Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Classic U2 Re-Visited


A very thoughtful album review of U2's The Joshua Tree from Michael Jensen...

I recently purchased the CD version of U2's 1987 classic The Joshua Tree. I bought the vinyl version the day it became available 20 years ago. I was 17 and already a fan of U2, so I was not coming to it cold. But I don't think this album has ever been surpassed in all their catalogue.

It has what the truly great albums have, and that is a thematic and musical continuity. What I mean is that you have to listen to the songs as a collection of songs: they inform one another, echo each other. U2 badly wanted for this in The Unforgettable Fire, but spoiled it by overdone production and a couple of their lamest tracks ever ('Elvis Presley in America,' 'Indian Summer Sky'). They missed again with Rattle and Hum, a tediously long album with at times all their tendency to self-righteousness and pomposity ('Silver and Gold').

None of that is here, though there are 'issues' and 'issue songs.' America is the theme, but so are death and loss and grief. The people in the songs express longing and don't yet see the way to answer it. The ambiguity of faith and doubt in 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is matched by the love-hate of 'With or Without You'. And so on. Morever, it is an album with a landscape: it seems to refer to places so often...

Here are eight album highlights for me:

1 - Bono's hope of meeting his dead friend again 'when the stars fall from the sky' in 'One Tree Hill'. Here is a man in his mid-twenties realising he is mortal. It hurts. But it's a song with an eschatology. A song about grief in a major key.

2- Edge's major 7th note in the guitar part of 'I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For' - this one note sums up the whole song.

3 - The Helicopter drums in 'Where the Streets Have No Name'.

4 - Bass line in 'Bullet the Blue Sky', my favourite all time U2 song.

5 - 'Fighter Planes' guitar effects, same song.

6 - 'Running to a Stand Still' - how can something so sweet be made of so few components.

7 - The major key and brightness of 'Red Hill Mining Town' which is talking about the end of generations working in the same place. There is something left to hold on to...

8 - Bono's talking in 'Bullet the Blue Sky'. The cheesiest moment on the album, perhaps? But it works.

Australian theologian Michael P. Jensen is pursuing a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford. Check out his truly stellar blog here: http://www.mpjensen.blogspot.com/

4 comments:

michael jensen said...

wow. I forgot how young I look in this photo...

Sarah Onderdonk said...

seems to me you have a cap and gown pic for some degree they surprised you with?? am i remembering that correctly? how 'bout i run that one next time!

San said...

Just want you to know your comment over on the soulpersuit blog made my day. Thanks! And nice to cybermeet you. :)

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Sandra... what a thrill to have you visit! People say the nicest things about you... professors, students... DP at AMG. I found your primary blog this morning and can't wait to dive into it next week when the boys are at camp.

Friends, check out Sandra Glahn's wonderful blog here:

http://aspire2.blogspot.com/