U2: Achtung Baby (1991)
Achtung Baby is the one exception. Hard to say why (it was at least as omnipresent when I got to law school as those others had been in the prior years); maybe it's just because it sounds less like a U2 album than those others. Achtung merged some of the early Britpop and shoegaze sounds I was into at the time into a shinier, more commercial-friendly package, but avoided watering it down by virtue of some truly bang-up songwriting. Right? I mean, c'mon, this is a fistful of terrific songs right here.
"Zoo Station" is a pretty solid kick-off, an Echo & the Bunnymen-ish throwback to the band's new wave roots tethered to a compelling beat, pretty much ditching that whole arpeggiated-digital delay guitar style the Edge had been rocking for the preceding years (or at least subsuming it within that percussive hook). You've got upbeat rockers that sounded more like Ride than U2 of old, songs like "Mysterious Ways" and "Even Better Than The Real Thing" and one of my personal faves, "Until The End Of The World"; and some truly compelling midtempo music that may throw back to the huge anthemic reach of Joshua Tree but with earnest hooks that keep them less at bay, like "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" and "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Against The World." Even "One," the Lennon-indebted anthem that's probably too much of a standard these days to fairly evaluate, is, Bono-isms aside, a pretty freakin' great song when you try to listen to it baggage-free.
I can't say I've spent much time with post-Achtung U2; I've never disliked the songs I've heard, but it's the last album that compelled me to pick it up and actually listen through (no doubt Zooropa's extention of Achtung Baby's sonic theatrics put me off a bit and I was just too lazy to give their later work a dedicated listen).
Here's "Until The End Of The World":