Which album by a popular band marked a noticeable departure from their previous work?

Written by on June 28, 2020

Andrew Smith · Former Music Staff Member and On-Air Talent at WNDY, 91.3 FM, Wabash College Radio (1985–1989)

U2’s fourth album, 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, was a noticeable departure from their previous three albums. Their first three albums were produced by Steve Lillywhite; they had no synthesizer or keyboard treatments (save a digital piano on “October” [October] and on “New Year’s Day” [War]); the drum sound was martial; and the songs were more straightforwardly rock and roll, both musically and lyrically. In the mid-’70s, punk rock developed as a reaction to the indulgences of progressive rock and arena-rock bands. To punk rockers, keyboards and synthesizers were a betrayal of the rock-and-roll ethos, and punk-rock bands wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. U2 were inspired by punk rock when they formed in 1976. For The Unforgettable Fire, the band had the record produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it used a lot of synthesizer treatments, the drum sound was more poly-rhythmic, and the songs were more impressionistic sketches musically with poetry-like lyrics. Take a listen to the band’s third album, 1983’s War, and then listen to The Unforgettable Fire, and you’ll notice the stark contrast. The album covers even reflect the difference in their respective musical contents:

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