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Old 10-21-2002, 12:50 PM   #1
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A Review Of The Best Of That Will REALLY Stir The Pot...

This is an entertaining review, but for many of the wrong reasons. It's obvious this critic has a huge chip on his shoulder, and he's using this review as a way of venting (perhaps validating?) his frustrations with U2. What really got me ticked is the fact that he reviewed the Best Of without listening to it. (I'm not kidding.) He reviews it on a song per song basis (using past albums), and then manipulates the reader by making these "bold" predictions on how the new remixes "will" sound (to me, it's quite obvious he'd heard the new mixes on the net, just like us, in advance). It's a shame, really, because if he presented himself in a more mature manner, some of what he says is quite interesting (not that I agree with it all of it), and it does get you thinking. You can e-mail him with your thoughts, if you wish:
edwin_faust@removethislinetoemailstylusmagazine.com

Here's the review:

http://www.stylusmagazine.com/musicreviews/u2-even_better_than_the_real_thing.shtml

U2
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Interscope
2002

Reviewed by: Edwin Faust

By no means am I a model U2 fan. With the exception of War, I never particularly cared for their 1980s work. I was in Junior High when they blew up with the Joshua Tree and I considered them to be a girlie band—akin to INXS but with the annoying addition of fervent self-righteousness. My opinion of them was further lowered by Rattle & Hum, which was a pitiful display of unoriginality and unrestrained ego. Jump a couple years later to High School and myself catching the premier of “The Fly” video; the first single from their forthcoming album, Achtung Baby. The video and song was rocking and hip. I dug the whole “Fly” image and Zoo TV. In my opinion, U2 had finally stopped taking themselves too serious and started to take their music seriously instead. The Brian Eno influence was audible on Achtung Baby as it had been for David Bowie and the Talking Heads in the past. U2 was tackling satire and sexuality and most importantly, a new sound for pop rock. Zooropa was even better, displaying a band that was in a creative spree and had the backbone to fully embrace it. They weren’t doing what was expected of them; they were experimenting and reinventing their sound and I was all about that. Jump a couple more years and you have the band already showing weariness on the over-worked yet under-delivering, Pop. Probably due to old age and greed, U2 decided to throw in the experimental towel after that and the result was their return to heart-on-sleeve declarations and arena rock anthems: “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” or as I refer to it, “All That You Can’t Stomach”. Recently, there was a press release announcing the band’s upcoming “Best Of 1990-2000” compilation and I decided to write a review on the album based solely on the track listing. Being that U2 became one of my favorite bands in the early 1990s only to become one of my least favorite acts today, I felt I could give the most objective review an ex-U2 fan could give.


“Even Better Than The Real Thing” leads off the disk and remains a groovy piece of pop rock; proving that U2 did INXS far better than INXS ever did. There is a definite logic in selecting this song as the first song on a “Best Of” album; it’s the same logic that bestowed “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” the honor of leading off Best Of 1980-1990. Like “Pride”, “Even Better Than The Real Thing” is a hit that wasn’t the first song on the album it was originally on. Also like “Pride”, “Real Thing” is a ‘what it’s all about’ song. Not ‘what it’s all about’ in a what it’s all about sense; I mean what U2 is all about or more specifically, what U2 is all about within the confines of the selected chronology of this compilation. Anyhow, that’s how I think the focus group put it to U2. Not surprisingly another hit from Achtung Baby follows—perhaps the biggest—“Mysterious Ways”, which features the Edge playing funk guitar…funk guitar that actually sounds good! Remember in “Rattle In Hum” when Bono screamed, “play the blues” and the subsequent sound from the Edge’s guitar was whiter than Martha Stewart going antiquing in a blizzard. Apparently, between Rattle & Hum and Achtung Baby, the Edge smoked himself some phat chronic. Then comes their most recent smash hit: “Beautiful Day”. The first verse of this song isn’t bad at all; I remember when I first heard it and was happy to hear the return of Brian Eno in the band’s production. Smooth, subtle, sophisticated. Then they hit that god-awful chorus, which had the Edge pounding out those lunkhead, arena rock power-chords and Bono yelping out lyrics Corky from “Life Goes On” could have come up with. I had the same impression when hearing the song, “Last Night On Earth” (from Pop). An atmospheric opener and Sonic-Youth-esque first verse, then a lunkhead “rock out” chorus that made me go “what the fu—!?”


