The Best Of 1980-1990


Island Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Old school U2 fans, listen up. That album that U2 promised to give to you after Zooropa came out...that album that was a promise by the band to be a return to their stripped down, rock-oriented stuff of the '80s? Well, your order finally came through. It's on The B-Sides collection from U2's latest greatest hits collection. That is all, carry on folks.

Let's face it. U2 owed their old-school constitents big time when Pop came out. It was far from a return to their classic heydays like, The Unforgettable Fire or The Joshua Tree. Some fans refused to listen the moment after hearing the opening chords of "Discotheque". Too bad for them. While not a return to their roots, Pop was at least a move forward in a new directon.

By listening to The Best Of 1980-1990, your views on when U2 hit their prime will be confirmed. Some see the 1980's decade of U2 as their best. Their political and insiprational fires bled through with such classics as "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and "Where The Streets Have No Name." The 14-song collection has those singles as well as some lesser-known hits from the band, such as "Bad."

Critics of that era say the band was pretentious. That view is confirmed by including four songs from their album Rattle And Hum. It was a good album, but many considered it to be U2 at their most excessive and self-promoting. Not to say that the "Zoo-TV" tour wasn't. It's just that my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Achtung Baby marked the turn from U2 looking at the world outside to the band looking inward at themselves. And "Zoo-TV" and the Zooropa tours were deliberate exercises in self-promotion.

Still, The Best of 1980-1990 represents some of the best moments of U2. A few major faults obviously: their albums stood as testaments. Unlike other "greatest hits" collections, U2 albums usually need to be listened in their entirety, not broken up like on this format. And even old school fans may gauff that Rattle And Hum has the most tracks on the greatest hits collection. Repeat, Rattle And Hum occupies more space than War and The Joshua Tree.

The B-Sides is that rock album that U2 promised to make their fans. It is a collection of U2's b-side releases throughout the '80s. Thank God this finally came out. U2 has made some of the best b-sides of any artist out there. Some artists blatantly put out b-sides as throwaway tracks. But many of the b-sides U2 has made were great songs that just couldn't fit the flow of any of their albums.

For all their left-leaning, protest-leading posturing, The B-Sides will show the true U2 of the '80s. Yes, they were political, but in essence, they were romantic saps. Most of the songs on "The B-Sides" are ballads. Ballads that brainy high school students would play to their sweetheart when "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" just wouldn't do.

The overly sincere cover of "Unchained Melody" is entertaining to listen to. Yes, it is excessive, but Bono's voice can handle the melodramatic. Other highlights include "The Three Sunrises," "Dancing Barefoot" and "Silver and Gold."

The surprise of The B-Sides is the flow of the collection. Most "B-sides" collections feel like "cut-and-paste" creations. But honestly, you would swear The B-Sides is a legitimate album based on the flow of it. No drum machines, no keyboards, no turntables, just four musicians who are extremly capable in their fields. In an interview with Pete Townshend of the Who, the pioneering guitarist said he felt he should get out of the business when he first listened to the Edge. That's a damn powerful statement and it is heard from the Edge's playing on The Best Of 1980-1990 and The B-Sides.

No doubt U2 will pull in the sales that Pop couldn't on this collection. Like Garth Brooks's The Limited Series collection, this one will be a limited edition. Try and resist that, fans of the old U2. All 14 million of you that bought The Joshua Tree. Hell, try and resist the urge to buy it if you really like the '90s version of U2. Do it quickly though, this album will only be around for...well, I don't know. It just says 'Limited Edition,' supplies are limited. Buy Now!

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.