Thursday, December 9, 2010

U2 - The Joshua Tree

Release Date: March 9, 1987

★★★★★ Tracks:

With or Without You

I want to try and avoid as much negativity as possible, and it’s that very reason I wasn’t looking forward to this entry. I mean, I’m not necessarily reviewing artists and albums as much as I’m simply shooting the shit here. And after all, most anything I cover in my music library should be music I enjoy, or it wouldn’t be there in the first place. But anytime U2 comes up, I can’t help but think of one of the most overrated bands of all time. Every few years I end up grabbing a few songs or an album in an attempt to get in to them. Not much time passes before disappointment settles, and eventually U2 gets the boot. I'm turned off by the intentional grandiosity of everything. Am I the one being pretentious or does Bono sound pretentious as hell every time he sings or speaks? Why do I have to refer to their guitarist as “The Edge?” With such simple chord progressions, must every song be so damn lengthy? And why oh why is the vastly overrated “One” played at every wedding imaginable (even prompting Bono to exclaim, “Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!”). Even getting past all of this and focusing on the songs, well, they just aren’t very good. There’s nothing relatable to me in Bono’s lyrics. The music doesn’t excite me. My mom had Achtung Baby and played it quite a bit. I began to loathe it. One day in college, for not wanting to leave empty handed, I grabbed the newly released, All That You Can Leave Behind. Full disclosure, I actually love “Beautiful Day,” but the rest of the album was, at best, unsatisfactory. Since then all I remember of U2 is that Bono has become a knight and the band released some annoying single which begins with Bono incoherently exclaiming, “Uno, dos, tres, catorce!” (1, 2, 3, ...14!?)

The one U2 album I do keep in my library is The Joshua Tree. I rarely visit it as a whole, but the slow building “With or Without You” is a fantastic track. It’s one of the few U2 songs (that I’ve heard) that sounds intimate, and not something intended to pack an arena. After repeated listens this week I’ve realized I enjoy the first two tracks, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” in all their grandiose glory as well. But the album quickly loses life after those three highlights. I know I am being a bit unfair considering my lack of familiarity with U2’s earlier work. Perhaps if I were to delve in to U2’s pre-Joshua Tree discography I would find some tunes I enjoy. Apparently they were a post-punk outfit at one point. However the U2 I know and hear fits the very definition of impersonal arena rock. They sound like they’re trying too hard; not only to tackle sociopolitical and spiritual issues within their music, but in keeping up with marketable modern pop music. Every single they write sounds like some space-aged glam rock track you wouldn’t hear in any lesser venue than Madison Square Garden. I can dig some of the bigger rock groups out there, but I prefer my brand of music to be a bit more personal. The only time I get that feeling from U2 is when I skip to track three on The Joshua Tree, and the slow, quiet build of “With or Without You” begins.

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