Monday, Sept. 22, 2008

U2

Boy/October/War Deluxe Editions (Island/Interscope)

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  Leave it to our reliable friends in U2 to respond to the music industry's structural implosion with a triple-shot of pricey extravagance-and the promise of more to come.

  Who could have foreseen that the guitar wailing of "I Will Follow" from the band's 1980 debut, Boy, was actually the first breath of a larger-than-life juggernaut. To be fair, even when listening with the benefit of knowing what an ungainly (if not unappealing) monster U2 would eventually become, the song still sounds piercing and fresh. But the sound doesn't improve after being repackaged, regardless of the remastering supervised by The Edge and an alternate mix produced by Steve Lillywhite.

  For the casual fan and dabbling music historian, last year's deluxe edition of TheJoshua Tree, arguably the band's career apex, certainly justifies the two-CD, lavish-package, hefty-price treatment. These expanded editions of the band's first three offerings, however, require the constitution of the more ardent follower. If you opt for the double-disc versions, The Edge's notes on the extra songs shed some light, but the live October-era tracks and pre-Boy singles far outshine the alternate and extended mixes that dominate War's bonus material. Meanwhile, overly flattering liner notes and a Bono drawing don't make for especially good coffee-table reading. These reissues certainly look handsome (and tempting as stocking stuffers), but you'll want to look before you leap-or just keep your eyes fixed on the deluxe Joshua Tree.


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