30 years ago today, we got The Joshua Tree. A front-heavy rock album. Not as consistently great as The Unforgettable Fire (1984). But it was the commercial peak U2 fans knew they were capable of. Suddenly, I was not alone in choosing U2 on the jukebox in my favorite pizza joints in Brockton, Massachsusetts. I was in my final weeks in junior high, surrounded by kids who loved Bon Jovi and Motley Crue, and they HATED U2. Come September, I was in a high school where if you didn't love U2, you were considered way out of touch. You could love R.E.M. You could secretly listen to New Order or Depeche Mode. Or you could be so far ahead of the curve like me and own three Pixies albums by 1989. But if you didn't express your love of U2, you were an automatic outsider.
Now the album itself does not move me like the next three U2 albums did. I still think Achtung Baby is their best masterpiece. But there are very few rock albums that open as strongly as The Joshua Tree. We're talking Led Zepplin IV or Back In Black-caliber openings. Where The Streets Have No Name is a soaring opening - peak classic U2. I Still haven't Found What I'm Looking For is this emotional gospel rock anthem. And despite its basic four bars, and resemblance to another Eno-produced four-bar classic, Once In A Lifetime, With Or Without You is still, still a great song thanks to the lyrics and Edge's galloping riffs. Then they follow that up with Bullet The Blue Sky, the leftist, violent song about Reagan's proxy wars, among other things. And then, THEN, U2 give us another anthem - the major-keyed song about heroin addiction, Running To Stand Still. Holy shit, this album. 30 years, kids.