Thursday, September 11, 2014

26 The Joshua Tree (1987) U2

1. Where the Streets Have No Name
2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
3. With or Without You
4. Bullet the Blue Sky
5. Running to Stand Still
6. Red Hill Mining Town
7. In God's Country
8. Trip Through Your Wires
9. One Tree Hill
10. Exit
11. Mothers of the Disappeared

This is supposed to be my favourite U2 album. It's their highest ranked entry on this list and it's held up as their finest moment. It's the album with the most recognizable U2 sound and has most of the tracks that people think of when U2 is mentioned. Only Achtung Baby rivals it for popular appeal.

But neither is nearly as good as Rattle and Hum which I'm supposed to hate. Everyone keeps trying to tell me that Rattle and Hum is a huge disappointment and the Irish Quartet's worst hour. At best it's a phase they had to go to in order to get to Achtung from Joshua, it's a point on a map that should be marked but not stopped at.


Rattle and Hum might be a mess with it's cover versions, live tracks and odd interjections by other artists but song for song it's their best release. Desire, Hawkmoon 269, Angel of Harlem, Love Rescue Me, Heartland, God Part II, All I want is you and When Love Comes to Town are the strongest collection of songs U2 have ever included on any release. And unlike Joshua Tree and most of the rest of their albums, they're not padded out with half-hearted filler. The covers and live tracks are all fantastic as well.

Joshua Tree on the other hand suffers from the same malaise that strikes a lot of U2 albums: a few fantastic hits but a lot of fairly forgettable filler material. The filler might possibly be stronger than on previous or future albums but it suffers from a tracklisting that highlights, rather than conceals the lesser songs. The first five tracks on Joshua Tree are far away the best songs on the album: Where the streets have no name is a rousing anthem, I still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is a powerful ballad as is With or Without You. Bullet the Blue Sky is so scary it's good and so good it's scary and Running to Stand Still is the perfect low key antidote to Bullet's terrifying imagery.

But from there things kind of slip away slightly. The rest of the album isn't terrible but there's nothing much on side two that would have made someone keen to flip their vinyl copy over. I wonder how many people who bought this when it first came out just returned the needle to the start of Side One to hear the hits again rather than spent time listening to an entire side of near misses.

There's still a lot to like all through the Joshua Tree. Bono has a great voice and the band manage to create a unique sound which is unmistakeably U2. It's great stuff but to my mind nothing near as good as Rattle and Hum, which not only presents a stronger set of songs, it takes tracks like Bullet the Blue Sky from this album and transforms them into something even more fantastic.

It's cool not to like U2 any more but you can't deny the strong songs on Joshua Tree are fantastic rock and roll and unlike so much that was recorded in 1987, it's dated extremely well. But if you haven't heard it in it's entirety I'm not sure you need to rush out and grab it. Just put on the radio and the good songs will be along before lunchtime.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I once wrote a song called "Dave Evans Must Die" because the music here is so boring."

-I'm not sure we care what songs you wrote do we? I don't think we do.

So is this their best or not? Let me know below.

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