Such beautiful synchronicity... Credible band signs to major label. Early singles nudge the arse-end of the Top 50....

SUCH BEAUTIFUL synchronicity… Credible band signs to major label. Early singles nudge the arse-end of the Top 50. Debut album fails to set world alight. Ergo, in spite of building up a fanbase, band is threatened with dreaded ‘drop’ from major label. Sounds familiar, yes? Yes indeedy, and that is precisely the scenario U2 found themselves in at the start of the ’80s.

Luckily, some sussed tyke disregarded the bank statements and persevered with these four angsty and badly coiffured young men from Dublin, and a mere three years later U2’s Mr Bono was scaling mountain tops in both physical and metaphorical senses as ‘War’ stormed the epic rock barricades. Two decades on, Island Records finally get around to start the big milking of what has become their sacred cow with (and we quote) “U2’s first retrospective album”. Be a bit scared, kiddoes.

Rolling merrily from 1980 to 1989, this particular ‘Best Of…’ is an unsurprisingly scattershot experience. People who once happily walked around in sleeveless denim jackets and pointy boots will no doubt be dismayed by the absence of embryonic treats such as ‘Fire’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘A Celebration’, but The Man has big money to make. And so it is that these 14 tracks crash in with the spiritually hyperbolic ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ and ‘New Year’s Day’ and swagger out around the time of ‘Angel Of Harlem’ and ‘When Love Comes To Town’, which are a bit funky, like [I]The Commitments[/I], only slightly more credible.

The in-between bits are an unsatisfying blend of ‘War”s blunt-faced bravado – the shouty bleeding shouty ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ has not aged terrifically well, historians – and delicious extracts (see ‘With Or Without You’, ‘Bad’) from the ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and ‘The Joshua Tree’ double long-playing whammy, which we reckon was the last time U2 had control over their collective marble collection.

Good fun for all the family it is, too. U2 have always had a splendidly askew take on reality and, while scarcely balancing on the tightrope betwixt coolness and glory [I]` la[/I] New Order or The Smiths, at least this part of their legacy resonates with a degree of authority and amiability a zillion miles out of the reach of boggly eared ‘peers’ such as Simple Minds and The Alarm.

Particularly nimble enthusiasts will also be able to avail themselves of a bonus CD consisting of B-sides from the same era. Here, it is heartily recommended that you bypass the alarming busker-in-a-bunker versions of ‘Everlasting Love’ and ‘Unchained Melody’ and wend your bleary way to the quite literally great ‘Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl’ which, as any catastrophically tragic person knows, was originally on the flip of ‘A Celebration’.