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 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
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