Long before U2 put an album in your iTunes account in 2014, they were the biggest band in America. “The Joshua Tree” has lived on as one of their greatest accomplishments as the songs feel just as relevant today as they did 34 years ago.
The album opens with a soft organ before The Edge’s signature guitar riff comes in. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a timeless rock anthem that has been shaking arenas and stadiums for over 30 years now. The second track is for anyone who has doubts about their religion and hasn’t found what they’re looking for. U2 explores gospel and soul music with, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The shimmering guitar of “With or Without You” sends chills down my spine on every listen. It’s a slow burn that builds to a crashing crescendo.
“Bullet the Blue Sky” remains one of the band’s most visceral political songs to date. Bono was inspired after a trip to El Salvador, and his growling vocals add to The Edge’s roaring Jimi Hendrix-style guitar riff. It’s a perfect quartet piece where each member of the band is at the height of their powers.
“Running to Stand Still” is a heartbreaking tune about heroin addictions that closes out the packed side one of the album. The closing lines of the song, “She will suffer the needle’s chill/She’s running to stand still” has remained one of Bono’s best lyrics. The second side of “The Joshua Tree” is where you get some songs that are lesser-known than the opening five but are much more personal. “Red Hill Mining Town,” “In God’s Country,” and “Trip Through Your Wires” are where U2 really sink their teeth into Americana music.
Greg Carroll was a roadie for U2 since their early days. If you watch their Live Aid performance, you can see Carroll untangling the microphone and adjusting it for Bono throughout their set. Carroll died in 1986 and was only 26, which hit the band so hard and inspired “One Tree Hill.” The song is both a celebration of life and a promise that Carroll will reunite with the band one day.
The second to last song, “Exit,” matches the intensity of “Bullet the Blue Sky” but adds builds on top of that with an even more manic energy. The closer of the album is the quiet “Mothers of the Disappeared.” The song is seemingly inspired by Bono’s aforementioned trip to El Salvador along with the Chilean mothers who had children taken from them. It’s a somber but fitting end to an album that both celebrates the beauty and ugliness in countries.
My aunt had always promised to take me to a U2 concert when I was little, and it was her that introduced me to the album and the band that would become a constant in my life to this day. I was fortunate enough to catch a show on the 30th anniversary tour in 2017 at MetLife stadium.
Hearing 70,000 fans erupt during the opening notes of “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a feeling that you have to experience yourself to understand. Even though U2 this was as an “anniversary tour,” the album is filled with songs that translate to our political climate today, which justifies the tour for me. It’s a timeless album that will continue to age as one of U2’s best.