With or Without You – U2 (1987, Island Records)
When I was about 15, I loved U2. I remember listening to them on my paper round, ‘The Joshua Tree’ was pretty much stapled into my Walkman for a good year and then for some reason I stopped listening to them. I don’t know if it was because my music tastes changed (or rather my peer group changed and they didn’t like U2), or if I didn’t like their new material, or whether Bono just constantly irritated me. I think it must be the latter because I once made a list about all the things about Bono that annoyed me. Sat at the top of that list, above the tax dodging, the hypocritical preaching and the really shit album that was ‘Pop’ was the word ‘Shades’. Almost like I could forgive not paying tax, terrible music and preaching worldliness at a massive crowd, but I can never forgive a man who wears such awful sunglasses.
But after seeing a copy of ‘The Joshua Tree’ in a charity shop, I’ve decided to give Bono and his band another chance, I mean I’m older, wiser and far less judgemental now about music (and sunglasses) than I have ever been (yes, that is really saying something). I mean how difficult can it be to not like an album that once had this written about it.
“The wild beauty, cultural richness, spiritual vacancy and ferocious violence of America are explored to compelling effect in virtually every aspect of The Joshua Tree—in the title and the cover art, the blues and country borrowings evident in the music … Indeed, Bono says that ‘dismantling the mythology of America’ is an important part of The Joshua Tree’s artistic objective…”
Not that difficult, it turns out, ‘The Joshua Tree’ does none of the above. For starters, there is very little ‘wild beauty’. ‘With or Without You’ and ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ aside, the rest sounds relatively ordinary. Although I will give a nod in the direction of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ because that is still a decent track, albeit one that I am bored to tears of.
Where the Streets Have No Name – U2 (1987, Island Records)
Red Hill Mining Town – U2 (1987, Island Records)
I know I didn’t find this album as irritating thirty years ago as I do today. The problem is I think is that we know more about Bono now that we did back then. Back then Bono writing songs about murdered political dissidents in Argentina (closing track ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’) or the Miners Strike in the UK (‘Red Hill Mining Town’) probably seemed valiant and added to the ‘cultural richness’ that the Lord of Twats who wrote the bit in italics was on about. Now it just seems fake. I’m sure it wasn’t, but if you are going to highlight an important issue like the murder of politicians, using your global superstar status, at least make it memorable. ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’ is one of most instantly forgettable songs that I have ever heard, and I’ve previously owned a Molly Half Head record.
Mothers of the Disappeared – U2 (1987, Island Records)