Author Topic: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's  (Read 560 times)

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Offline Johnny Feathers

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Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« on: July 12, 2018, 02:04:37 PM »
    Here's one that's not directly about U2, but references them.  I apologize if it should go in the General Music forum--I thought the U2-relatedness might warrant its place here.

    If you're like me, you know U2's catalog front-to-back.  That familiarity bleeds through when you start talking about other bands--how album X is sort of "that band's Joshua Tree", even if the music itself has nothing in common with U2.  U2 just kind of becomes your point of reference to other acts, so you see their catalog in terms of U2.  And it doesn't have to match up every album--not every band went from their "War" to their "Unforgettable Fire".  So here's where you can put those thoughts down.  I'll start with a band I've always thought of as having a career that's been running parallel to U2's: Depeche Mode.


    Speak & Spell = Boy.  Pretty obvious, both first first albums

    Some Great Reward = The Unforgettable Fire.  Big albums that really expanded the audience for each band.

    Music For the Masses (or maybe Violator) = The Joshua Tree.  Each band becomes massively successful, fully realizing "their sound".

    101 = Rattle & Hum. The big live album at the end of the 80's.

    Songs of Faith and Devotion = Achtung Baby.  It's the 90's, and both bands grunge up their previously clean sounds.  Both are still massively successful, but maybe not quite what the previous albums were.

    The similarity continues in when they released their albums, often doing so the same year as U2.  But the thematic similarity might not work as well.

    So, how about other bands?  How does your favorite artist's catalog compare to U2's?



Offline miracle_al

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2018, 02:09:23 PM »
Interesting thread, Johnny Feathers.  Not very many bands take the creative "leaps" that U2 did in the 80's, or complete as radical a reinvention as did U2 with AB, so it's difficult for me to think of "comps" off the top of my head.  Also, very few bands are stadium bands all over the world like U2 is.  Let me noodle on this for a while...

Offline Johnny Feathers

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2018, 02:14:17 PM »
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Interesting thread, Johnny Feathers.  Not very many bands take the creative "leaps" that U2 did in the 80's, or complete as radical a reinvention as did U2 with AB, so it's difficult for me to think of "comps" off the top of my head.  Also, very few bands are stadium bands all over the world like U2 is.  Let me noodle on this for a while...

Oh, the similarities need only apply within the context of THAT band.  Nothing is going to compare exactly, though Depeche Mode do have a similar longevity and massive audience.  I was considering Radiohead as well, but don't want to steal all the fun.  Even Metallica has some similarities in terms of career arc.

Offline Dali

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2018, 11:38:50 AM »
"Kiko" is Los Lobos' "Achtung Baby", "Colossal Head" is their "Zooropa" and "Good Morning Aztlan" is their "All That You Can't Leave Behind". U2 don't have a "The Ride" or "The Town And the City" yet, for better or worse. But the Lobos' "Tin Can Trust" might be their "No Line on the Horizon".


Offline scott7

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2018, 01:55:25 PM »
Springsteen, ok, gulp..

Greetings from Asbury Park = Boy - I don't think it's a lazy comparison. Both are pretty innocent only hinting at what might come next.
Born to run is The Unforgettable Fire in terms of career moment and development but arguably Nebraska is a better comparison. terms of feel and haunted atmosphere.
Born in the USA - obviously The Joshua Tree, now he's the biggest band in the world.
Tunnel of love = Rattle and Hum - not that well understood at the time, bit of a backlash but eventually appreciated for containing some great songwriting and classic moments.
not sure he has an Achtung level reinvention - Lucky Town and Human Touch just don't cut it.
But The Rising is definitely ATYCLB - same year even I think or at least released within same 12 month period post 9/11. Back to basics and classic songwriting. Not perfect but back in the mainstream and a major return to form in the eyes of everyone barring the diehards.

Thanks for this thread - enjoyed that - the Boss's canon could be juxtaposed in a number of different ways alongside U2's but this is my attempt!

Offline wons

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2018, 02:30:21 PM »
I think U2 sounds different than all these artist and the associations seem to be more career trajectory and commercial success, or perhaps changes in the artist music style etc.

I'll go with The Police

Outlandos D' Amour - Boy : debut albums for both bands, high energy, lots of fast songs,  although for the Police their debut was a lot more successful initially. Both did initial tours in the clubs, small theaters.

Regatta D' Blanc - October: the sophomore album. The difference was this really increased the Police's commercial success outside the United States, but both were criticized to some degree as being weaker than the debut. Changes from the first, but still similar in many ways. A little less energetic in both cases. Touring in small theaters for both bands, although outside the United States the Police were moving into arenas in some countries.

Zenyatta Mondatta - WAR: both are perhaps the last albums in a loosely connected trilogy. Both bands play large and small theaters in the United States, while outside the United States the Police are doing arenas. But both bands play some limited amount of arena shows in the United States. Both albums were the first by each band to be certified GOLD in the United States for 500,000 copies sold. But Zenyatta Mondatta went platinum just 3 months after that point and the album had two top 10 hits in the United States. WAR's only single to make the charts, New Years Day only made it to #53. Unlike Zenyatta Mondatta, WAR would not make it to platinum status for another two years during the next tour.

