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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My review of The Joshua Tree (U2 Fans... ATTACK!!!)

Another old review about a band that hasn't grown on me at all. They still have some good songs but overall? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

From (originally written 30 August 2004)

I’ve found that when reviewing music – or any art for that matter – it is good to keep at least some sort of objectivity. It’s not good enough to merely say things like “this album’s cool because I like it” because even if that is what it comes down to in the end, it is important to explain why the music works or doesn’t work as the case may be. That said though, there does come a point where your ability to recommend an album to others is dependant on nothing more than your own subjective views on said album. I can’t really think of a better place to illustrate it than with a review of the Joshua Tree.

What we have here is a perfectly produced, immaculately performed, competently written album that with the exception of a few songs near the beginning, I personally have very little use for. I bought this album well over a year and a half ago but no matter how many times I listen to this, I can’t help but find myself loosing interest halfway through. I have also been more than slightly afraid of reviewing an album that is as universally loved as this one is – especially when my problems with it are mainly purely personal. It’s also a difficult album to review because when it comes to the songs that I don’t like, I will always say something along these lines: “there’s nothing really wrong with this song but I just find it dull”. As such, I am not going to write a song by song analysis of the album like I normally do so this review will probably be shorter than most of the ones I’ve written.

Let’s start off then with the album’s strengths – and make no mistake there are a few. Firstly, as I mentioned above, this album is absolutely immaculate on a purely technical level. The production is so clean it very almost literally sparkles. The songs are arranged magnificently with all the instruments working in perfect harmony with one another. Every member of the band also puts their very best into each and every song – even if that doesn’t always pay off as much as I would like (more on that later: Bono fans beware!).

As for the songwriting, well, I would never call it great or anything but it is, to be fair, very far from being awful. In fact, I love or at least like some of the songs at the beginning of the album. Where the Streets Have No Name, for example, is a song that illustrates everything good about this album that I enumerated above. Better yet is I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, which is actually, really quite the beautiful song, one that I in fact have no complaints with whatsoever. Buying an album for a single song is a stupid, stupid idea but if you were to do such a thing, this would be the song to buy it for.

With or Without You is probably the albums best known song and though it’s not quite up to the previous track, it’s a pretty, heartfelt ballad that is, to be fair, well worth your precious time. I also really do quite enjoy Running to a Stand Still and to a lesser extent, Red Hill Mining Town quite a bit as well. That’s pretty much it for the good parts though so now onto my problems with this album.

The first problem I have with this album is that it’s “top-loaded “ to the extreme. All the best – read “good” – songs are placed right at the beginning of the album that by the time you get to the halfway mark, there really is no real reason to carry on.

Secondly, however much I do think most of the band is in top form here; I have come to the very definite conclusion that I really don’t like Bono’s whiny, pathetic voice. Yes, I know that I’m going to get flamed for this but I just don’t enjoy the way Bono sings and seeing as how this is nothing more than my personal opinion, it would be quite useless to try and change my mind on the matter.

Thirdly, these songs are looooong. Most of these songs clock in at well over four minutes each so even the songs that I do like are weakened by overstaying their welcome. More than anything else though, my problem is a very simple one: this album is so very, very dull that even if everything on here is basically listenable, I do find listening to the entire album to be something of a chore. I mean the entire second side – or what I assume to be the second side, I own the CD after all – all flows together into one long, completely uninteresting song.

The thing is that even the first side never actually goes so far as to excite me. Even if I do enjoy a number of these songs – and as I made it quite clear above, I do enjoy these songs quite a bit – it’s mainly because they’re pretty ballads that actually manage to be quite moving. This is fine for four or five songs but for an entire album, things start to get a bit trying. Then again though, to be fair if the rest of the songs were as good as the first few, I might not actually mind but alas that is very clearly not the case. Most of these songs are simply slow, down-tempo pop songs that plod along ceaselessly, never managing to rouse m’ old soul for even a single second.

Okay, I realize that this review will upset many people because the Joshua Tree is without a doubt one of rock’s most sacred of cows. I’m sure it also doesn’t help that I discussed my problems in very general terms without getting into any of the songs in particular. What can I say though, I certainly don’t hold it against anyone if they worship this album because I could almost see the attraction.

Personally though, I very simply have not taken to this album at all. I do want to mention though that I won’t take it kindly if you flame me for hating this album and you, your-very-own-self, never really listen past the first few songs. Anyway, to quote the Johnny Storm (if you don’t know that is, you very simply aren’t reading enough comics!): “Flame On!”

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