U2

The Best of 1980-1990/The B-Sides

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Island and U2 realized that longtime fans of the band wouldn't need The Best of 1980-1990. Unlike the proposed Best of 1990-2000, which would likely boast the non-LP "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and the Passengers' "Miss Sarajevo," 1980-1990 contained nothing but material culled directly from the albums, which didn't exactly entice hardcore followers. So, the label and the band decided to pair the compilation with a collection of the group's B-sides from the '80s, none of which had ever appeared on an album before. For die-hard U2 fans, this is something of a godsend -- not necessarily a holy grail, which would have been a complete B-sides collection, including the long-missing early EPs -- since many of these tracks have been out of print for years. That's not to say they'll be entirely pleased with what they hear. The B-Sides is wildly uneven, fluctuating between a handful of lost masterpieces ("Spanish Eyes," "Sweetest Thing," "Hallelujah Here She Comes," "Silver and Gold," "A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel," "Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl"), a momentum-crushing triptych of mediocre karaoke ("Dancing Barefoot," "Everlasting Love," "Unchained Melody"), and formless filler (pretty much everything else). Despite the uneven music, fans will need The B-Sides, not just for the handful of worthy contenders but for its sheer rarity. Not only have the B-sides themselves been difficult to locate, but the disc itself was designed as a collector's item: after the first week of sales, The B-Sides was pulled from the market, and Island shipped only The Best of 1980-1990. Clearly, this was a tactic to raise press awareness and boost sales, but that doesn't mean that fans shouldn't take advantage of its limited release.

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