U2's Bono was one of the few real rock heroes of the 1980s, leading the Irish band to international recognition with a charged, political approach to music. The band's early efforts brought a stadium-size presence to post-punk, with Bono's expressive vocals and the Edge's distinct guitar lines interacting seamlessly with the rhythm section of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. In 1987, U2 broke through to superstardom with THE JOSHUA TREE, a grand culmination of their '80s sound. In the 1990s, however, the band very purposefully deflated that epic image, simultaneously adding ambient, dance, and electronica touches on 1991's ACHTUNG BABY. Mining that vein for much of the decade, U2 kicked off the 21st century with a triumphant return to form that was embraced by new and longtime fans alike.
One need hear only the first notes of this collection--the Edge's ringing guitar notes ushering in "Pride (In the Name of Love)"-to be taken back to 1984: Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher rule the Western world, the L.A. Olympics is the top sports story, and Ms. Pac-Man reigns at arcades. In rock & roll, there's U2 growing in stature with each new title. Even doubters of the Irish lads have to concede that together they formed the one '80s band with the skill and sense of scale to take over the airwaves and concert stages in a decade of diminished expectations. This 15-song '80s best-of assortment (stick around for the hidden track) spans the decade, reaching back to 1980's "I Will Follow," when Bono and company were peach-fuzzy and earnest as choirboys, and tracking their path through their most glaring misstep, 1988's overblown Rattle and Hum. --Steven Stolder
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