Best albums of 1987: #4 U2 “The joshua tree”

I bought “The joshua tree” on CD as one of my ten for a penny from Columbia House (or was it BMG? – I did both, take your pick) in my late teens, so likely a few years after its release. It was purchased on the basis of the first three songs on the album, each of which was tattooed in my brain from hearing them several times. When my package of discs arrived, I did enjoy those three songs on initial spins but rarely did I get past them, and it wasn’t long before the album was just a dust collector on my CD racks. Shortly after arriving at university, then, I gave the disc away to a young lady on whom I may or may not have had a crush. Either way, I didn’t miss it for many years.

In fact, I never fully grew to appreciate “The joshua tree” until the last decade or so, when it found itself back in my music library somehow. I was finally able to listen to it without allowing all the prejudices I had built up against the band and their bloated image to taint my experience. The Irish four-piece’s fifth album was their second to be produced by the tandem of Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. It kept the ambient underpinnings of “The unforgettable fire”, their previous record together, but returned some the harder hitting sensibilities of U2’s earlier work. Mix all of that with the furthering of Bono’s and The Edge’s musical history education, after hanging out with Keith Richards and The Waterboys’ Mike Scott, and you’ve got one heck of a record, much deserving of all the accolades that have been heaped upon it.

Indeed, I have plenty of new favourites on the album but you still can’t beat the triumvirate that begins the album so what other three tracks could I pick for you but those three?


”I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”: “I believe in the Kingdom come. Then all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one, but yes, I’m still running.” While doing some reading up on this album, I learned how this song was built upon a drum demo by Larry Mullen jr. And if you listen to what he is doing here, you can really gain an appreciation for how great a drummer he really is, which makes the fact that he can easily be pushed out of the picture by the big personas of Bono and The Edge so unfortunate. The beat is augmented by Adam Clayton’s “one note groove” bass line and The Edge’s chiming arpeggios. And on top of all this, Bono is singing gospel at the top of his vocal register, mixing old with new, but pushing the universal theme of spiritual longing and the unending quest for meaning.

”Where the streets have no name”: “I want to run, I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. I wanna reach out and touch the flame, where the streets have no name.” This was released as the third single from the album but it is the track that opens “The joshua tree”. And as great as The Edge’s guitar playing and effects work and (I suppose) the rest of the band’s performances are, I almost think they are secondary to the music video filmed for the song. Reminiscent of and likely an homage to The Beatles’ final live performance, the video shows the band performing live on the roof of a liquor store in Los Angeles. The performance was portrayed as being shut down by the police, which according to the director was as it happened, but it is obvious that it was all part of the plan and it all smacks of sensationalism. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the video back in the day and it’s rebel attitudes and the song has that same energy.

”With or without you”: “Through the storm we reach the shore. You give it all but I want more. And I’m waiting for you.” The first single released off “The joshua tree” was almost not a single and was in peril of never seeing the light of day at all. It was originally written in late 1985 but the band had to play with the arrangements for a few days before they were happy with it, coming near to scrapping it a few times. Their tenacity paid off because it was a huge hit for the band and their first number one in the US. It is notable for Clayton’s rumbling bass line, The Edge’s wicked sustained guitar effect, and Bono’s vocals, starting low and slow and building to explosion. To me, “With or without you” screams high school dances in the gym. It’s a troubled love song sure, but it was a sure fire hit with slow dancers. I definitely remember doing that slow turn and sway shuffle more than once to this song back in the day.


Check back next Thursday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Dead Can Dance “Within the realm of the dying sun”
9. Spaceman 3 “The perfect prescription”
8. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”
7. Jane’s Addiction “Jane’s Addiction”
6. The Sisters of Mercy “Floodland”
5. The Cure “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Vinyl love: Teenage Fanclub “Bandwagonesque” (+ “Heavy metal 6” b/w “Long hair”)

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Teenage Fanclub
Album Title: Bandwagonesque
Year released: 1991
Year reissued: 2018
Details: Black vinyl, reissue, remastered at Abbey Road Studios, included bonus 7″ single “Heavy metal 6” b/w “Long hair”

The skinny: Considered at the time, one of the best albums of 1991, topping a good deal of ‘best of the year’ charts. Unfortunately, it hasn’t enjoyed the same sustained commercial success as some of its contemporaries (*cough* Nirvana *cough*). The Fannies third (?) album is a classic in my eyes, all noisy guitars, feedback, and beautiful vocal harmonies. This fully remastered reissue is one of five the band did this year (each arriving last week in post) so expect a few more Teenage Fanclub “Vinyl Love” posts in the coming month.

