The Best Of 1980-1990



January 19th, 2005 | 15 replies

Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

The Band: Bono (Vocals)
The Edge (Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards)
Adam Clayton (Bass Guitar)
Larry Mullen Jr (Drums & Percussion)

Released: 1998 (Island)

Although U2 have been in existence for over 20 years now, and have been one of the biggest bands in the world for a large part of that time, their consistently best period, both commercially and critically, was during the 1980s, back when they were making anthemic stadium rock anthems on a regular basis; something that they have returned to doing on their most recent two studio albums. This compilation, encompassing that period of their career, contain many of their greatest hits, and also shows quite how good those songs were, with it being fair to say that songs on here fall into one of two categories. Very good, or, in several cases, genuinely great. Taking in politically charged anthems, powerful ballads, and radio friendly rock songs, this is a very comprehensive album for a beginner looking to get into the band that Bono described before the release of All That You Can't Leave Behind, as "re-applying for the job of biggest band in the world"; a title largely won on the back of these songs.

The Songs:

1. Pride (In The Name Of Love). One of U2's many politically themed songs, this refers to Martin Luther King, with the opening lines "One man come in the name of love, one man come and go". It's also something of a typical '80s U2 song, not only due to the theme, but also as it features The Edge on a trademark slightly distorted guitar riff, that really complements Bono's emotive vocals, in a way that makes this such an effective stadium anthem. 5/5

2. New Year's Day. Although this is always listed as one of U2's better songs, personally, I've never really liked it. It's got a slightly darker mood than many of the other songs on here, with Bono's vocals seeming atypically marginalised relative to the rest of the song, perhaps due to the lyrics, which are surprisingly depressing, such as "Nothing changes on New Year's Day", which contrasts with U2's normal image as making uplifting, very powerful music. 4/5.

3. With Or Without You. A large number of U2 fans would rank this among their top songs of all time, and it's not hard to see why. A beautiful love song, it starts off with Bono being very prominent over The Edge's guitar, which sounds like it could almost be blown away, as it sounds so fragile. As the song progresses, it becomes increasingly powerful, as Larry Mullen's simple but effective drumming becomes gradually louder, before Bono's final near-bellowed vocals lead back into a soft guitar outro. 5/5.

4. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. One of the famous first three songs off The Joshua Tree, I'd personally say this was the weakest of them, with the song being very understated relative to many of the other songs on here. It also gets more repetitive than a lot of the music U2 put out during this period, which is again mainly down to the repeated chorus of "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". On the plus side, it gives the listener another chance to admire Bono's vocal skills, but this seems rather still-born compared to a lot of other music. 4/5.

5. Sunday Bloody Sunday. This is more like it...opening with that famous drum intro (which Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith has started bringing into live sets), this deals with the infamous Bloody Sunday shootings in Ireland, when British soldiers opened fire in controversial circumstances on protesters. The song itself is also notable for The Edge's backing vocals, which show off the fact that U2 possess not one but two gifted singers, and arguably should use them in tandem more than they do. 5/5.

6. Bad. Featuring U2 at their most introspective, the band largely sit in the background here, with chiming guitars giving the only real backing to Bono's plaintive cries about "hearts of clay", among other things. The final 0- seconds or so of the song, with Bono's repeated chants of "isolation, desolation", and other rhyming words, perhaps shouldn't work, but undeniably does, such is the slow-burning nature of the song. 4.5/5.

7. Where The Streets Have No Name. If you were looking for a song to make someone who knew nothing about U2 hear, this would probably be it. Encapsulating the band at their majestic best, a seemingly interminable guitar intro leads into Bono singing about something that sounds vague, and yet identifiable to all of us, while Larry Mullen pounds away in the background on a simple but effective beat. It's unclear what the song's about, although it's generally interpreted as relating to Africa, but this is a great U2 song, and is thought of as such by basically all of their fans. The famous video for this, where U2 basically shut down a city centre after playing this from a roof is well worth watching as well. 5/5.

8. I Will Follow. Another straight soft rock song, this has more of a simple feel than many U2 songs, with Larry Mullen's triplets really driving the song along, giving it a sense of purpose. The break in the song about 2 minutes in though, where Adam Clayton's bass suddenly becomes discernible adds another layer to the song though, raising it above the mediocre. 4/5.

9. The Unforgettable Fire. Like track 2, this has a mournful feel to it, especially due to some kind of vocal overdubbing, which means Bono sounds distorted, and less of a focal point of the song, than would otherwise be the case. The song doesn't have a clear structure as well, with the exception of the bass line, with the listener often getting the feeling that The Edge is experimenting with his guitar sound as he goes on. While that's not inherently a bad thing, it makes the song a relative curiosity on the album. 4.5/5.