Ghost in The Machine - Unforgettable Fire: Both feature a significant change in the bands sound as well as working with a new producer. Both albums are the most successful for each band at that point in their career. For the Police, Ghost In The Machine is a hit around the world with several hit singles from the album. For U2, the Unforgettable Fire features U2's first top 40 hit in the United States and their first platinum album in the United States. Both bands launch their first massive ARENA only tours of the United States in which both bands have a clear stage so they can go "360" and play to people sitting behind the stage. Both tours in the United States feature multiple sellout arena shows in individual cities indicating that stadium level demand has been reached or is not far away.

Synchronicity - Joshua Tree: For both bands, it is their first #1 album in the United States and features their first #1 single in the United States. Both albums while regarded as different from previous work, are considered to be the bands greatest work. Both bands receive many Grammy nominations for the album and songs from the album. Both albums are nominated for album of the year. The Police lose to Michael Jacksons Thriller in the album  of the year catagory, but pick of song of the year for Every Breath You Take. U2 wins Album of the year. Both bands launch massive stadium/arena tours around the world. The most successful in each bands history to date often breaking box office records at each stop. Both band as a result of massive album and ticket sales are declare most popular band in the world by a majority of industry outlets, magazines, and other media. Both album and tours are considered career high or peaks for each band. But the Police break up after their Synchronicity Tour, while U2 continues onward after their tour recording Rattle And Hum.

Offline Johnny Feathers

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2018, 03:03:44 PM »
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Springsteen, ok, gulp..

Greetings from Asbury Park = Boy - I don't think it's a lazy comparison. Both are pretty innocent only hinting at what might come next.
Born to run is The Unforgettable Fire in terms of career moment and development but arguably Nebraska is a better comparison. terms of feel and haunted atmosphere.
Born in the USA - obviously The Joshua Tree, now he's the biggest band in the world.
Tunnel of love = Rattle and Hum - not that well understood at the time, bit of a backlash but eventually appreciated for containing some great songwriting and classic moments.
not sure he has an Achtung level reinvention - Lucky Town and Human Touch just don't cut it.
But The Rising is definitely ATYCLB - same year even I think or at least released within same 12 month period post 9/11. Back to basics and classic songwriting. Not perfect but back in the mainstream and a major return to form in the eyes of everyone barring the diehards.

Thanks for this thread - enjoyed that - the Boss's canon could be juxtaposed in a number of different ways alongside U2's but this is my attempt!


I like this--I'm not the biggest Springsteen guy around, but I know enough of his stuff to agree with most of this.  And I agree, he doesn't seem to have an Achtung Baby in his catalog--and if he did, I might argue that it was actually Tunnel of Love.  It, too, draws a lot of inspiration from the ending of a relationship.  It also has him turning a bit from the "classic" sound after becoming a gigantic success, though I forget if the E Street Band played on this as a unit, or as session musicians, or what.  I remember him playing on SNL, though, with a band of "new guys", which I thought was kind of a cool move for the time.  However, despite those similarities, I'd say none of it was nearly as successful as AB.

Offline DK46

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2018, 08:17:14 PM »
I guess R.E.M. is a big one, especially seeing as they and U2 were the two biggest bands at one point in time, akin to the Beatles v. Stones debate.

Boy and Murmur are wonderful debuts, though Murmur might be slightly stronger. They both signal something special brewing and probably sounded quite unique in the early 80s (especially with what else was going on musically). Stipe's distinctive singing style was quite unusual.

I'd say they match up with Document and Joshua Tree, both huge at the end of the 80s, though maybe you could pair Green against TJT.

It gets a little tricky here, because technically that might be Out of Time vs TJT.

Achtung Baby and Automatic for the People are departures and explore darker material. Though R.E.M. didn't undergo a radical sound and image reinvention the way U2 did (it's hard to think of a band that was that popular and pulled off what U2 did in 1991).

Monster seems to be influenced (to some extent) by the whole Achtung Baby/Zooropa era. Although it might be more grunge influenced as that was all the rage in the early 90s in the U.S. and Michael Stipe and Kurt Cobain were friends. I believe Let Me In from Monster is about Cobain (and it's a beautiful song).

I see New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Pop meeting around the same time, both sort of the end of a remarkable run. Though Hi-fi was made while R.E.M. were on tour, similar to Zooropa.

However, U2 reinvented themselves for a new audience in 2000 with All That You Can't Leave Behind, while R.E.M. made Up in 98 and Reveal in 2001, with not as much fanfare and lost Bill Berry. Both are kinda underrated though and have quite a few songs worth checking out.

In 2004, both bands release albums, but HTDAAB is a huge success (well received critically at the time too if I recall), while Around the Sun is pretty much ignored (it's got some good tunes, though probably their weakest). It's just very boring production wise, not that HTDAAB is great (horribly mastered).

