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U2 - 18: The Singles

U2, 18

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

U2 continue to remain one of the biggest bands on the planet – and one of the most prolific. Their catalogue of work probably holds enough material to fill at least five greatest hits collections, so it’s little wonder that four years after the Best of 1990 – 2000 we now have another retrospective.

U2 – 18 is all about the singles and encompasses material from their early days as post-punk experimentalists to their current status as rock superstars. It contains some cracking material that serves to underline the timeless quality of many of their songs, as well as their remarkable progression.

What’s more, it boasts two new recordings – The Saints Are Coming, their collaboration with Green Day in aid of Hurricane Katrina charity Music Rising, and Window In The Skies, a typically gutsy crowd-pleaser that’s steeped in the qualities we have come to expect from the band, ie massive guitar riffs, passionate choruses and emotive songwriting.

The latter track was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios made famous, of course, by The Beatles and the accompanying booklet to the CD includes a wonderful black and white photograph of Bono and co recreating the seminal Beatles moment at the pedestrian crossing. As a song, however, it won’t be held up as a classic but it does round the album off rather pleasantly with some fresh material.

In contrast, recent single The Saints Are Coming does provide a telling reminder of why U2 continue to be so brilliant and is a thrilling combination of two great bands. Green Day’s presence lends the recording a punk quality that recalls the brash, raw style of early U2 songs such as New Year’s Day and provides a cracking combination of two great vocalists and two distinct guitar styles. It’s as empowering and inspiring as fans had every right to expect.

Of the older material on the album, there’s plenty to recommend it – even if you have previously purchased earlier greatest hits collections. Tracks like I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With Or Without You retain their quality and continue to sound fresh and invigorating thanks to the keen blend of The Edge’s masterful guitar riffs and Bono’s powerhouse vocals.

While Pride (In The Name Of Love) has lost none of its power to inspire and quieter moments such as One and Bono’s ode to his late father Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own display the band at their most sensitive and beautiful, delivering thoughtful and often poignant lyrics in a style that never becomes overbearing or overly sentimental.

Of course, material from the band’s most recent studio album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb hasn’t featured on any greatest hits collections, so it’s good to hear tracks of the quality of Vertigo and Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own jostling for position with earlier recordings.

The album is being released in two formats – one standard single CD release that features the singles collection and a more worthwhile special edition that includes a bonus DVD featuring tracks performed on Vertigo Tour in Milan last year. These include most of the hits featured on the CD, as well as blistering live versions of Miss Sarajevo and Original Of The Species. If you’re going to splash out, why not indulge yourself and go the whole hog?

Track listing:

  1. I Will Follow
  2. Beautiful Day
  3. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  4. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
  5. With Or Without You
  6. Vertigo
  7. New Year’s Day
  8. Mysterious Ways
  9. Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
  10. Where The Streets Have No Name
  11. Sweetest Thing
  12. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  13. One
  14. Desire
  15. Walk On
  16. Elevation
  17. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
  18. The Saints Are Coming – feat Green Day
  19. Window In The Skies