Standout track: “The concept”

Best albums of 1987: #5 The Cure “Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me”

I was probably in 9th grade (around the time this album was released) when I first heard tell of The Cure. A friend of mine on the street, who I had played with growing up and those days, simply “hung out” with, told me one day that he was going to see them in concert, that very night, and he had gotten the band’s name shaved into the back of his head for the occasion. His older sister was bringing him and, now that I look back, it was probably a pre-requisite for her parents allowing her to go all the way to Toronto to see them with her friends. He rhymed off names of songs, none of which rung a bell. I didn’t have an older sister (or older brother for that matter) to introduce me to their music. Nope. I was, in fact, that older sibling that probably influenced the tastes of my younger brethren when I got into music in a big way a few years later.

I didn’t actually hear The Cure (in a conscious way) until a few years later when another of my neighbour friends played them for me and then, recorded sections, if not copies in full, of this album, “Staring at the sea”, and “Disintegration” on cassette for me. In this way, his favourite songs influenced my own, his tastes tending toward the more maudlin of their music, but later, when I caught and recorded a “spotlight” on them on MuchMusic, I started to find my own way in The Cure’s world.

“Kiss me kiss me kiss me” is the band’s seventh album and as double LPs go, it’s big, it’s got a lot of songs, and it’s quite eclectic. In my mind, it bridges the gap between the dark, “gothic” rock of “Faith” and “Pornography” and the pop sensibilities of “The head on the door”. It’s been widely publicized how hard those darker albums were on frontman Robert Smith and how much he hated the “goth” label. It’s no wonder he wanted to write lighter pop songs in the mid-80s and did so successfully. The songs on “Kiss me kiss me kiss me” are a good mix of the dark and plodding and the light and bouncy and the rest lie somewhere in between. It resulted in The Cure achieving their highest charting album to date and made them a name in North America.

My three picks for you from this album all fall under the “single” category but one of them is one that you wouldn’t think obvious as a single. Have a look and a listen and let me know if there are others on this great album that you prefer.


”Why can’t I be you?”: This wasn’t one of the ones off the album that would’ve been highlighted to me by my friend John. In fact, I think the first I might have heard of it was the extended remix of it on “Mixed up”, which I purchased on a whim when I was younger. I think it was the last record I ever bought before I started collecting again, five or so years ago. Sadly (but not too sadly because it was quite warped), I have no idea where it is now (have no fear, I picked up the reissue a couple months ago) but I remember not being super impressed with the remix of “Why can’t I be you?” at the time. Over the years, though, it has grown on me, a bouncy and upbeat number that features a barrage of synthesized horns and Robert Smith growling and skitting and trilling and scatting, really making a lot of vocal sounds not typically made in a pop song.

”Catch”: This tune, on the other hand, was one of my friend John’s favourites. He included it on a mixed tape he once made for me and I didn’t understand it at all at the time. It just seemed absurd and weird but then at some point, I made it past all Robert Smith’s “do do do”s and listened to his lyrics. “And I remember she used to fall down a lot. That girl was always falling, again and again, and I used to sometimes try to catch her. But never even caught her name.” Apparently inspired by a line in one of the Rocky movies where the title character is whispering to a comatose Adrian, the words are actually quite lovely. And in this context, the mellow shuffling beat that is given a lazy feel with synthesized strings and the flanged guitar that comes seemingly out of nowhere at the chorus, all seem just right.

”Just like heaven”: This track, the third single released off the album found itself on the top of the list when did my Top five tunes post, showcasing my favourite songs by The Cure, early last year. Yeah. So it’s my favourite tune by this band and one of the big reasons this album became a favourite of mine. I’m not going to go on here and repeat words that you can find in that other post, except to say this: “‘Show me, show me, show me, how you do that trick. The one that makes me scream,’ she said. ‘The one that makes me laugh,’ she said. And threw her arms around my neck.” Those words make me want to get up and dance with wild abandon. Every time.


Check back next Thursday for album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Dead Can Dance “Within the realm of the dying sun”
9. Spaceman 3 “The perfect prescription”
8. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”
7. Jane’s Addiction “Jane’s Addiction”
6. The Sisters of Mercy “Floodland”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.