U2 - Joshua Tree
U2 may have started out their career as post punks, but they quickly got around to making that cross-over between post punk and commercial rock without quite losing the edge to their music which made them worth listening to. That cross-over came at the same time they "cracked" America and there is no co-incidence that those two events happened at the same time. And yet, for many, U2 are the archetype of bands who have "sold out" simply because they made the transition to massive fame and fortune. There will always be those who argue they were not worthy. Yet if you look behind this prejudice, you will find that the band could still turn out good tracks now and then. And The Joshua Tree is a classic example of that.
Having said all that, this was the last U2 album I bought for a while. It is not their best album - that accolade goes to the live album, Under a Blood Red Sky - but this is probably their best studio album. The songs are tight and well crafted and the music is soaring - come on no one can deny that. If they had set out to write a number of anthems, then they succeeded in their aim. This album became their iconic statement to a generation and cemented their place firmly as the new arena rockers of their age. It is as if they made music which is best appreciated in the stadium environment, and almost every song on the albums comes across in support of that contention.
Yet it was so close to not being the case in my opinion. I often feel that U2 managed to achieve this because they knew they had to. A year before the release of The Joshua Tree, the Waterboys had come out with a classic album, This Is the Sea. That album positioned the Waterboys as the potential next greatest band on the planet. And if they followed it up with another exposition of the "big music" style which Mike Scott had perfected, U2 would have been written off as last year's model. U2 knew they had to respond and responded with this - using the anthemic sound almost as a response to Scott's own Big Sound. In any event, it worked. Their status was confirmed when the Waterboys next album, Fisherman's Blues, alienated their potential fanbase with its forced Irish folkyish musical craic. That left U2 a clear run in to the finish line. They crossed and have stood on that podium ever since.
This is U2 at their studio best. Several of the tracks are classics and it is not hard to see why this album would have been a huge commercial success. I can see why some people do not like it, but do not let your prejudice colour what remains, when all is said and done, a bloody good album. OK, it is not going to be the musically proficient album ever and in many ways in neither innovative nor original. But, put these limitations and the pretensions of the band aside, this is music which works well and delivers.
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on 2011-05-19 dscanland Said:
While we are on the subject of U2, I still reach for this album. It's the B-side that makes this album stand the test of time, not the A-side singles. Listen to Joshua Tree once again and listen with fresh ears if you are in any way jaded towards this band.