Quick Review (LP): The Joshua Tree by U2

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.

NOTES

  • 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.

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

Quick Review (LP): War by U2

U2
War
Island; 1983

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year’s Day", "Drowning Man", "Seconds", "Two Hearts", "40"

NOTES:

– I’ve always thought the drums sounds like CANNONS on this record. I love Steve Lillywhite’s production.
– "40"…A brilliant way to end an album. One of the great closing tracks.
– "The Refugee" is the only significant misstep on the album, and even then it’s a big cheesy goof of a song that has the potential to be a lot of fun live. It sounds very dated.
– One of the best album covers ever. Pure poetry.
War can safely be called U2’s "heart-on-sleeve" album. Witness "Like A Song…", which is quite possibly the most intense track the band has ever produced. "A new heart is what I need/O God make it bleed!"
– My only significant gripe with this record is that it is so intense that anything in the way of a sense of humor or lightness seems completely removed. I’m sure that’s the feel they were going for (after all, war is hell), but the result is that for a great record, it is not very suitable for repeated listening. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is not exactly delightful in the way that The Joshua Tree or Achtung, Baby! is. This was the pinnacle of U2’s early sound, and it was a wise move to leave the intense, "Love and Peace or Else" phase behind them.
– U2 definitively makes the case here that they had what it would take to become the biggest rock and roll band in the world. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year’s Day" are both wonderful in every way imaginable.
– "The newspaper says it’s true/We can break through/Though torn in two/We can be one." That line always leaves me speechless.
– "Drowning Man" is a beautiful, austere change of pace. Just great.
– DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: "Endless Deep"

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

My review of Boy by U2
My review of October by U2

Quick Review (LP): Lisbon by The Walkmen

The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Stranded”, “Torch Song”, “Lisbon”

Ah, lyrics! Clearly enunciated lyrics. Mumblecore bands, take note: here we have a singer who sings, full-on and up-front.  The human voice! Wow! I detect a myriad of influences at play on this record, from the anthemic minimalism of The Joshua Tree to traditional styles including old-world music and primitive gospel. As a newcomer to The Walkmen, I’m delightfully surprised by Lisbon. This is a great album in the grandest sense, a novel of a record and no mere collection of tracks. There’s texture, location, vision, unity, high emotion, and all of the other factors that go together to make great art. A gloriously high aural experience, this should be experienced with headphones. Walkmen, sirs, I am sold. Now where’s that back catalog?

Pitchfork review
NPR review
Metacritic reviews
Band website

U2: No Line on the Horizon (2009)

U2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope
My Rating: 50/100
Rock saints fall short…
So by now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father.
Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with
U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the
time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination.
At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more
inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that
really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot
since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has
made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and
“Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately
for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.
TRACKS
1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)
CONCEPT (3.5/5)
CONSISTENCY (3/5)
CONSEQUENCE (4.5/5)
COHESION (4/5)

NoLineU2PromoU2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope

My Rating: 50/100

Rock saints fall short…

By now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father. Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination. At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and “Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.

Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)

TRACKS

1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)