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The Joshua Tree, first released in March 1987, capitalized perfectly on U2's startling appearance at Live Aid almost two years previously. Aware of the platform that they now had, the band crafted away with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to make an album that was sonically unified, emotionally intelligent and commercially sound.
It takes an outsider's eye to unpack and commentate on the idiosyncrasies of a country. The America of U2's The Joshua Tree is the one the group surveyed through their tourbus window as they built and cemented their reputation throughout the early 80s. The fact that they were working out of Ireland made it to be a far more balanced account of the failings and successes of the New World.
The third track (and lead single), "With Or Without You", is the unique selling point of the album; it brings together the threads of the album's openers "Where The Streets Have No Name", and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and demonstrates quite how capable as a group they had become. When the 'and you give yourself away' section explodes, it was like a metaphor for what was about to happen to their career. "Red Hill Mining Town" is, for this listener, the most poignant statement, as, in the middle of this American odyssey, they wrote a fairly unambiguous song about the personal cost of the miner's strike that tore British communities apart in 1984/85.
It's always been the scope and scale of U2's visions that dazzle. In its variety of formats (the boxed double CD/DVD hard backed book looks a first edition of something like The Rights Of Man by Thomas Paine), this is a sparklingly remastered 20th birthday present to the album the group will never be able to escape. Whatever you think, with all the hat-wearing imitators that followed in its wake, it is a landmark work and the band's view is still remarkable, ambitious, naïve, gauche, straight-faced, epic, flawed, and luminous.