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The acolyte will deride the obvious misses amid this collection of hits; the casual fan won't even notice, since the casual fan skipped most of the band's '90s output anyway. Still, it's amazing that U2 could fill two discs this go-round, since there were half as many albums to choose from as there were for the 1980-to-1990 best-and-rest-of two-fer -- and a quarter as many moments worth getting stuck in or on. ("Desire" and "With or Without You" for, say, "Miss Sarajevo" and "The Hands That Built America," the latter a languid new track from Gangs of New York, might be considered trading down.) But taken as a whole, from B-sides ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun") to besides ("Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" from Batman Forever), this is the disc of revelations -- the compilation that redeems the band's '90s albums not as the work of bored superstars, but as pop stars who stayed interested when they stopped proselytizing and started pissing off hotel balconies.

The grandest discovery and joy come from hearing concept albums, such as they were, torn apart and reassembled as a gathering of rootless singles; it's far better when "Mysterious Ways" gives way to a "Beautiful Day" instead of Bono tryin' to throw his arms around the world, and a blast when "Hold Me, Thrill Me" is followed out onto the dance floor by a new mix of "Discotheque," the greatest U2 single that wasn't. Odd that the band would include the William Orbit remix of "Electrical Storm," the new single, on the first disc; it fits better on the nonessential second, a compendium of redos intended for the clubs, most of which went out of business in 1998. Better to hear The Edge's edgy guitar -- strings like razors, played with bloodied fingers -- than imagine it, which is all the remixes can offer; turns out it was precisely what the band couldn't leave behind.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky