U2 Joshua Tree 30 years on

Interesting excerpt from a piece in the Observer today taking a critical look back at U2’s Joshua Tree album on the 30th anniversary of its release . I like the following quote (can’t think why) I feel a little vindicated because for years some other guy I’d never even heard of kept getting credited as producer of Chris’ first record, “Living With The Law”

” The Unforgettable Fire is a triumph of ensemble playing, perhaps the last flare of U2’s explosive, inventive years as a conventionally unconventional rock band, listening closely to each other while still sounding urgent, frantic, and deeply excited. The Joshua Tree, although it is clearly recognizable as an “early” U2 album, sounds like a studio creation, and not a recording of an exciting, original, and explosive band.

The Unforgettable Fire is a great album. The Joshua Tree is half of a great album.

[i] Not all of these things may be true.

[ii] Mind you, when it comes to this sort of thing—big-reverb, post-Lanois evocations of the holy emptiness of the desert seen through the eyes of a city-wise musician—as effective as The Joshua Tree is, I’d have to say I (vastly) prefer Chris Whitley’s Malcolm Burn-produced Living With The Law (1991), which is basically the go-to masterpiece for this kind of sandy, burnt, emotionally loaded ambience; or, more recently, the stunning Tone Poet, Vol. 3 by Derwood Andrews (2016), which sounds like the high desert under a moonlight sky virtually playing itself (this album deserves a lot more attention, and I’ll write about it in depth in the future).



Alternately ecstatic and underwhelming, “The Joshua Tree” begs a serious question: How can we trust a band so willing to go on autopilot?