DRS - DiRienzo Ranks Stuff - The Joshua Tree

The definitive ranking of all the songs on U2's second-greatest album.

February 24, 2017

30 years ago, U2 wrote a love letter to the United States. 

The Joshua Tree has since sold more than 25 million copies and has become an indelible part of the American musical identity. 

As with everything, there are some parts that are better than others.  Here’s the definitive ranking of the songs on U2’s The Joshua Tree.


11. Exit

It’s almost like they wrote the song that they wanted to play during the closing credits of the album.  You know, the song that’s playing as everyone is walking out of the theater except for the three people are still there watching the credits roll past because they think it’s the honorable thing to do for all the people who worked behind the scenes.


10. Mothers Of The Disappeared

Every time someone slags off U2 for taking themselves too seriously, this song is why.  It’s earnest without being honest.  It’s soulful without having any soul.  It’s the one forgettable moment on an otherwise unforgettable album.  It meanders into and out of existence without serving an actual purpose.  It’s the Kato Kaelin of songs—just sort of sitting and witnessing something, but not contributing anything of note.


9. One Tree Hill

Yeah!  It’s a song!  These damn millennials think that One Tree Hill is a show that used to be on the WB when they were doing their algebra homework.  Damn millennials.  Bono wrote it as a tribute to Greg Carroll, one of the band’s roadies who died in an unfortunate motorcycle accident in the summer of 1986.  This song is a beautiful tribute, and proof that good things can come from horrible events.


8. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

In addition to the fact that the album won Album Of The Year, this song individually was nominated for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 30th Annual Grammy awards.  (It lost to Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram’s Somewhere Out There, which should tell you everything you need to know about about what song was playing when the conception of thousands of babies born in 1989 occured.)  It’s a beautiful mid-tempo example of the kind of music U2’s career was built on.  Rolling Stone magazine put it at #93 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.  It’s a fine song.  It’s just the 8th best song on the album, that’s all.


7. Trip Through Your Wires

The production on this song makes it seem like it was recorded inside a truck stop men’s room, probably because it’s U2’s homage to the blues.  Angel or devil?  Definitely the devil.


6. Running To Stand Still

This song has a nice little hook, and feels like a haunting memory of the wild west.  It’s what New Mexico would sound like, if New Mexico had a sound. 


5. With Or Without You

This song would be ranked higher, except I still can’t forgive Bono for doing the ponytail-combined-with-leather-vest-sans-shirt look in the video.  He looks like he should be stealing Elaine’s armoire from the doorstep as Kramer just sits idly by.


4. Red Hill Mining Town

You didn’t know that the song was written about the 1984 strike in England by the National Union of Mineworkers to protest the National Coal Board’s attempts to close mines, did you?  Of course you didn’t.  You only think about yourself.


3. In God’s Country

If the band didn’t release Rattle and Hum, this song might have made a bigger impact, since it was the 4th single from the album.  It’s pretty great and it easily has the finest guitar work on the album.


2. Where The Streets Have No Name

It’s the song that’s in the dictionary under the word “arpeggio,” which is an Italian word meaning, “Learning one chord and making it a song.”  It’s mathematics, according to The Edge.  1 chord + echo effects = hit song.  After what seems like a half hour of tantric noodling around on that one chord, the song reaches an apex and Bono comes screaming in like a banshee: “I WANNA RUN!” as he imagines that every time he sings that phrase, an entire audience is brought to a collective climax.


1. Bullet The Blue Sky

Political statements aside, this is the absolute best and most creative thing U2 would do until a few years later when they’d put The Fly on Achtung Baby.  Other songs get all the love, but this is the absolute pinnacle of a great album.