red lights


U2's latest: Pointless for some,
indispensable for others

(Interscope Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 7, 2006

Review by Tony Bonyata

Does the world really need another best of U2 compilation? Probably not, but if The Stones can get away with successfully regurgitating another Hot Rocks greatest hits collection every decade or so, why shouldn't The World's Second Greatest Rock & Roll Band follow suit.

On their latest release, U218 SINGLES, the Dublin quartet does more than a little regurgitating themselves, as thirteen of the eighteen tracks have already been previously released on two of their earlier 'best of' compilations - 1998's U2: The Best of 1980-1990 and 2002's follow-up U2: The Best of 1990-2000. With only three previous hits making the 'best of' rounds for the first time here ("Vertigo," "Walk On" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own") and two new songs, both produced by Rick Rubin and recorded at London's Abbey Road Studios ("Window In The Skies" and "The Saints Are Coming," a spirited, if not rote duet with latter-day punks Green Day) it's questionable how essential this release really is.

For the U2 completist the two new tracks are definitely not worth plunking down fifteen bucks for a CD of otherwise rehashed hits. A better value for the faithful would be the two individual digital downloads from iTunes for just under a buck apiece (if money's tight this holiday season, just opt for the beautiful "Window In The Skies").

For the more casual fan, however, (and there's plenty of us out there) this overview of one of the most musically and politically motivated band of the last twenty years is, without question, the best single place to start. '80s anthems from their banner-waving youth ("New Year's Day, " "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday") meld perfectly with songs from their early '90s masterpiece, Achtung Baby (still my fav of the lot), such as rubbery rock of "Mysterious Ways" and the perfectly constructed "One."

While this compilation is a fairly concise career overview, it best showcases how well they've matured as a band without losing any of their edge. Opening with "Beautiful Day," arguably their simplest and strongest composition in their canon, other songs from the new millennium, such as "Walk On," Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" and "Elevation" (all from their 2000 album All That You Can't Leave Behind), showcases a band just hitting their stride. While their last studio album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, saw the band starting to tread water for the first time in the career, one of the two songs featured from that release, "Vertigo," proves that they still posses the power of their youth.

The answer to whether you need this compilation of ridiculously well-known hits really depends how extensive your U2 collection already is. If you've got most of their recordings, you'll want to skip it. If not, then it definitely deserves to be at the top of your Christmas wish list this year.

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