“ELECTRICAL STORM” is the mandatory new song that always inhabits a greatest-hit compilation, equipped with pointless and pretentious capitalization (kind of a reverse nine inch nails thing going on here). I saw the video for this song and managed to also hear the song while watching. Similar formula as “Beautiful Day”; in fact, I think U2’s focus group dropped the ball on the track sequencing here—why juxtapose two songs that sound similar? U2 must have used the same team that decided the lopsided track sequencing for Pop. Subsequent is another Achtung Baby hit—the moving and frequently played “One”. Obviously, U2 and their focus group were conscious in stacking all the big hits early on the album. Why? Don’t ask me. My thinking is the person who bought the album is the last person you need to be selling to. Next is a bit of a surprise, a track from The Passengers album: “Miss Sarajevo”. Many people forget that whole endeavor. Heck, I even remember Larry and Adam’s new Mission Impossible theme…I have too much meaningless information in my head. “Miss Sarajevo” is a nice bite off the Velvet Underground, though VU would’ve had the good sense to keep the obese opera-singer away from the recording studio. “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” is a horrible title, but a decent pop rock ballad. U2’s middle-of-the-road attempt at light soul, “Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of” has a superior title, but lacks the spark of “Stay”. When they did the NFL tie-in video for this song, I knew without any doubt whatsoever that U2 had become…well, whores. Probably thinking “All That You Can’t Stomach” hasn’t moved all the units it still has potential to move, the U2 team decided to give cynical listeners like myself a break by placing only two cuts from that maudlin collection, which Rolling Stone inanely declared “a masterpiece”.


The Rest of Best Of 1990-2000 focuses primarily on their 1997 effort Pop or more appropriately, Pop: The Special Edition. “Gone” is a non-offensive yet forgettable song; Flood produced this Pop track sans Brian Eno (who was so disgusted by the Edge’s mid-life crisis guitar playing, he refused to produce the album). Do you want to hear my impersonation of Flood at work in the studio? Okay. Flood: “Sounds great, but let me intentionally overheat the track with loads of fuzz.” After Pop received mix reviews from critics and record-buyers, U2 started bitching about the production in the press…a production they had several years to work on. I find it hysterical that every track from Pop on the “Best Of” is a “new mix”; clearly, since Pop was considered a failure (even though it still went platinum) the band had to blame it on something, being the politicians they have become. Don’t even ask me why four guys who have been professional musicians for over twenty years are so reliant on the right team of producers. I guess U2 and Aerosmith have more in common than most would think. You’ll notice that the songs from popular albums like Achtung Baby and “All You Can’t Stomach” don’t have the “new mix” surgery performed on them. My prediction for the new mix of “Gone” is this: lower fuzz, higher Bono.


One of the cooler selections is “Until The End Of The World” from Achtung Baby in place of the hit single, “Who’s Going To Ride Your Wild Horses”. However, since this song was used heavily in NFL spots, it may not be all that cool. In fact, I know it’s not cool. Not anymore. U2 ruined one of their best songs and for what? A little bit of money. Anything connected to their NFL tie-in would be forever tarnished. It’s funny that some fans thought U2 sold-out when Bono started wearing fly-glasses and their music started to possess sensuality and wit. The big sell-out didn’t come until “All You Can’t Stomach”, when they started sounding like Train and they played the NFL show sponsored by E-Trade. U2 has brought new meaning to the phrase corporate rock. After “End Of The World” is another new track: “The Hands That Built America.” Read that title again. Moving on.


