The United States’ Library of Congress’ entered U2’s The Joshua Tree in its National Recording Registry in 2013. Each entry in the registry has an accompanying essay (or will eventually have one) and now, five years later, The Joshua Tree‘s entry is complete thanks to Stephen Catanzarite.
Catanzarite is a familiar name to many U2 fans for his insightful mega-essay Achtung Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadow of the Fall for the popular series of short books in the Bloomsbury 33 1/3 collection. Neil McCormick found his book to be “a surprisingly profound meditation on Achtung Baby as a metaphor for the Fall of Man,” and in 2007, @U2’s Angela Pancella interviewed Catanzarite about the book while Marylinn Maione reviewed it for @U2.
The Library Congress took note of Catanzarite’s writing on Achtung Baby and invited him to contribute an essay on The Joshua Tree for its registry. An index of all essays in the registry is here. You can read Catanzarite’s essay in its entirety here, which includes his assessments such as:
In an era when popular culture gleefully celebrated unabashed materialism and professed a credo of ‘greed is good,’ here was an album that seemed to herald asceticism as ideal. … Taking its title from the hardy desert plant native to the more arid portions of the American southwest (which was itself named by early Mormon missionaries who saw in it the Old Testament image of Joshua raising his hands to the sky in prayer), ‘The Joshua Tree’ represented all of the things most of U2’s contemporaries renounced: earnestness, austerity, and introspection. More to the point, the music of ‘The Joshua Tree’ transcends the time and place in which it was created. Set against the background of an America that is at once awe-inspiring in its expansiveness and beauty, and confounding in its contradictions and distortions, the songs explore both the gleaming heights of the American Idea–President Reagan’s ‘shining city on a hill,’ where the creative energies of the people are called forth in and through freedom–and the desperation, loneliness, and sorrow found in America’s valleys and shadows. … [The] album continues to loom large, enduring not only as a high-water mark in the annals of rock and roll, but as a living artifact from the cultural landscape of late-20th century America.