Get yourself together: Best of U2

What my students think of U2 in 2016 would kill me with yawns. Unlike R.E.M., their parents are more likely to have five or six songs if not an album they grew up with. My U2 problem, though, is growing up thinking they were pompous and pompous. The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum mean nothing to me. Then they wore leather and wraparound glasses. More than their predecessors Achtung Baby and Zooropa are closer to an album like So: albums designed to sell left of center referents to a mass audience, and they’re killers.

But I’ve made my peace with them. Early U2 are robust, independent of sense; Bono and The Edge could be singing “New Year’s Day” in Wolof. I’ve learned to like the early records as products of post-punk/post-disco tumult, with Bono babbling like Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer over churning Ian Curtis-damaged boogie — this despite Adam Clayton treating bass like a bird he picked up five minutes ago at the pub. I placed “The Unforgettable Fire” high: a rolling rhythm garnished with orchestral synth blasts worthy of Trevor Horn, it stops, alas, with Bonobabble about silver and gold stuck between his diaphragm and brain.

I still value the impression Bill Flanagan’s U2: At the End of the World left: men on the cusp of thirty discovering disco and drink, inebriate with ideas about history and philosophy gleaned on cross-continental tours as Yugoslavia crumbled and something called the worldwide web was starting to shorten space and time.

Asking Bono to change is like asking Donald J. Trump to pivot.

1. Stay (Faraway So Close!)
2. The Unforgettable Fire
3. I Will Follow
4. Rejoice
5. Mysterious Ways
6. Lemon
7. The Fly
8. Until the End of the World
9. Out of Control
10. October
11. Two Hearts Beat as One
12. Wire
13. New Year’s Day
14. Babyface
15. Seconds
16. Zoo Station
17. Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car
18. Your Blue Room
19. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”
20. The Electric Co.
21. Walk On
22. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
23. Spanish Eyes
24. Love is Blindness
25. 4th of July

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