Then it’s back to the Pop remixes; namely “Discotheque”. The original version was one of Flood’s better productions; the fuzz and mid-life crisis guitar put to really good use; one of their funkier songs; up there with “Mysterious Ways” and “Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car”. When I first saw the video for this, I had high hopes for Pop (despite thinking the Village People thing was exceedingly lame and obvious). Needles to say, these hopes were shattered when I finally heard the lackluster effort. However, my disappointment in Pop would help prepare me for even more profound disappointments (e.g. the Star Wars Prequels). Following is the similar yet meatier “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” from the Batman Forever soundtrack. Starting from “The Fly” to this song, U2 had released a string of videos and songs that made me think they could do no wrong. “Hold Me, Thrill Me” is a raw yet stylish rocker with a tenacious hook and beat. Say what you will about Batman Forever, it’s better than Tomb Raider and “Hold Me, Thrill Me” wipes the floor with “Elevation” (U2 sounding simply like INXS as opposed to superior INXS). The next selection, “Staring At The Sun”, is the song that caused me to realize the streak was over; I was with a friend when first listening to Pop and he blew up laughing when he heard the Edge do his shameless George Harrison impression. This song was U2’s attempt at being Oasis, but far more contrived; any song that has an anthem chorus is contrived by definition. Little did I know that a couple years later they would release “Walk On” and trite anthems would be taken to a new low. My prediction for the new mix of “Staring At The Sun”: lower Oasis, higher Bono.


Finally we get another hit of Zooropa with “Numb”. I always thought this song was a clever little ditty; if the Beatles had done it, critics and fans alike would have praised it for its eccentricity; but living in the age of dulldom, many people just thought it was “shallow” and that U2 should return to their Hallmark posturing. In my opinion, “Numb” reflects our culture far better than “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Of course, since a lot of their old school fans were weirded out by the more cutting-edge Zooropa tracks, U2 decided to do a new mix of this one as well (I wonder: when four songs are remixes, does a “Best Of” become a “Re-Mix” album? Perhaps I should give P.Diddy a ring and ask him). My prediction for this remix is this: the cool synth breakdown is replaced with an inflated guitar solo, Bono sings the song instead of the Edge and he belts out the following chorus: “It’s really numb, don’t it make you dumb!”


Another Zooropa track concludes the CD, but “The First Time” is definitely an unexpected and questionable choice. Which has been typical of U2’s actions in recent years, Zooropa gets the biggest screw-over with this so-called “Best Of”. “The First Time” is a nice enough song in the context of the Zooropa album, but for some reason I’m reminded of the Pop-Mart Tour in which they had a giant lemon but failed to perform the song “Lemon”. In fact, they failed to perform any song from Zooropa on that tour, even though the material worked better with the Pop-Mart theme than any of the songs they played. It wasn’t a question about representing the songs live either, because I’ve seen a recorded performance of them doing half the Zooropa album live during their European Zooropa Tour (the one where Bono became Macphesto) and the songs sounded great. I’m also reminded of Bono being on Charlie Rose, during the promotion of “All You Can’t Stomach”, and being disgusted by Bono feeling the need to justify the Zooropa period and explain that it was the band getting “too European”. Too European! Call me close-minded, but I like my Europeans acting and sounding European; to me that seems honest and sincere—not humping America‘s leg like a capitalist dog in heat. But Bono is obsessed with making Americans love him and as such, Zooropa cannot be represented properly on their “Best Of”. By choosing, “Stay” and “The First Time” (the only two songs that echo U2’s traditional sound on Zooropa) and re-mixing “Numb” (a song that was consistent with the overall Zooropa aesthetic), U2—the politicians they now are—have heeded the polls and covered-up their past controversies. The weird album that was “too European” shall haunt those Joshua Tree fans no more.


