The fact that it’s Bono’s 50th birthday today reminded me of a conversation I had in 1988 with a friend of mine, who, as it turns out, I saw last month for the first time in months. I was making my list of maybe 20 island albums, and I placed on the roster on the list Joshua Tree by U2. My friend was practically incensed. “You can’t put that album on! It’s only a year old!”
OK, fair enough. It’s 2010. It’s still on the list.
In the past week or so, I’ve listened to all the U2 CDs I have on CD, only about nine of them, and it continues to be the one that is solid throughout.
As the Wikipedia article notes, this is both one of the best-selling and best-reviewed albums in recorded music history. Released on March 9, 1987, it was also “the first new release to be made immediately available on the compact disc, vinyl record, and cassette tape formats on the same date.”
So naturally, I pulled out Kill Your Idols this weekend. It’s a book, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmel Carrillo that trashes albums generally considered to be classics. from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run AND Born in the U.S.A. Naturally, Joshua Tree is here too, In the essay by Eric Waggoner and Bob Mehr, the writers complain as much about the band, and especially its lead singer, as about the album itself:
“…those tuning in to the globally broadcast Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985, could be forgiven for thinking Christ had suddenly return in the form of a po’-faced Irish rocker.” Noting the way he worked the crowd, they accuse him of “acting out what appeared to be a twisted messianic fantasy…”
As for the album itself: “a wonky, ill-fitting marriage of high-minded piety and humorless determination…[it] takes no risks, rolls no dice and couches every one of its supposedly deep insights in the broadest, most hackneyed terms possible.”
All of that notwithstanding, the album immediately spoke to me on a visceral level. I didn’t dissect it, as I did with Beatles albums 20 years earlier. I just let myself feel the experience. Prone as I am to overthinking, that is not the level at which I enjoyed this particular album.
LINKS to each song:
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Though I suppose the Two Americas theme resonated at some level, the country it is and the one it strives to be.
Whatever the reason, Joshua Tree is one of my 25 island records. Which is appropriate since it appears on Island Records.