Two new songs, classic cuts, plus a remixed look at the band’s third decadeonce you absorb the idea that the sixteen tracks on The Best of 1990-2000 aren’t the best songs U2 recorded during that decade, you can really start enjoying it. Aware that even the band’s most casual fans probably own Achtung Baby and All That You Can’t Leave Behind, U2 ransack Zooropa and Pop for their strongest material, remix four songs and come up with two new ones (notably “Electrical Storm,” a dizzying collaboration with William Orbit). The result feels surprisingly coherent, both familiar and fresh. Triumphs such as “One” and “Beautiful Day” retain their seductive power, while the reworked versions of “Gone” and “Discotheque” reveal what Pop might have been.
B-Sides, predictably, is less consistently satisfying. Ten of its fourteen tracks are remixes, all edges in search of a center. It also cheats a bit, offering an old remix of “Numb,” for example, which is newly remixed on the Best of disc. That said, the “extended dance mix” of “Lady With the Spinning Head” is propulsive and fun, and “Summer Rain” will prove a find for anyone who didn’t hear it on the “Beautiful Day” single.
The two discs, then, neatly sum up U2’s extraordinary journey in the Nineties, when the band sometimes went too far if only to ensure that it always went far enough.