody Sunday

But to stop at Sunday Bloody Sunday would be to miss out on one of the most fully-realized efforts in U2’s entire catalog and one of the most successful political records in the history of rock music.

The political themes continue in Seconds, an acerbic meditation on the threat of nuclear holocaust that features some lead vocals from the Edge.

And the Cold War political statements keep coming with yet another U2 classic, New Year’s Day. The song takes up the cause of the Polish Solidarity movement and is notable as the moment when the Edge realized he could be just as effective with piano keys as guitar strings. 

After all the hard-hitting political commentary, brash guitars, and Gatling-like drumming, the album closes with “40”, a stunning hymn showcasing the beautiful harmonic synergy of Bono and the Edge’s voices. But even as lovely as those harmonies are, the lyrics leave us wondering whether or not it’s worthwhile to hold on to hope: “How long to sing this song?”

Standout Tracks

  • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Seconds
  • New Year’s Day
  • The Refugee
  • Two Hearts Beat As One
  • Red Light
  • Surrender
  • “40”
Cover of All That You Can't Leave Behind

3. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)

All That You Can’t Leave Behind is a near-prophetic record that offered comfort and solace in a time of anguish and fear.

After the generally disappointing experience with their previous album, Pop, U2 made one of the smartest decisions of their career: they brought producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois back to the table. This was the production dream team behind The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby, and the collaboration brought back some of the magic that had been missing on the band’s previous album. 

But it wasn’t just the masterful production team that made this album so special. While the record was released in mid-2000, the themes and tone of All That You Can’t Leave Behind took on a deeper resonance after the events of September 11, 2001, smack in the middle of the band’s Elevation world concert tour.

Whether it was the anthemic exuberance of Beautiful Day or the hopeful and encouraging chorus of Walk On, the album struck a chord with a world paralyzed by fear, anguish, and uncertainty.

Other standout tracks seemed eerily prophetic, like their love letter to the Big Apple in New York and the straightforward yearning and desperation in Peace On Earth.

Further, the album hits some deeply personal notes, as well. In a Little While, featuring a memorable guitar part from the Edge, portrays the longing felt by a traveler who has long been away from a lover. Bono’s voice even crackles with the strain of too many long sleepless nights on the road.

But the song that really cements the album as one of the best is Kite, which is ostensibly a song dealing with Bono’s relationship with his father. Yet, it’s not the specific background that makes Kite one of the most emotionally poignant recordings in the band’s career. Rather, it’s the simple moan of the Edge’s slide guitar riff, the rise and fall of Clayton’s bassline, and most of all, Bono reaching new vocal heights in a bridge that stretches his range, as if pulled up by sheer emotion.

I’m a man
I’m not a child
A man who sees
The shadow behind your eyes

Kite

Every song on the album carries a certain weight, even the lighter fare like Wild Honey. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was never intended to be an attempt at reinvention. Quite the opposite, U2 sought to rekindle some of the magic of their earlier work, and their success in that endeavor came at just the right time for a world in mourning.

Standout Tracks

  • Beautiful Day
  • Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
  • Walk On
  • Kite
  • In a Little While
  • When I Look at the World
  • New York
Cover of Achtung Baby

2. Achtung Baby (1991)

Bono said Achtung Baby is “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree,” and he’s never been more right.

To fully appreciate just how revolutionary Achtung Baby is, you have to listen to The Joshua Tree first. Try it: listen through the whole Joshua Tree album in one sitting. Then, as soon as the final track comes to a close, start Achtung Baby from the beginning. Bono said it sounded like “four men chopping down The Joshua Tree,” but it really sounds more like they took a chainsaw to it.

The opening cut, Zoo Station, immediately sounds like nothing the band had ever produced before. It starts off with a strange, distorted guitar, leading into Larry Mullen’s vaguely industrial drumming. But the, Bono’s warbly processed vocals sneer into the picture, making it clear that this was to be something altogether different.

The Edge’s searing guitar work continues on Even Better Than the Real Thing, before easing back to reveal one of U2’s greatest achievements: One. The guitar part alone is iconic, but it’s the lyrics and vocal that make One such a classic. Never before has Bono sounded so self-aware and honest with himself.

