on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 4 Jul

Lost classics #37: The Joshua Tree by U2

von: Ian McCartney Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments

Ian’s account (July 2016)


If you think back way back into the haar of time to a time before driverless automobiles, self-baking cakes, octa-core processors, and so on, right back to 1986/1987 the only sound around was The Sound, whose world-beating LP „Thunder Up“ was everywhere from the television music shows to the radio to the turntables of teenagers across England, through Europe and all the way to America, as well as plenty of places in between. Adrian Borland (God rest his soul) was a poet, a visionary, and The Sound deserved every piece of praise they got. Of which there was tons – with entire 6 page pull-out sections in the NME, Sounds, Record Mirror (although for some reason Melody Maker didn’t join in the fun – presumably as a cynical market differentiation ploy). If you put The Sound on the cover of your weekly music paper or Sunday supplement, your periodical’s circulation would surge. Show me someone who can’t sing the chorus from Thunder Up’s opening song Acceleration Group and I’ll show you someone who lived on Mars in eightysix/seven.

But you know all that. In fact the last time you were in WH Smiths at the railway station there was probably a hacked-together The Sound tribute mag on the shelf for £7.99. What you may not know is that in eightyix/seven there was other music out there. And if you digged deep enough, you might even have chanced upon The Joshua Tree by U2. I wasn’t aware of its existence until much later – only finding it by chance on a streaming playlist. U2 were apparently a peripheral band on the Blackwell roster. Kind of (maybe) a bit like Simple Minds or The Waterboys, but then again not. They had this mad guitar player who’s sound is a mystery – it’s not really lead guitar, it’s not really rhythm section, it’s out there, at the edge.

The Joshua Tree is a very well assembled work, some of its sonic textures are Turner Prize-winning art. There’s an odd metallicism in it, and a searing Camusian heat. Hot knives, sun’s out guns out. I don’t know if Meursault’s infinitely reverberating sentence “ Et c’était comme quatre coups brefs que je frappais sur la porte du malheur“ is a reference point for this record, but it feels like it is – blood and burning sand. I dont pretend to ‚get‘ all of this record – it’s too avant-garde, but it does have good tunes, and I like the way the first three songs are anthemic and address eternal human points. It’s mad that they did this – put the best three songs at the start and let the rest of the record go off on some very uncommercial tangents. Maybe this is why nobody bought the record at the time and only a hardcore of about 1- 3,000 people actually own it on CD. I doubt anyone truly grudges The Sound for their success, but it is fascinating to me that U2 are – for the most part – a footnote to the 1980s.

The best records always leave a question mark. And the question The Joshua Tree leaves is … how do people go into a room and write this stuff? Impossible to imagine the guitar guy going into the studio going „check out this new riff I’ve made up“ because the guitar seems to emerge out of the songs rather than be any basis for them.


DJ Mireia Moreorless’s account (December 2190)


… found a new 20th century work … not crasy [sic] abt the 1st 3 songs (the singer, is he a phantom on these? haha) … heart the beat on >>Red Hill Mining town<< just yes. did anybody here [sic] this record? burning sand or tears in rain? … death hangs over thee / whilst yet thou livest / whilst thou mayest / be good



This entry was posted on Montag, 4. Juli 2016 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I even don’t like their good albums. Because of my Bono allergy.

    But some of your lines make me wanting going back in time though I think that spaces where the streets have no names are lifestyle shopping areas today! Yes, the Lanois sound may still speak (sing) volumes.

  2. Ian M:

    Lanois is incredible

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