10. Sweetest Thing. Written after Bono forgot his wife's birthday during the making of The Joshua Tree, this is a semi-ironic love song, with lyrics such as "I wanted to run but she made me crawl". It's musically very simplistic, with the guitar and drums giving it a light, airy feel, which makes it a very short but sweet love song. As it was originally a B-side, this is the only album on which the song can be found. 5/5.

11. Desire. This song has a definite party feel to it, with clapping in the background complementing the percussion, and adding a greater sense of joy to Bono's vocals, which range from the joyful to the seductive. It also has some of The Edge's best guitar moments, which keep the song alive under the vocals, as well as a harmonica outro. 4.5/5.

12. When Love Comes To Town. Featuring music legend BB King on co-vocals, this is a delightful song, with him and Bono seemingly battling with their vocal parts, which are very different to one another, but also effective. Lyrics such as "I did what I did before love came to town", make this another more ironic song, finding a sense of humour in U2, that many critics don't detect, due to the serious nature of many U2 songs. 4.5/5.

13. Angel Of Harlem. A soft rock song that many people don't have much of an opinion on, I'd say this one of the more under-appreciated U2 songs, with a brass section in the background taking precedence over the regular band, and giving this an entirely different feel to most other U2 songs, although it features the same tone-rich emotive quality that so many of their best songs do. Bono’s continuously sliding vocals also make the song different from his more common slowly contemplative style. 4.5/5.

14. All I Want Is You. I may well be in the minority here, but along with the timeless One, this is my favourite U2 song. One of the great epic love songs ever recorded, this starts off with Bono singing over a barely audible piano, before his lyrics take on the quasi-religious imagery so beloved by the band, that could so easily become clichéd, and yet doesn't. It also features all the usual elements of a great U2 song, with The Edge's guitar line fading in and out of the song, while seemingly discordant strings carry on in the background. The hidden track, October, is worth listening to as well, with Bono singing over a lone piano. 5/5.

In summary, this is a great hits collection. Containing a wide range of songs, showing U2 doing what they do best, it's easy to see why they were one of the biggest bands of the 1980s, and why they remain popular now. The songs have a timeless quality, and due to the length of the album, and quality of the songs on here, the band surely can't be accused of putting this out due to sentiment, although, ironically given their current status, in 1998 the band were starting to look like a spent force. But if you haven't heard much U2 and want to get into them, or are already a fan, but want their best 1980s moments on one CD, then this is well worth picking up.

Final Rating: 4.5/5

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Comments:Add a Comment 
April 18th 2005


U2 rock and i agree they r one of the best bands in the world but the chillis are way better but they are 2 different types of music, this is a gr8 album 8/10

April 18th 2005


I love this album especially some of my favourite songs sweetest thing and sunday bloody sunday. but i dont really like some of the other songs. i would rate this album 8.5/10
but if u like u2 this one is a must

July 5th 2005


It's a great album. Desire has got to be the most fun, uplifting song ever, with Pride definitely in second place.

And Sunday, Bloody Sunday would be one of the greatest songs ever, but the production kinda ruins it for me. Yes, it's a great drum beat, but it doesn't have to literally drown out everything in the song, which is a shame because it has a GREAT riff, which you have to listen in really close to hear.

But yeah, tis good.

December 19th 2005


Album Rating: 5.0

Man this is a great cd.All it needed was "Two hearts beat as one"!

Two-Headed Boy
December 19th 2005


no, all it needed was "seconds"
great cd, and a good review

December 20th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

good review, this cd is pretty dope

March 21st 2006


i can't beleive you didnt like new years day! thats a awesome song, edge plays piano and guitar at the same time, haha awesome review by the way.

June 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Agree 100% with ya here Med. What a great CD this is.

July 15th 2006


U2 is a Killer band, And New years Day is a great song.

November 15th 2007


I have owned this album for a long time and its been in my car cd player alot. I think you shoulda gave New Years day 5/5 but thats just me. Good review other than that.

October 20th 2008


Album Rating: 1.0

U2 is seriously overrated. Bono is a tree-hugging pussy and the edge sucks at guitar...

October 20th 2008



October 20th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

U2 is seriously overrated. Bono is a tree-hugging pussy and the edge sucks at guitar...

Oh shut up, you ham-fisted moron. You probably think anyone that can't play Through The Fire And Flames on expert sucks at guitar.

May 6th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0


March 1st 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty good album

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