While practically everyone else spent the ’80s sweep-picking scales at a million notes per minute, U2’s The Edge was busy inventing a new compositional language for guitar. Through judicious use of uncommon chord shapes, harmonics, echo repeats, drone strings, EBow, and anything else that wasn’t a rock cliché, the soft-spoken Dubliner crafted one of the hippest, most influential sounds of the post-punk era.

“My challenge is tearing up the rule book and finding things that no one has done before,” he said in a June ’85 GP interview. Twenty years on, U2’s soaring melodies, rich sonic textures, and spiritually charged lyrics continue to make them global superstars, assuring The Edge a place alongside Hendrix, Page, and Van Halen on the Mount Rushmore of rock-guitar innovators.


The Joshua Tree, 1987
The band’s first masterpiece. “Bullet The Blue Sky” captures the horror of the El Salvadorian civil war with a spine-tingling, fuzzed-out slide solo, but The Edge’s defining moment is the delay-generated cascade that begins “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Achtung Baby, 1991
U2 anticipates the changes that will sweep through pop music in the early ’90s, and emerge darker, leaner, and ahead of the curve. The filtered distortion of “Zoo Station” and “The Fly” are The Edge’s rawest sounds yet, and the cigarette-lighter anthem “One” grows from a gracefully simple blues riff.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 2000
After a decade of obsessive artistic re-invention, U2 finally reconciles its experimental tendencies with its trademark sound.


Boy, 1980
From the chime-y drone of “I Will Follow,” to the Memory Man-drenched ricochet of “The Electric Co.,” U2’s debut presents The Edge’s sonic vision as nearly fully matured. Pretty remarkable considering he was just 19 at the time!

Under A Blood Red Sky, 1983
A testament to U2’s live mojo. The Edge doubles on piano and lap-steel, serving up definitive versions of “Gloria” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

The Unforgettable Fire, 1984
Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois produced this lush, atmospheric classic. The hypnotic riff of “Bad” sounds like two guitars, but is actually the clever use of a dotted-eighth-note delay repeat.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004
Can you name another band that sounded this fresh, this good, and this relevant 25 years into their career? Me neither.


Rattle and Hum, 1988
U2 visits Sun Studio and B.B. King for inspiration, but the band’s attempts at blues, country, and gospel sound forced. Still, the Bo Diddley-ish “Desire” proves The Edge can deliver a catchy hook in a conventional manner.

Zooropa, 1993
Low-period Bowie and the Manchester “baggy” scene are the muses for this experimental effort. It’s worth a listen for the space-guitar sounds on “Numb” and the title track, but the songwriting misses the mark a bit.