R.E.M. returned with a "comeback" (I don't like that term) in 2008 with Accelerate, and U2 made a middling effort with NLOTH in 2009. R.E.M.'s album was very good though and U2 broke touring records.

Of course, it's hard to say now as R.E.M. ended with grace in 2011 with Collapse Into Now. A solid album to end on and they did on their terms. It's quite a career and IMO, they're one of the finest American bands. I mean, those first ten albums are very strong (and even the post-Berry stuff is pretty good).

As for U2? Who knows where they go? I think they still have fire in them and can make something magical if they desire, but it has yet to be seen. I've generally enjoyed the post-2000s album, but certain tracks indicated they can muster up something even better if they really want it. Hopefully, another 2 (maybe 3 albums in them).

I like both bands a lot, but R.E.M. might have the slightly stronger discography IMO, certainly more consistent. However, U2's highs are extremely high for me and as a live act U2 are more exciting and inventive. Of course, R.E.M. have some great live moments too.

Also, I think U2 changed up their sound more (at least up until 2000). But both are wonderful bands and I'm glad their friends.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 08:22:52 PM by DK46 »

Online laoghaire

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2018, 08:28:21 PM »
I think Out of Time is their TJT.

I like pairing Hi Fi with Pop. Both off the beaten path. And I love both. Hi Fi is my favorite REM album and I've yet to meet anyone who agreed.

Monster is not Achtung - NOBODY has Achtung - but that's where I would awkwardly put it. So I'd put Automatic with R&H.

Document with TUF and Green with War and Pageant with.. Uh.. October. I might have my chronology mixed up.

Up, ATYCLB, yeah. I never got Reveal.

Offline DK46

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2018, 08:48:16 PM »
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    Here's one that's not directly about U2, but references them.  I apologize if it should go in the General Music forum--I thought the U2-relatedness might warrant its place here.

    If you're like me, you know U2's catalog front-to-back.  That familiarity bleeds through when you start talking about other bands--how album X is sort of "that band's Joshua Tree", even if the music itself has nothing in common with U2.  U2 just kind of becomes your point of reference to other acts, so you see their catalog in terms of U2.  And it doesn't have to match up every album--not every band went from their "War" to their "Unforgettable Fire".  So here's where you can put those thoughts down.  I'll start with a band I've always thought of as having a career that's been running parallel to U2's: Depeche Mode.


    Speak & Spell = Boy.  Pretty obvious, both first first albums

    Some Great Reward = The Unforgettable Fire.  Big albums that really expanded the audience for each band.

    Music For the Masses (or maybe Violator) = The Joshua Tree.  Each band becomes massively successful, fully realizing "their sound".

    101 = Rattle & Hum. The big live album at the end of the 80's.

    Songs of Faith and Devotion = Achtung Baby.  It's the 90's, and both bands grunge up their previously clean sounds.  Both are still massively successful, but maybe not quite what the previous albums were.

    The similarity continues in when they released their albums, often doing so the same year as U2.  But the thematic similarity might not work as well.

    So, how about other bands?  How does your favorite artist's catalog compare to U2's?

As a big DM fan, I too can see it.

Offline scott7

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Re: Other artists' albums as equivalent to U2's
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2018, 05:13:28 PM »
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Springsteen, ok, gulp..

Greetings from Asbury Park = Boy - I don't think it's a lazy comparison. Both are pretty innocent only hinting at what might come next.
Born to run is The Unforgettable Fire in terms of career moment and development but arguably Nebraska is a better comparison. terms of feel and haunted atmosphere.
Born in the USA - obviously The Joshua Tree, now he's the biggest band in the world.
Tunnel of love = Rattle and Hum - not that well understood at the time, bit of a backlash but eventually appreciated for containing some great songwriting and classic moments.
not sure he has an Achtung level reinvention - Lucky Town and Human Touch just don't cut it.
But The Rising is definitely ATYCLB - same year even I think or at least released within same 12 month period post 9/11. Back to basics and classic songwriting. Not perfect but back in the mainstream and a major return to form in the eyes of everyone barring the diehards.

Thanks for this thread - enjoyed that - the Boss's canon could be juxtaposed in a number of different ways alongside U2's but this is my attempt!


I like this--I'm not the biggest Springsteen guy around, but I know enough of his stuff to agree with most of this.  And I agree, he doesn't seem to have an Achtung Baby in his catalog--and if he did, I might argue that it was actually Tunnel of Love.  It, too, draws a lot of inspiration from the ending of a relationship.  It also has him turning a bit from the "classic" sound after becoming a gigantic success, though I forget if the E Street Band played on this as a unit, or as session musicians, or what.  I remember him playing on SNL, though, with a band of "new guys", which I thought was kind of a cool move for the time.  However, despite those similarities, I'd say none of it was nearly as successful as AB.
good call, Tunnel of Love was very much a creative risk and you're so right about it following the fractious end of a relationship but I guess on balance it's not as much a departure in sound and texture as the radical shift AB represented. Great thread and really enjoyed thinking this one through, cheers.