U2 The Joshua Tree
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The year was 1987. U2 had been away for three years, but what seemed like an eternity for fans of the Irish quartet. Prior to 1987, U2 albums were almost a yearly thing. Then they took a three year hiatus and redefined their sound and mastered the genre of modern rock with one of the best albums ever recorded -- The Joshua Tree.

This album is truly hard to review and look back on because it really is great. It's almost beyond words, yet it creates so many to describe it at the same time. The Joshua Tree has got a peaceful sound that every U2 album prior to it lacked. It's completely relaxing to the point of being something that can put you to sleep with a smile on your face. I guess it can be considered 'comfort music'. Anyone familiar with U2's pre-Joshua Tree work will be quite surprised with this addition to their library. This level of maturity is something that never fully took over any of their prior albums; they were always a semi-brash post-punk group of Irish lads just playing their hearts out to get a rise out of their huge stadium crowds. In this album, they're all that still, but there is one extra addition -- the boys grew up, they have a message, and they're gonna scream it to the world.

This is the album's strongest point: Lyrical beauty. Every song is a gem in it's own right if you strip away all the music and just leave Bono's poetry. Pre-Joshua Tree, U2's lyrics were throwaway sometimes, the instruments drove the songs while you were mesmerized by the music. Sure, this wasn't the case for all of their songs, not even most, but they'd never released an album that had lyrical value on nearly every song. This is a special album, it has been for sixteen years and it will be for another sixteen, and so on.

So what do we have here on this album? Well, the first three tracks are arguably U2's best ever, so that kind of thrusts you right into the whole Joshua Tree 'experience'. The album opens with Where the Streets Have No Name, which is quite simply a masterpiece. It screams beauty on every second and is U2's best album-opener yet. After this you move on to the highly spiritual I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Another absolute beauty, Bono's vocals had never been better. After this we move on to, in my opinion, U2's best song on the album, With or Without You. It's quite simply, one of the most powerful songs I've ever listened to, no matter what my mood. The lyrics create a subdued desperation for a lost love, but it's never forced out and too obvious. Anyone who's ever broken up with a girlfriend/boyfriend when they didn't want it should find a lot of meaning in this gem if they read into it. Just a beautiful song.

And this is where The Joshua Tree hits its one and only problem... the first three songs are quite easily the best on the entire album and now they're gone. The entire middle to back half is forced to compete with the likes of the starting three. Sadly, this is nearly impossible. Songs like Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, Red Hill Mining Town, and Exit are all great, great songs. But their greatness is downplayed based on what you heard in the first three tracks. It's really a shame that so many wonderful songs are so easily overshadowed by three gems sewn together in the beginning, but that's how it's supposed to be, I guess. It's not really a big problem because like I said, the other songs are great, but an album like this having a feeling like all the 'truly great' songs are gone in the first fifteen minutes is a bit of a shame. However, make no mistake, this is quite easily one of U2's best works -- hell, this just might be anyone's best work. Go pick it up as soon as possible.

- - Chris Rivera

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