U2's masterpiece has been re-imagined by the cream of contemporary Irish talent.
It’s such a great idea, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. Take the best of currently active Irish bands and artists – some more high-profile than others – and task them with tackling the songs from U2’s 1987 magnum opus. While the concept might may be simple, the execution certainly isn’t – U2’s songs can be challenging at the best of times, especially in the production and arrangement departments. Thus, the versions here range from broadly faithful renditions to some radically different interpretations, with plenty in-between.
Gavin James kicks things off ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, and while it’s a stripped-down acoustic take, it still captures the drama and urgency of the original. Imelda May’s reworking of ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ might have lent itself to a big, bold, Jools Holland-style arrangement, but instead she strips it back to the bone, performing entirely without accompaniment. It works beautifully and the aesthetic approach might even mirror her own recent stylistic changes. Picture This’ reading of ‘With Or Without You’ is fairly close to the original, but still very confidently done, while northside Dubliners Kodaline deliver a poignantly restrained ‘Running To Standstill’, and offers Aine Cahill offers a plaintive version of ‘Red Hill Mining Town‘. Of the lesser known tracks, The Strypes do an impressively atmospheric take on the brooding ‘Trip Through Your Wires’, while Fangclub offer a suitably grungy take on ‘Exit’.
Elsewhere, All Tvvins transform ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ from the epic, melodramatic version we all know into a more ambient, clubby affair. Shot through with electro blips, distorted vocals and claustrophobic production, it works surprisingly well and is arguably the most ambitious track on the album.
An added bonus is an actual U2 track – a live performance of ‘Red Hill Mining Town’, taken from an Amsterdam show on the current Joshua Tree anniversary tour. It’s majestic, of course, and makes for a fitting coda to a compelling album – the proceeds of which go to children’s charity LauraLynn.
We spoke to Lyra about what it meant to be part of this collaborative effort.
"This was an incredible range of artists," she told us. "When they told me who all was going to be involved I was so excited just to be part of it. They ask me if I'd do 'Mothers Of The Disappeared' and I just started Googling every live appearance of U2 performing the song. It's such a beautiful, harrowing track. When they have the footage of all the women holding up candles at their live shows...It left me in tears. I knew it was a very dark song and very sad source material, but I decided that I wanted to take the song and do something that would maybe inspire hope and be a bit more rousing."
Listen to The Joshua Tree - New Roots here. Buy it here.