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. If I cover my ears I hear how robust early U2 can ring; Bono and The Edge could be singing “New Year’s Day” in Wolof. My U2 problem is growing up with U2 and thinking they were boring pompous asses until they wore leather and wraparound glasses. The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree mean nothing to me. 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. 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 Joy Division-damaged boogie — this despite Adam Clayton treating bass like a bird he picked up five minutes ago at the pub. This explains the placement of “The Unforgettable Fire.” A rolling rhythm peaking with orchestral synth blasts worthy of Trevor Horn, it stops, alas, with Bono getting twaddle about silver and gold stuck between his diaphragm and brain. Asking Bono to change is like asking Donald J. Trump to pivot. But imagine hearing it in a Berlin discotheque in 1984 — who needs Real Life and Alphaville?

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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