Joshua Tree

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t listen to much of U2, arguably one of the greatest rock bands in the world. I know a bit about the band and can, surprisingly, name members beyond “Bono.” But I essentially just own some singles, Achtung Baby, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Oh, and Joshua Tree.

Oh Joshua Tree. Really, I’ve only been listening to music for the last four or five years. I mean really listening to music, something not a whole lot of people actually do (hence the popularity of Hinder and radio’s Delilah). But in my admittedly-still-forming musical vocabulary, there is simply no stronger opening to any rock/pop record1 than the mind-altering trifecta of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “With or Without You.”

As I’ve said, I’m really not a U2 groupie in the way that my former roommate, a Mexican biology major, was. He could deftly dissect Bono’s vocal range (lamentably dwindling) with some authority. I can’t tell you even the most basic facts about the Zoo TV Tour. I can only sit here and proclaim proudly that I am perpetually enslaved to the power of the auralgasm that is the first three tracks of Joshua Tree. And this, I think, makes some people nervous.

Maybe this is because it’s an album from 1987 or because some songs have been unfortunately co-opted by such entities as Ross & RachelTM. But it’s probably mostly because of Bono. Guys like me don’t usually like guys like him and it’s essentially because of aesthetics. 98% of the music I listen to does not feature a frontman with large, colored sunglasses and an inability to not wear at least one article of leather clothing at all times. I’m fundamentally trained to despise rock stars who play at the Super Bowl one day and schmooze with politicians the next. But Bono is and does all these things. And he does so just because he fucking wants to. Not to look like a badass (though he is) or because it helps sell records (though it does). I legitimately think it’s simply because it’s natural to him the way wearing Chuck Taylor’s or eating peanut butter & pickle sandwiches is for me. I don’t question it. Bono doesn’t question the “point” of campaigning to end Third World debt. It’s just what should be done and Bono sees no reason he can’t be one to help toward that end (and he’s doing a brilliant job of it, I might add). He’s an authentic guy who realizes that everyone’s “authentic” personality contains arbitrarily manufactured elements. And one who realizes that making money, a shitload of it, off your music is not an evil soulless thing to do.

But honestly I wish Bono weren’t even relevant. Because even if he were a pretentious asshole sellout or “this generation’s Martin Luther King, Jr” (as my non-black, non-hippie friend once declared), it wouldn’t even matter when you listen to Joshua Tree. Those first three songs are the three best reasons I can think of to shut Nickelback the fuck off and let yourself purposely be transported to a beautiful realm where the streets have no name. A place where the lame can dance and the deaf can hear and Bono can rock out next to a confused unemployed college drop-out living in Suckville, Ohio.

1Except MAYBE Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But probably not.

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