Quick Review (LP): The Joshua Tree by U2

The Joshua Tree
Island; 1987

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Where The Streets Have No Name", "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For", "With or Without You", "Running to Stand Still", "One Tree Hill"

Monumental in every conceivable way.


  • The Edge says that when they wrote "Where the Streets Have No Name", they were trying to write the ultimate live song. Mission accomplished.
  • For a band that had heretofore been basically post-punk, they nailed the gospel thing with "I Still Haven’t Found…" Transcendent. One of the most beautiful songs ever.
  • "I believe in the kingdom come/That all the colors will bleed into one…" Chills.
  • The fact that "With or Without You" has reached cultural saturation takes nothing away from the fact that it is both an amazing song and a brilliant performance.
  • "Bullet the Blue Sky" – amazing and incendiary guitar work by The Edge. Really brilliant. Never been crazy about Bono’s performance though. It is Bono at his most laughably Bono-esque.
  • After the fireworks of the first four tracks, "Running to Stand Still" rounds out side one on a hushed and meditative note. One of the band’s most underrated tracks. Cinematic.
  • "Red Hill Mining Town" – amazing chorus, and the rise to the chorus is great as well. "And you keep me holdin’ on/In Red Hill town/See the lights go down…"
  • "In God’s Country" has always been one of my favorites, a defining track for this album. Apparently, the band is not as crazy about it. I guess it does feel a little unfinished.
  • "Tripped through Your Wires" is great. Love the sound of The Edge’s guitar there. Rousing.
  • I love the way "One Tree Hill" begins with the synthetic beat and builds to a swell. Bono’s vocals are amazing here. Another personal favorite, and another underrated track.
  • I’ve never been sure about "Exit", but it’s growing on me. I think the mood just feels a little off (?).
  • "Mothers of the Disappeared" certainly ends the album on an unexpected note. The rest of the album soars, so “Mothers” almost feels out of place. It certainly requires an attentiveness that the rest of the album doesn’t. That being said, after many listens, I think it’s a decent tune, though not one of the band’s best, and questionable as a closer here.
  • Perhaps The Joshua Tree is the Mt. Rushmore of rock and roll? Grand in concept, glorious to behold, but unfinished and rough around the edges when viewed close up.
  • I tend to go back and forth on The Joshua Tree as a whole. It is absolutely a classic album, but I am not so sure that it is a perfect record. The highs, of which there are many, are so high that they make the lesser moments seem entirely dull. Specifically, I think they could’ve closed out the record in a far stronger way. (U2 needs to spend some time with Radiohead to figure out how to end a record.) It’s as if their ambition was beyond the reach of mere mortals, and by the end they simply ran out of energy and had to finished the record in a hurried way. That being said, U2 would not be U2 without that ambition, and this is the album where they assumed the mantle of international rock heroes.
  • DELUXE EDITION: Most of the tracks on the second CD come off like experimental drivel. There are only a few notable exceptions: "Spanish Eyes" and "Sweetest Thing" (not as good as the updated version released a few years back). Overall, however, I think the deluxe edition more than anything shows that this was a somewhat confusing period for U2. The Joshua Tree may be their most popular effort, but it was a transitional record, a continuation of the upheaval the band was going through as they tried to move beyond their post-punk roots into something fittingly transcendent.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4.5/5)