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U2 Albums, Ranked Worst to Best

U2 don’t inspire weak reactions in people. There are passionate U2 fans, and passionate U2 haters, and very little in between.

Perhaps that’s by intent. From their start, the four members of U2 – Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. – have seemed to thrive on inciting reaction from their audience. Whether it’s the band’s outspoken political stance or their occasional stylistic transformations, U2 don’t want to simply earn a cursory spot on your CD shelf as a greatest-hits compilation or 30-year-old record. They incite and inspire; they engage and enrage.

That’s all well and good, but what about the music? Starting in the waning days of the ’70s as punk regurgitated itself into new wave, U2 began as an earnest four-piece built around the Edge’s distinct guitar sound. As they developed their abilities throughout the ’80s, they catapulted into the stratosphere of populist arena rock before 1988’s Rattle and Hum brought about an inevitable critical backlash. With 1991’s Achtung Baby, they became almost a new band, with music built around their core sound but incorporating extra layers of industrial, alternative, dance and pop. The dawn of the new millennium brought All That You Can’t Leave Behind, a massive hit that found a middle ground between their many approaches to the studio, and 2014’s Songs of Innocence took the band back to their roots with songs about their earliest days – even as their leading-edge distribution method inspired a fresh round of love-them-or-hate-them outcry.

You probably either love U2 or can’t stand them. Whatever your feelings, our list of U2’s albums ranked worst to first will either reaffirm your distaste or help remind you why you adore the band in the first place.

Rock’s Most Criminally Underrated Albums

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