Love is a temple
Love, the higher law

You ask me to enter,
But then you make me crawl,
And I can’t be holding on
To what you’ve got
When all you’ve got is hurt

One

But then it’s right back to the blistering sounds of Until the End of the World, a sort of confessional from the point of view of Judas after betraying Jesus. And Bono’s sense of lyrical irony is on full display in The Fly, as the band returns to the processed sounds of the album opener. This sonic approach continues on the nearly-danceable Mysterious Ways, a hugely successful hit single that features some memorable wah-wah guitar from the Edge.

The closest thing to the sound heard on The Joshua Tree is Ultra Violet (Light My Way), complete with the Edge’s trademark delay sound and Bono’s anthemic vocals. What’s so strange about the song is that, despite sounding much more like something from an earlier period of U2’s career, it still manages to sound perfectly at home on Achtung Baby.

Things get a little stranger as the album comes to a close with Acrobat and Love Is Blindness. The barrage of sound on Acrobat and the organ-fueled dirge of Love Is Blindness comprise the perfect one-two punch to close out an album shot through with innovation, restless creativity, and a very real sense of urgency. No one else has ever come close to doing what U2 did on Achtung Baby in terms of sonic reinvention–not even U2 themselves.

Standout Tracks

  • Zoo Station
  • Even Better Than the Real Thing
  • One
  • Until the End of the World
  • So Cruel
  • The Fly
  • Mysterious Ways
  • Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
  • Acrobat
  • Love Is Blindness
Cover of The Joshua Tree

1. The Joshua Tree (1987)

On The Joshua Tree, all the pieces came together, and the result was miraculous.

If ever a band had a magnum opus, U2’s 1987 The Joshua Tree would be a top contender for the title. The Joshua Tree achieved in 11 tracks more than most rock bands do in their entire careers.

While other classic albums achieve greatness by defining the sound of an era, The Joshua Tree did just the opposite. In a decade known for pop sounds and shredding guitars, U2 released chose soaring emotion. They coupled an accessible spirituality with a universal sense of yearning and uncertainty, satisfying a hunger that had long been neglected in rock music.

On The Joshua Tree, we hear the culmination of everything that has come to be synonymous with U2:

The record exemplifies the many aspects of U2 that have firmly established the band as one of the greats.

The first three tracks draw you into a particular sonic landscape. Edge’s reverb-laden delay explores textures ranging from swirling heavenly chimes to rapid-fire percussiveness.

Meanwhile, Larry Mullen punctuates crucial moments with tight snare stabs and dramatic pummeling of the toms. Adam Clayton rounds out the rhythm section with a deft sense of momentum and dynamics. With the simple plod of With Or Without You or the energetic roll of Where the Streets Have No Name, Clayton’s is always dead-on.

Then, there’s Bono. On The Joshua Tree, he cements his place among the greatest rock vocalists, as well as the the most profound lyricists, of all time.

But there’s so much more to The Joshua Tree than these first three masterpieces. Dig deeper and you find the scathing political statement of Bullet the Blue Sky. It’s frustrated politics are cut through with distorted slide guitar and a piercing snare line that fit the mood perfectly.

Running to Stand Still is a piano-driven elegy for those lost to addiction, referencing the epidemic of heroin addiction in Dublin at the time. And it finds Bono using his virtuosic falsetto to underscore the heartbreak expressed in possibly his greatest lyrical achievement.

She runs through the streets
With eyes painted red
Under a black belly of cloud in the rain

In through a doorway, she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging, she is raging
And the storm blows up in her eyes

She will suffer the needle chill
She’s running to stand still

Running to Stand Still

The truth is, there is not a weak track on the album, not a single song that seems out of place. Each meticulously crafted piece fits perfectly, and the complete picture is nothing short of miraculous.

Standout Tracks

  • Where the Streets Have No Name
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  • With Or Without You
  • Bullet the Blue Sky
  • Running to Stand Still
  • Red Hill Mining Town
  • Exit
  • Mothers of the Disappeared

U2 Albums Ranked – Standout Tracks Playlist