Is U2’s The Joshua Tree The Best Album Ever?
A True Classic
The Joshua Tree is U2’s fifth album and it is arguable that it cemented the band’s reputation. It reached number one in the charts in both the US and UK and sold over 25 million records. The album garnered four Grammy nominations in 1988, winning two of those. With these awards, it’s obvious that it was spectacular, but is U2’s The Joshua Tree the best album ever?
The Joshua Tree is ranked 27th in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time, that’s just their opinion. As a U2 fan, I think it might be, but objectively speaking who can really say? Yet, who can ever actually be objective because art is inherently subjective? Having said that, while it is a testament to just how majestic U2 could sound, it is not without flaws.
The Greatest Classic Rock Album - Almost
One of the things that make The Joshua Tree striking is that its Side A will convince you that you have finally been blessed with the greatest rock album you have ever heard, but its Side B will have you thinking otherwise. The thing about U2, however, is that they are phenomenal enough to get away with it. With Bono’s voice, he can practically sing gibberish nonsense and still make it sound like the most insightful song out there.
Despite the underwhelming Side B, which will be discussed more later, we definitely have to give credit to the album’s Side A. Quite frankly, if we disregard Side B for a moment, we could say that The Joshua Tree just might be the greatest classic rock album of all time. Side A reminds us exactly why we put U2 on a pedestal. They sound transcendental, almost psychedelic. The first couple of songs in the album seem to want to either transport you to different dimension, or pierce through your core, or maybe do both at the same time. It’s honestly so good that it could make you feel both warm and chilly, excited and nostalgic. In other words, it’s a captivating experience that further establishes U2’s trademark style.
A Sharp Contrast
They say that if you love something, you have to take the good with the bad. In the case of The Joshua Tree, this translates to taking the Side A with the Side B. The first side is awesome, but once you get to the other half, you wouldn’t really find anything quite remarkable, except for one song.
The contrast between Side A and Side B is sharp enough to make Side B seem like a different album altogether. There’s an undeniable dip in the latter half, which makes Side B underwhelming and honestly, a no-match for Side A. It was not surprising though, as the band has had this habit since they released their debut album.
The Joshua Tree is a great album, but not the best one, precisely because the band seemed to be freewheeling not just in one, two, or three songs, but in the half of the entire line-up.
If Side B had a redeeming factor, it would be the album’s ending song, Mothers of the Disappeared. It was also a pivotal track that gave us a sneak peek of the more experimental style that the band was about to dive into. Furthermore, while we can say what we want about the album, there is no doubt The Joshua Tree allowed the band to showcase the range of their abilities. Bono was able to exhibit his vocal versatility with deep tracks like “Running to Stand Still.” The Edge’s take on the guitar was also refreshing, especially when compared to other guitarists of that era. While others were more concerned with being the fastest and flashiest players, The Edge kept it simplistic, which ironically made him outshine the others.
A Spine-Tingling Opener
Whatever Side B lacked, was made up for anyway, especially by the first three tracks of the album — Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and With Or Without You. It’s the sort of album opener that urges you to close your eyes and imagine yourself in a sea of people, where you all scream in excitement as the stage lights up and the band of your dreams start to perform. This is not an exaggeration. The first three songs are brilliant and spine-tingling. And this is probably a cheesy thing to say, but they evoke an emotion that is difficult to pinpoint. Is it fury? Hope? Melancholy? It’s hard to tell and perhaps it varies from person to person.
The first two songs appear to use a scientific formula that makes them such engaging power rock songs. Ironically, they simple and repetitive, yet they sound complex when taken as a whole. Meanwhile, the third track seems to have been designed to be an all-time anthem, one that just gets better with time. With or Without You has an unchanging chord sequence and yet, since its release, it has continued to be one of the most charming and artsy mainstream songs ever created. It does not even seem to try hard at all and yet it’s glorious.
So, is U2’s The Joshua Tree The Best Album Ever? Maybe not. But it definitely has the best three-song opening to any mainstream rock album ever.
The Joshua Tree Gift Ideas
There is a lot of memorabilia out there, especially on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. Amazon is usually cheaper with more selection and so I’ve chosen them. And if you’re not super satisfied with what you’ve bought, their returns policy is really good.
With so much to choose from, where do you start? My focus has been on cool, fun and quirky items, all garnering decent ratings from well-priced sellers.
Please note that I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small compensation if you use my links, but it will not increase your purchase price. If you use my links, I truly appreciate it 😉