All-Time Albums: #68


U2 The Joshua Tree

Where The Streets Have No Name 5:37 (UK single, #4)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For 4:37 (UK single, #6)
3 With Or Without You 4:56 (UK single, #4)
Bullet The Blue Sky 4:32
5 Running To Stand Still 4:18
6 Red Hill Mining Town 4:52
7 In God’s Country 2:57 (UK single, #44 on import)
8 Trip Through Your Wires 3:52
9 One Tree Hill 5:23
10 Exit 4:13
11 Mothers Of The Disappeared 5:14

For a time in the early 1990s, when The Blue Nile were on another hiatus, my favourite band was U2. I know, it pains me too. But once upon a time, they really did make excellent records. In 1987, they had yet to achieve this accolade, but The Joshua Tree was still A BIG DEAL. It was their first album since stealing the show at Live Aid, their first since Bono had gone from trying to squeeze himself into the picture when performing Do They Know It’s Christmas? to becoming one of the most famous frontmen in rock.

There was no lead single. Shops across the world were opening at midnight on the day of release. Its first-week sales in the UK were a then-record amount, although Michael Jackson’s Bad would soon eclipse them.

U2’s early flag-waving years didn’t interest me much; New Years Day was a great single but it took the very different-sounding title track from The Unforgettable Fire to stir me into action, with its sweeping, dramatic grandeur and typically atmospheric Eno/Lanois production. The rest of that album was hit-and-miss; a few too many fillers (Promenade, 4th Of July and Elvis Presley And America) felt like works-in-progress. The Joshua Tree, by contrast, had a focus, a unity of purpose about it which could not fail to impress.

The opening trio of songs were all singles, and remain career highlights. Bombast is kept to a minimum; Bullet The Blue Sky sounds fantastically menacing but unfortunately signalled the direction U2 would immediately take with the Rattle & Hum nonsense a year later. It’s all a bit front-loaded, too, with Side One containing the hits plus the other outstanding album cuts. The second half is less immediate, but One Tree Hill, Exit and Mothers of the Disappeared make for an emotionally-loaded finale.

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