I’m about to reveal one of my deepest and darkest secrets: I like U2. No, I’m not being coy; I’m not secretly trying to tell you that I have a crush on you. I’m trying to say that I like one of the most mainstream bands on the face of the planet.
That said, just because I like U2 doesn’t mean that I like all of their music. I’m more old-school and prefer much of their older music, which seems to be the norm for people of my generation. I came across an article in Slate today which ranks U2’s albums from best to worst. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or not, but I actually found myself agreeing with many of writer Eric Hynes’ opinions about U2’s music.
The Joshua Tree is at the top of Eric Hynes’ U2 list of albums. He calls The Joshua Tree “an album without slouches” and names a few of his favorite songs on the album. He then lists The Unforgettable Fire and Achtung Baby as next on his list of the best albums from U2.
In contrast, three of the albums to make Eric Hynes’ personal list of the worst albums by U2 are all albums from this millennium. He includes All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000), How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (2011) at the bottom of the list. If his list of U2 albums is accurate at all, this means that U2, like many bands, is actually getting progressively worse as time goes on. Of course, as Eric Hynes notes, there might be another correlation between the quality of U2’s music and the amount of Bono’s vocals. From Eric Hynes’ perspective, the other band members have all but faded away since Bono and his vocals took more of a center stage. Unfortunately, for Bono and U2, this isn’t necessarily a positive thing.
There’s been an inverse relationship between the quality of Bono’s songwriting and the privileging of his vocals in the mix. As he’s tended toward clichés and simplistic couplets, it’s become impossible to hear anything but his voice at full blast.
Eric Hynes doesn’t rate all of U2’s recent albums quite as badly as their last album, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark; he actually gives U2’s No Line on the Horizon what basically amounts to an honorable mention of sorts and gives the album and U2 credit for a more sophisticated approach to the quality of the music on the album.