Album Revisit: U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree’

This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it.

OK, this time for an album revisit I decided to trek into unfamiliar waters for me. Also, after ripping into U2 a while back, and in light of Bono’s pretty bad accident, I figured I’d give one of their classic albums, “The Joshua Tree,” a listen.

A note, I have heard almost every  U2 album, though not always by choice. I worked with people over the years that loved this band, and would play them a lot, which probably contributed to my intense dislike of the band. And, ironically, the only album of theirs I liked from the start was “Pop,” which almost everyone I knew that was a U2 fan pretty much hated.  

First thing I noticed going in that this album starts off with three off the bands largest singles. “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You” are pretty solid songs to kick off an album. While I’m burnt out on those songs from incessant radio play, I can’t deny that making the start of an album that strong was a good idea. Plus, they are pretty good songs.

Now, the song that follows was somewhat hit. “Bullet The Blue Sky” sounds familiar, because the rhythm sounds eerily like the rhythm from Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” I also recall the nu-metal, rap rock band P.O.D. did a horrible cover of this. But I really enjoy this song. It’s the coolest song by U2 I’ve ever heard.

This is followed by “Running To Stand Still.” I hate this song. It’s title reminds me of a title of a very bad poem written by someone who just read “On The Road” for the first time. It’s boring to me. I’m sure some U2 fan will read that and say “How can he think that?” to which my reply is simply this is not a good nor interesting song to me.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout the album is the Edge’s guitar work (minus “Bullet The Blue Sky,” I’ll concede his work on that was pretty great) sounds like noodling. Like he wants to do some horrible Grateful Dead jam, except he just noodles the same riff over and over with a lot of distortion.

I must say, I just couldn’t muster a lot of interest after the first four songs. Not because these songs are not hits, but they are very boring. It seems, to me, by making the start of the album loaded with fantastic and poppy rock songs and then have it lull into meandering songs that lack any punch ruins it for me. I’m sure the album’s record sales would tell me otherwise, but that’s what I think. But I think if I took the tracks and rearranged them in a playlist on Spotify, I might have enjoyed it more. But not by a whole lot.

To which gets into the element of U2 I do not like. This is a band that, from the start, thinks too highly of themselves. And most of that falls on Bono. His lyrics are not the greatest, but he really seems to think otherwise on the back end of this album. And that really ruins it for me.

My final thoughts would be this was a perfectly fine album that I will probably never listen to it again. That’s because U2 is one of those bands that, try as I might, I just can’t get into. I did not hate it, but I did not really enjoy it.

  • I liked Pop, quite a bit.

    Playboy Mansion is sly, If God Will Send His Angels is weary, Staring at the Sun is despairing, If You Wear That Velvet Dress is eerie and Gone is accusatory.

    Give a listen to “Cedars of Lebanon.” I think I mainly like it because it’s about a reporter–and it sounds so very tired.