Review Summary: A soulful album that showcases U2 at their peak.
"U2 is an original species... there are colours and feelings and emotional terrain that we occupy that is ours and ours alone."-Bono
While not exactly the most humble person, this quote from Bono does a good job describing U2 and their overall sound. There have been hundreds of wanna be bands and a lot of admittedly good bands that have followed in the steps of U2, yet none of them have quite reached the level U2 has achieved. The Joshua Tree was a defining moment for U2, they broke into the mainstream in America and became well known the world over. It put them head and shoulders above most of their colleagues and instantly made them superstars. The Joshua Tree is U2 at their musical and creative peak and it is by all measures, a fantastic album.
Musically it draws from a variety of different sources. While it is primarily a rock album, elements of folk, gospel, and blues all are present. The album art of the band in Death Valley, California well represents the albums' dark, atmospheric music. With or Without You is probably the strongest track from the album. With its thumping rhythm, squealing guitar, and instantly memorable emotional vocal line, it was a perfect choice for the leading single. Bono's vocals are at their peak here and he manages to put forth an amazingly steady and emotive performance. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Where the Streets Have No Name were the other two hit singles from the album. While I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is a chugging rythmic midtempo piece, Where the Streets Have No Name is a dramatic opener kicked off by an organ courtesy of Brian Eno.
Aside from the three mega hits, the album is full of good but unknown songs. Running to Stand Still is a slow, bluesy song that showcases Bono's great lyrics. The slow tempo, simple vocal and instrumental melody help bring all the focus to the lyrics which deal with a heroin addict. One Tree Hill is another relatively unknown but brilliant song. Bono wrote the song about a close friend who had passed away during a motorcycle accident. Lyrics like, "I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky, and the moon has turned red," are meaningful and fit perfectly with the song and the rest of the album. The Edge also has a few standout moments such as the opening of Where the Streets Have No Name and Bullet the Blue Sky where his signature textural playing contributes massively to the mood of the song.
The Joshua Tree is a very atmospheric, soulful album. A sense of hope is portrayed in a dark manner throughout and it works wonderfully with Bono's meaningful and diverse lyrics. While it is not fauless, (Red Hill Mining Town and Trip Through Your Wires are pretty weak tracks) it is well worth a listen. All in all if you are interested in classic rock and have missed this album you should doubtless give this a listen. If you are a hater of U2, try giving them a fair chance to grow on you. I hated U2 for a few months but after giving the music some quality, unbiased listening, I grew to love it. Some consider U2 horrendously overrated, unfairly propped on the forefront of the media because of Bono's charity work and egocentricity. But to those of you who think such, you have to wonder why. If they really weren't all that they claim to be how did they earn such a large mature fanbase? Give this album a fair listen and I defy you to dislike it.