Between the retooling of Pop and the misrepresentation of Zooropa, U2 has really become the George Lucas of pop music with “Best Of 1990-2000”. Although George Lucas would never be pals with the likes of George Bush Junior, who Bono has publicly praised and politicized with; all in the name of “saving the world” of course. I don’t forget the good ol’ days when Bono cranked called George Bush Senior from the Zoo TV tour. Back then it wasn’t about being a gaudy politician; back then it was just about being a smartass rock star.


Alas, Bono is no longer smart…he’s just an ass.
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Old 10-21-2002, 12:59 PM   #2
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Hm...

Thx for posting this, Michael. What the hell is up with that? I will not bother to comment on this article, because i simply don't agree.

“Staring At The Sun”, is the song that caused me to realize the streak was over; I was with a friend when first listening to Pop and he blew up laughing when he heard the Edge do his shameless George Harrison impression. This song was U2’s attempt at being Oasis".........

HAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:00 PM   #3
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great article for the most part!

only partly disagree with the until the end of the world bit.

im looking forward to a strong media backlash which will obviously effect u2's next studio album cause they always want to do whats popular.
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:02 PM   #4
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Hey, Zoomerang -

What do you think of 'Hands'? I think it's like sliced butta'
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:05 PM   #5
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i think hands that built america is a good song. i havent listened to it very much yet, but i believe with a few more listens i will really like it.

funny, i was reading a u2 fans opinions on the song about it at a radiohead forum and she said it was the worst song ever. radiohead forums are the worst, let me tell ya. if there is any guitar in any song, it can pretty much be deemed as shit.

only bands that noone has ever heard of and that noone will ever hear (cause they suck) are talked about at that forum. with the exception of sigur ros.

but ya, i like the song so far. good atmosphere. im a fan of electrical storm as well.
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zoomerang96
i think hands that built america is a good song. i havent listened to it very much yet, but i believe with a few more listens i will really like it.

funny, i was reading a u2 fans opinions on the song about it at a radiohead forum and she said it was the worst song ever. radiohead forums are the worst, let me tell ya. if there is any guitar in any song, it can pretty much be deemed as shit.

only bands that noone has ever heard of and that noone will ever hear (cause they suck) are talked about at that forum. with the exception of sigur ros.

but ya, i like the song so far. good atmosphere. im a fan of electrical storm as well.
You like 'Electrical Storm'? Well, yeah, I remember you saying that now that I think about it. I like the intro of the Oribit (album) mix of E-Storm, but I think that the rest is quite generic. I mean, it all blends very well together, it is well organized and played out, but it is quite predictable. The chords are quite mainstream, and I think that the style of the song is what really saves it. Imagine if it had style and originality? It would make me feel the same way as I do when I listen to Zooropa or Achtung Baby. Another problem I have with it, is the chorus is oh so weak. I mean, "E-Lec-tric-AL Stooorm"??? Surely they could have gotten a little more creative? That's really my only gripe, though. Bono's singing and the crystaline ending (the ending guitar especially) are enough to make me anxious for the next album.

As for 'Hands' I think it's the best thing U2 have done in a very, VERY long time.
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:26 PM   #7
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I agree with a lot of points with author , for example that U2 1991 - 2000 are much better then booring U2 1980-1990 , old and booring 2001-02
more real music , and yes i like when U2 were doing music instead of endless political speeches .

However this guy hates U2 , he just doesn't like them , it's a useless article .
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by pinkfloyd
I agree with a lot of points with author , for example that U2 1991 - 2000 are much better then booring U2 1980-1990 , old and booring 2001-02
more real music , and yes i like when U2 were doing music instead of endless political speeches .

However this guy hates U2 , he just doesn't like them , it's a useless article .
Do you really think that War was boring? How about 'The Unforgettable Fire', which was one of the most atmospheric rock songs of that decade? Do you really think the "Let Me Tell You A Little Somethin'" Speech from Rattle & Hum is boring?

As for U2 not being political in the 90s, are you serious? Please tell me you are joking, because that statement is hilarous. Did you ever here about the Sarajevo ZooTV linkups or the Save Selafield campains? Did you catch the ZooTV calls to the White House? Did you catch Bono telling most of the G8 how useless they all were? From stage no less? Yeah, a little political I'd say - almost as boring as their 80s tirades, even.

