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April 22, 1987 - Image 13

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-04-22

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 22, 1987 - Page 13

Records

U2
The Joshua Tree
Island
In our times of cynical
materialism and stupidity, the thrill
of a band like this is priceless. U2
has fulfilled its megagroup promise
with breathtaking integrity; they are
spiritual idealists carrying , a
passionate torch of conscience who
still believe in the positive force of
music.
This purported mission creates
an immense burden of expectations.
In 1984, U2 shook off the
bombastic image of its break -
through LPWar, working with
impressionistic innovator Brian
tho on a vital turning point in its

career.The Unforgettable Fire, a
progressive though unfocused col -
lection of ideas, raised hopes higher
still. Its latest, The Joshua Tree ,
rises to the occasion, revealing a
rock-solid and completely realized
vision in words and music - their
most literate, potent album to date.
Much like the giant cactus found
in the sun-scorched regions of the
Southwest, where nothing else will
grow, U2 conjures the image of a
spring of hope upon this ethical
wasteland called America. And
despite its vast, bleak picture of
despair, from the political prisoners
to psychotic killers, one finds
redemption in U2's enthusiastic
spark of belief, as lyricist/singer
Bono mines all this desolation with
an intense, thoroughgoing vein of

stark archetypes and Biblical
imagery.
The grandiloquent, churchy-glow
intro of "Where the Streets Have
No Name" is soon sparked by the
Edge's gyrating guitar arpeggios. It
propels Bono to a baptism of fire in
the rugged purity of "a desert
plain," a retreat from man's
destructive compulsions ("I want to
reach out/ And touch the flame.../ I
want to take shelter from the
poison rain"). In "Bullet the Blue
Sky," as the Edge hurls furious
slide-guitar shrapnel into the hellish
abyss ploughed open by Adam
Clayton's thundering bass-line and
Larry Mullen Junior's fierce snare-
drum wallop, Bono howls out in
indignation at America's part in the
violence south of the border:
"driving nails into souls on the tree
of pain" ("Plant a demon seed, you

raise a flower of fire/ See the
burning crosses, see the flames
higher and higher"). On "I Still
Haven't Found What I'm Looking
For," he explains, "I believe in the
Kingdom Come / Then all the
colours will bleed into one / But
yes I'm still running," as an
hyponotic, locomotive rhythm
revolves around a hymnlike vocal.
Ultimately, U2's songs combine as
well - into a big picture of
enduring faith in a desert of sin.
U2's refreshingly collective
spirit sacrifices individual egos and
solos to the song as a whole,
crafting it out of simple, yet
evocative parts: the Edge's stirring
eighth-notes on the mournful elegy
"One Tree Hill;" Clayton's gently
shifting bassline anchoring "With
or Without You;" the harrowing
thrash of "Exit." An ecstatic, folky

stomp celebrating the double-edge
of temptation, "Trip Through Your
Wires" suggests Bono's favorite
group, The Waterboys. U2 has a
grungy new realism, a sparser and
rougher-edged, albeit sensitive
approach.
Experience has given U2 the
power to evoke both the pitfalls and
the blessings of life of these
wastelands. Bono's heartbreaking
cries in "Red Hill Mining Town"
portray a tragedy of relationships
strained by layoffs ("I'm hanging
on / You're all that's left to hold on

to"). Yet, as the Edge's uplifting,
ecstatic guitar wails out "In God's
Country," a Promised Land of
avarice and wasted freedom (of "sad
eyes, crooked crosses"), Bono is
still compelled remind us: "She itg
Liberty / And she comes to rescue
me/ Hope, faith, her vanity.../ I
stand with sons of Cain / Burned by
the fire of love."
U2 has touched the flame of:
America, and their epic gestures are
reassuringly sincere. U2 still wants
to believe.
-Michael Fischet

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