Salon: U2 chickened out

Annie Zaleski reviews the new U2 compilation, The Best of 1990-2000, with mixed emotions in Salon. “Revisionist history” isn’t a bad description. Certainly ten years ago I would have expected “The Fly” to make it onto a best-of compilation. With that throbbing bass line, nasty guitar hook, and curiously vulnerable chorus vocal, it was the pivot away from the wide-eyed Americana into which U2 had stooped in the late 80s, back into a defiant embrace of good old fashioned decadence. It’s not on the compilation, though. Neither is “Lemon” or “Elevation” or even “The Ground Beneath Her Feet.”

Okay, so the disc doesn’t live up to its title. (And the b-side disc is worse. The b-side disc for 1980-1990 was the best part of the package, lots of lost songs (like “Walk to the Water” and “Luminous Times”) that true believers cherished and no one else had heard. This one? Skanky disco remixes of tracks deserving and undeserving. I miss the original mix of “Lady with the Spinning Head” and “Salomé.”) But there are some things it does right. It lays claim to some good songs from the otherwise misbegotten Passengers album, for one. And it reminds me that Pop was a truly dark and magnificent album… in places.

I walk away from this compilation a little disappointed. It, like the new songs “Electrical Storm” and “The Hands That Built America,” is too safe. This isn’t the band that wrote

It’s no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
It’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief