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BEST OF 1990-2000 (2002)
The Best of 1990-2000 - Click to view!Walk into an art museum, and your senses will be instantly blasted by a plethora of elegant paintings, sculptures, and other mind-bending works. Some speak volumes through mere detail, some mystify and provoke deeper thinking, some shock, appall, and stir controversy - and yet all invite and intrigue the few who dare to witness them. U2's second theater of masterpieces, The Best of 1990-2000, works a bit in the same way: this colorful collection of compositions highlights some of the band's finest hours from the 90's, resulting in an intense sensory overload that will have you hitting the repeat button on your CD player.

U2's journey has not been a glamorous one. Having been labeled a Christian band during the 80's (not on their own accord), the group decided to branch out in both their musical abilities and their songwriting during the 1990's, leading to some very controversial subject matter. In short, several of the tracks on The Best of 1990-2000 are not for the faint of heart. "Even Better Than the Real Thing," and "Until the End of the World" both include sexual undertones, "The First Time" tells a story about an individual who throws away the key to his Father's "mansion of many rooms," and the title of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" speaks for itself. Only listeners willing to look past such nuances will come to appreciate the overall quality of these songs. Even if you can't, though, there's still plenty for you to enjoy on the rest of the album. "Miss Sarajevo" spells pure relaxation - it's the equivalent of getting your back massaged on a cloud. Slow and mellow in its progression, Bono's voice glides seamlessly across an icy musical backdrop until the climatic bridge, where Luciano Pavarotti himself serenades listeners to sleep with an Italian operetta. "Numb" and "Discotheque" are forays into U2's experimentation with dance music (see our Pop review), and the conclusion is a very satisfying mix of programming and rock that is more suited for a concert than a club. Included from the band's smashing All That You Can't Leave Behind project (known in some Christian circles as their "revival album") are "Beautiful Day," an upscale, confident rock tune that is the definitive theme song for cruising the streets of your hometown, and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," the ethereal pop mascot of the disc. In addition to all of these, you'll hear "Mysterious Ways," "One," "Stay (Faraway, So Close)," "Gone," "Staring at the Sun," and two new songs. The first, "Electrical Storm," is a jolt of powerful guitar and Bono's thunderous vocals singing about two lovers trying to clear the air between them. Unfortunately, "The Hands That Built America" is much less impressive; it was the theme of the movie Gangs of New York and like the movie itself, gets old before it even begins.

If you manage to find the special edition of The Best of 1990-2000 (it'll cost you a few extra bucks), you'll be treated to a bonus DVD with nearly an hour of stunning U2 footage and a disc full of b-sides that never made it to the band's original discography. Most of them are merely dance mixes of older U2 songs, but there are a few hard-to-find rare tracks to be had, including "Summer Rain" and "Your Blue Room." Another, "North and South of the River," is worth the extra ten dollars alone.

Whether you're a U2 fan, an art enthusiast, both or neither, The Best of 1990-2000 is a collection that everyone should give a chance. The songs in this collection never deviate from being anything short of masterful art, proving that U2 is a band well-committed to their craft. It may not be many Christians' cup o' tea, but the sixteen tracks on this record will astound, incite, and seize hold of you, and you won't want them to let go. You'll also get a brief glimpse into the band's future, which is something you're sure to look back on whenever U2 releases The Best of 2000-2010 in a few years.
- Rick Foux
September 2003
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