Sorry for the sarcasm, but I feel it was warranted in this case.
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:39 PM   #9
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The guy kind of blows his credibility by, um, never having actually held the finished product in his hands, so I don't think this is worth discussion.
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Old 10-21-2002, 01:48 PM   #10
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That article is actually kind of good and actually kind of funny in parts. To me the guy is just saying things that a lot of people on here have said. It's obvious he's a fan, and it's obvious he got turned off by a lot of things U2 have done in the past 4 years. A lot of people have! I haven't really, but it's nice to look at U2 from someone elses perspective. I just don't think it's fair that he is formulating his opinion on some of the songs that he hasn't even heard yet, but instead by what he read about them.
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Old 10-21-2002, 02:11 PM   #11
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Yes in general apart from funky Two Hearts and New Year's Day ( major breakthrou for U2 ) , it's booring , one tone , it's ok record , UF album is much better , well as for U2 being political in the 90's , White house call was just a joke , and only crazy fans like Michael still remember " Sarajevo Link-ups , save Sellalfield " crap .
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Old 10-21-2002, 02:27 PM   #12
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This guy is a bit out there. Some of what he says is credible as a fan's opinion and I agree with it, but a lot of what he says is just him rambling on about whatever he didn't like about a particular song or style U2 went through. His bashing on Flood is quite uncalled for. I may point out to you all that Flood has worked on a subtantial amount of classic albums, Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion by Depeche Mode, Mellon Collie, Machina, and Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins, Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails, and JT, AB, Zooropa, and POP to name a few. He obviously doesn't know too much about how politically active U2 was in the 90's as someone else has already pointed out. He fails to realize that U2 played the Oakenfold remix of Lemon at all the POPMart shows before the "Lemon" made it's appearance with U2 inside. It also seems like this guy doesn't like anything with an anthemic chorus or chord change. He bashes every U2 song that he can think of that has one. In my opinion U2 is allowed to use whatever chords they want. They don't always have to make a "Numb" when they write a song. He goes on to talk about how U2 are corporate whores for playing the Super Bowl halftime. He fails to mention, or maybe even be aware, that they played it for FREE and declined to be paid anything. Plus his constant labelling of ATYCLB as "All That You Can't Stomach" gets incredibly old the more he uses it. I find the fact that someone would write this without even hearing the CD is incredibly rediculous. It's like me writing a review of U2's next album from just knowing what they've said about it in recent interviews and having heard a few of the song titles.
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Old 10-21-2002, 02:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Here's the review:

http://www.stylusmagazine.com/musicr...al_thing.shtml

U2
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Interscope
2002

Reviewed by: Edwin Faust


Quote:
Originally posted by typhoon
The guy kind of blows his credibility by, um, never having actually held the finished product in his hands, so I don't think this is worth discussion.
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Old 10-21-2002, 02:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by pinkfloyd
Yes in general apart from funky Two Hearts and New Year's Day ( major breakthrou for U2 ) , it's booring , one tone , it's ok record , UF album is much better , well as for U2 being political in the 90's , White house call was just a joke , and only crazy fans like Michael still remember " Sarajevo Link-ups , save Sellalfield " crap .
Well, you are right about one thing: I am a crazy fan!!
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Old 10-21-2002, 04:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by pinkfloyd
Yes in general apart from funky Two Hearts and New Year's Day ( major breakthrou for U2 ) , it's booring , one tone , it's ok record , UF album is much better , well as for U2 being political in the 90's , White house call was just a joke , and only crazy fans like Michael still remember " Sarajevo Link-ups , save Sellalfield " crap .
I don't think the phone calls were only a joke, especially the ones in Europe. Obviously you haven't listened well to the Wembley shows. Bono's tirade during BITBS puts his during BSB to shame.
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