One of the first bands that truly rocked my world. For a long time, they were my absolute favorites and became one of my few musical obsessions. They've faded a bit, but you can't beat that first ten or more years.
Suggested first purchase/album: Green
Suggested best of: Eponymous
Chronic Town EP (1982) -- "Gardening at Night" is still a great song. It and the rest still seem out-of-nowhere.
Murmur (1983) -- All the great things people say about this album is true. Kinda spooky, doing its own thing, still listenable and even danceable. Every song is amazing. The highlights among this excellence include "Radio Free Europe" and "Shaking Through."
Reckoning (1984) -- Slightly more poppy than Murmur and pretty much as excellent. Standouts include "Harborcoat" and "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville."
Fables of the Reconstruction (1985) -- You have to get used to this one, but once you do you'll love it. It has its own fake southern legend thing going, which is kind of cool. The best tracks are "Can't Get There from Here" and the wonderful "Wendell Gee."
Lifes Rich Pageant (1986) -- A thinking man's rock and roll album. It begins (the begin) rocking, keeps rocking, settles into "Fall on Me," one of the prettiest songs to date along with the even prettier "The Flowers of the Guatemala," goes into the rejuvenating "I Believe," and even ends with a great cover of "Superman." Great stuff.
Dead Letter Office (1987) -- This compilation collects rarities through years, and the best thing about it is that it shows the humor of R.E.M., a band that might to this point seem too serious. "Voice of Harold," "Walter's Theme," and "King of the Road" are the funniest. The cover tunes are great too, all the Velvet Underground songs especially. The few losers are expected, but what would a rarities collection be without that? You also get the Chronic Town EP on CD with this collection (available only on cassette by itself).
Document (1987) -- R.E.M.'s fiery, angry, extra-political album and a true classic. Features such hits as "Exhuming McCarthy," "Strange," "It's the End of the World As We Know It," and "The One I Love," the first R.E.M. song to really and truly make its way to the MTV crowd. For the next five or six years, R.E.M. would pretty much be considered the best band in America, and I was in agreement.
Eponymous (1988) -- Better than just a normal greatest hits collection (though it's that too), this album also has a great alternate version of "Radio Free Europe" and a not-as-great alternative version of "Gardening at Night," a throwaway outtake with "Romance," and a wonderful horn mix of "Finest Worksong." The rest of the hits that should be here at this point are here, which makes it good for fans who buy all the albums as well as people who just want what they want from the IRS years.
Green (1988) -- There's not a bad song on the album, the album has the political messages of Document but with more heart, and everything is just touching... and also otherwordly in a way it hasn't been since Murmur, with weird instruments mixed together like children might do it. An important album of my early adolescence and one that's dear to me today.
Out of Time (1991) -- One is tempted to say that this album doesn't live up, that it's very radio, that R.E.M. has "sold out" (or some other stupid phrase), but go through a list of songs like "Losing My Religion," "Low," "Belong," and "Half a World Away" and you'll have a hard time saying exactly what's wrong with it. Basically this is a less magical version of Green with some cameo appearances and more radio friendliness (including "Radio Song," the followup to "Pop Song 89").
Automatic for the People (1992) -- Dark, soft, and lovely. In a way this was the beginning of the end for R.E.M., since they found out they could do "slow" songs (and since the middle of the album is a little weak), but this is where they do them best. Features "Drive," "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite," "Everybody Hurts," "Man on the Moon," and "Nightswimming."
Monster (1994) -- The mid-90s was the heart of alternative music, when at least halfway decent music was on the radio (as opposed to the bookends of teen pop and R&B), and Monster was a good R.E.M. version of that kind of alternative. Even their look changed, with a bald Stipey and nudie-suited Mike Mills. Some fans probably hated it--saying it was bad enough to trade in their Rickenbackers for mandolins--but I thought it was pretty great to hear all these distorted songs, especially in the middle of the Unplugged days. Highlights include "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" "King of Comedy," "Strange Currencies," and "Let Me In."
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996) -- Too long (too many lesser songs), but even the length gives the album a good live feel, which is what they were going for (many of them having been recorded on stage). Songs that rock like Monster but that are dark like Automatic, a perfect blend. Standouts include "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us," "The Wake-Up Bomb," "E-Bow the Letter," "Leave," and "Electrolite." This would be their last truly good album (unless they surprise me in the future).
R.E.M. in the Attic (1998) -- This isn't an official R.E.M. release, but an EMI "Essential" collection they put out. It's a pretty good collection, though, featuring some worthy stuff for people who even have all the albums. It's mostly live versions (including the two songs recorded for the movie Athens, GA -- Inside Out) and two studio outtakes ("Tired of Singing Trouble" and "Last Date"). The rest were mostly featured on Dead Letter Office and Eponymous.
Up (1998) -- Was the loss of Bill Berry what did this? Who knows, but R.E.M. isn't R.E.M. anymore. Here they go for Radiohead's OK Computer or something, and of course it's not as good, even if we admire the effort and even think it's pretty awesome the first two or three listens. Highlights are "Hope" and "Why Not Smile."
Man on the Moon Soundtrack (1999) -- Not really an R.E.M. album, but more them than anything else (sorta). Actually, even though they did the score, you only hear a little of it here: the rest of the album is filled up with dialogue from the movie (we've seen the movie; I'll never understand why soundtracks do this) and stuff like the Taxi theme. None of this is R.E.M.'s fault, of course.
Reveal (2001) -- A moody record where the songs take their time establishing their mood. No real standout songs that you remember after the album is done (the single, "Imitation of Life," might be an exception, but it's still just a mediocre R.E.M. song). Okay while you're listening to it, however.
Around the Sun (2004) -- R.E.M. does a little better with this one. More focused songs.
Accelerate (2008) -- A weaker, shorter version of New Adventures in Hi-Fi that's fun enough.
Copyright (c) Aug 2000 - May 2008 by Rusty Likes Music