Friday, October 12, 2018

U2 - The Best of 1990-2000 [Vinyl Reissue] (Album Review)

With the recent release of U2’s The Best of 1990-2000 double LP vinyl reissue, the iconic Irish superstars put an incredible bow on what has already been such a phenomenal year for high-quality reissues of their back catalog. Back in April, U2 reissued a trio of remastered albums – Wide Awake in America, Pop, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind – that spanned an impressively adventurous 15-year section of their career. They followed that up in July with another trio - Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and The Best of 1980-1990 – that were handled with the same care and craft as the first round to create an equal “must have” aesthetic. For their seventh vinyl reissue of the year, The Best of 1990-2000 is now available as a remastered, double 180-gram set pressed on heavyweight black vinyl and housed in a beautiful gatefold setting with sturdy black-and-white picture-printed inner sleeves for each disc.

Originally released in 2002, The Best of 1990-2000 highlights the creatively ambitious decade of U2’s career that is sandwiched between their achievements of worldwide musical domination on the back of 1987’s The Joshua Tree and their return-to-form as rock’s elder statesmen on 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Between those two mainstream-minded (and pop-culturally celebrated) releases, the band threw caution and expectation to the wind to deliver some of their most adventurous (and often polarizing) work to date. They were still delivering radio hits, platinum albums, and heavy rotation music videos, but they were doing it completely on their own terms, their own timetables, and tuned to their own indulgent tastes.

Their distaste (and downright disavowal) for trend-following throughout the 1990s is welcomingly on display throughout the tracklisting of The Best of 1990-2000, where the abrupt sonic shifts of Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop contrast wonderfully against the more pop-tinged approaches of All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Sprinkle in a couple non-album tracks from the decade (“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” from the Batman Forever soundtrack and “Miss Sarajevo” from their Passengers side project with Brian Eno) along with two brand new tracks recorded just for the album (“The Hands That Built America” from Gangs of New York and “Electrical Storm”) and you’ve got a greatest hits package that acknowledges the past while managing to feel extremely fresh – especially since seven of the previously released tracks are actually new or alternate mixes that are different from their original album versions.

For a greatest hits package that took that many extra steps to push against the staleness of the format, this vinyl reissue of The Best of 1990-2000 impressively matches that tone in sound, layout, and presentation. The music is remastered and spaciously spread out over two 180-gram discs, the packaging uses a minimal color palette to an incredible effect (I love the picture selections so much as well), and the whole piece feels weighty and intentionally presented with craft and care. Even if you already have this album on another format, this impressive reissue is worth picking up for its lush sonic upgrade and its rich high-quality aesthetics. Plus, it makes an incredible shelfmate to accompany its six sonic siblings from the rest of this year’s offerings from the band!


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