I’m trying to be mindful of current events as I write these articles, and one of the biggest events of this past week came on Friday night when U2 broke out The Joshua Tree’s “In God’s Country” during their concert in Phoenix, Arizona. “In God’s Country” has always sort of encapsulated in my mind everything that The Joshua Tree is about, with a lyric that sums up the band’s then-ongoing fascination with America, particularly the southwestern part of the country. In some ways, though – musically, especially – the song would have been equally at home on 1991’s Achtung Baby, with the its bass-driven sense of momentum and speed making it an early cousin to tracks like “Mysterious Ways” and “Even Better Than the Real Thing”. I’ve always thought that if the future had a sound as it came rushing toward us, it would sound just like the main guitar riff of “In God’s Country”, and for that reason alone I’ve always loved the song.
As I mentioned above, the lyric is clearly focused on the southwestern desert region of the United States and calls to mind the desperate hopefulness that one sees etched on the faces of the people who live there. The landscape of that part of the country is entirely different from what Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry would have been used to, at home in lush and green Ireland, but the ares are also similar in the sense that both parts of the world were, at the time in question, victim of severely depressed economies. I read once that Bono was thinking about both countries when he wrote the words to this song, and I believe that it was commonalities based on the difficulties of daily life that tied the two otherwise disparate regions together in his mind. This down-to-earth quality of the lyrics forms an interesting counterpoint to the upbeat and energetic sound of the band on this song, and I think that “In God’s Country” is a complex and entertaining song because of these differences.
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