R.E.M.

'80s underground/'90s overground/'00s dumping ground
* special introductory paragraph!
* So Much Younger Then
* Chronic Town EP
* Early Movements
* Murmur
* Reckoning
* Fables Of The Reconstruction
* Lifes Rich Pageant
* Dead Letter Office - B-Sides Compiled
* Dead Giveaway Office
* Document
* Eponymous
* In The Attic: Alternative Recordings 1985-1989
* Green
* Christmas Fan Club: Best Season 88/89 Single
* Christmas '89 Single
* 1990 Holiday Single
* Out Of Time
* Holly Jolly 1991 Single
* Automatic For The People
* Mystic & Merry 1992 Single
* The Automatic Box
* 1993 Happy Holiday Hoedown Single
* Monster
* 1994 Yuletide Lite Fan Club 45
* 1995 Fan Club Single Served Fresh And Hot
* New Adventures In Hi-Fi
* 1996 Fan Club Single
* 1997 Holiday Fan Club Single (with Pearl Jam)
* Up
* 1998 Holiday Fanclub Video (with Radiohead)
* 1999 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Neil Young)
* 2000 Holiday Fan Club Single
* Reveal
* Not Bad For No Tour EP
* 2001 Holiday Fan Club CD ROM
* r.e.m.IX
* 2002 Holiday Fan Club CD ROM
* The Best Of R.E.M.: In Time 1988-2003
* Vancouver Rehearsal Tapes EP
* 2003 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Wilco)
* Around The Sun
* iTunes Originals
* 2004 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
* 2005 Holiday Fan Club DVD
* 2006 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Tin Cup Prophette and The Observatory)
* Live
* 2007 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
* Accelerate
* 2008 Holiday Fan Club DVD
* Live At The Olympia In Dublin
* iTunes Live From London EP
* 2009 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
* 2010 Holiday Fan Club Download
* Collapse Into Now

R.E.M. is a pop/rock band from Athens, GA. They started life as a terrible punk band, then became an excellent '60s-inspired folk-rock band with more awesome melodies than you could shake a tree at. Later they did other things too, like become celebrities and get really slow and awful.


So Much Younger Then - Bootleg
Rating = 1

On a foggy Monday in September, I hapt upon a miracle at the thrift store. In the dollar bin of cassette tapes filled with garbage and pish-posh rested a gentle TDK featuring the lilting handwriting of a young girl or "girly man," as popular political figure Hans and Franz might say. But this was no ordinary lilting TDK: this tape featured illicit tapings of two already illegal REM bootlegs -- which actually brings up a point I hadn't considered. We know bootlegging is wrong, but how about if you bootleg a BOOTLEG, as this enterprising human bean had done? Is it considered a good deed to take money out of the bootlegger's pocket? I don't know the answer. I can't even fathom how such a moral conundrum might be resolved. As our discussion continues, my mind is spinning with the possibilities, slowly tearing away at the delicate brainstem attachment. OW!

(*rests lazily in chair like Christopher Reeve*)

(*laughs uproariously at such a biting irreverent jab at a well-loved public figure*)

(*reads this week's obituaries; squirts intestinal bile out of nose*)

To cut to the quick chase, REM used to be a hellaciously rotten new wave/punk rock band. All the right instrumental elements were there from the beginning -- Peter Buck's clean jangly guitar tone, Michael Stipe's light Southern drawl, Mike Mills' excitable backup vocals and presumably bass playing of some sort, the drummer's peppy 4/4 beat later utilized in folk-punk classics like "Radio Free Europe" and "These Days" -- but one key element of the band's sound had yet to come to fruition. I'm speaking of course about the ability to compose anything remotely suggesting that the band members held even an ounce of collective common sense. Presumably they were going for some sort of Ramonesy beachpunk feel with the constant speedy 4/4 rhythm and simplistic chord sequences, but the "riffs" are just -- I mean, just TERRIBLE! Absolutely TERRIBLE! Straight out of 1958 A-E-D simplistic crap -- like the worst Buddy Holly outtakes of all time played fast on a clean guitar. It's not beachy, nor punky, nor Ramonesy in any other way, no matter how many times they rip off the "Blitzkrieg Bop" riff (which is PLENTY). It's just BAD! Even when they try to take a darker approach with minor chords and pessimistic lyrics, the songwriting remains clueless and the songs hookless. It's truly astonishing to think that this band would soon become one of the greatest songwriting teams in rock and roll history (I mean have you heard Reveal? It fuckin' TEARS!!!).

The bootleg was recorded at a live "gig" in 1980, and features the following tracks: Body Count (not an Ice-T cover), A Different Girl, Action (not a Paul Revere & The Raiders cover), Narrator For The Jacques Cousteau Show, She's Such A Pretty Girl, Baby I, Permanent Vacation (not an Aerosmith cover), Wait (not a White Lion cover), Scheherezade, Lisa Sez (probably a Lou Reed cover, though I didn't compare the two songs to check), Mystery To Me (not a Fleetwood Mac cover), I Don't Want You Anymore (not a Ramones cover), Little Girl (indeed a Syndicate Of Sound cover), Dangerous Times.

Do you recognize these rare REM songs? From b-sides, later album appearances, mixed artist compilations, rarities collections, box sets and any of the other many outlets that a band of REM's stature would naturally have for stray tracks? No, you don't. AND THERE'S A GOOD GODDAMNED REASON FOR THAT!!! Here I am all excited thinking I'm going to get this all-new collection of great REM tunes that nobody's ever heard, and what do I end up with but stereo speakers so filled with shit that everything I play now is completely muffled. Aside from the Syndicate of Sound cover, there is not a single good -- or even DECENT -- song on this bootleg. Okay, "A Different Girl" has a couple of good parts. But that is IT. REM's earliest material is shockingly bad. Horrifyingly bad. Dip your balls in a blender bad.

Oh, I'm sorry. Do you not generally dip your balls in a blender when you hear a bad record?

Wait, now I'm really confused. If I'm the only one who does this, where did all these "women" come from? THEY certainly must have dipped their balls in a blender after hearing a bad record at some point!

So basically what you're saying is that I'd might as well give up sending Billy Joel tapes to Steve Guttenberg. I knew it! I shall die alone!!!!

Reader Comments

spectre316@email.com (Matt F.)
Wha..?

Mark, tell me this doesn't exist! TELL ME RIGHT NOW! I thought the earliest stuff was "Chronic Town"! WTFFff?!111111oenoenoen

Well, I guess every band starts nowhere and ends up somewhere eventually. Or they just stay on the same shitty level throughout their entire career.

Seriously, I had always thought R.E.M. started out fucking amazing and then only recently went downhill (don't you ever mention "Around the Boring Adult Alternative Sun" around me, EVER! I FUCKIN MEAN IT!). The only other bands I can think of that started great were.. um.. They Might Be Giants (shut up), some punk bands, and... well, nevermind. A lot of fucking bands. Damn those amazing debut albums/EPs/singles/funni stuf.

Anyway, wow. I want to hear this amazingly bad piece of shit so much right now! CaN u SeN it 2 mE oN aOL????

No, but seriously! Where do I find this thing? I MUST HAVE IT!

dumpster@compulsoryarts.com
'So Much Younger Then' was recorded at Tyrone's O.C. in Athens January 10th, 1981, and was just one of many. It was all about having a good time and (if you asked) Michael didn't mind if you plugged a tape deck into the sound board and helped yourself to the show. I myself have several tapes from those early days. Tyrone's was the place to go in the late 70's & early 80's until it burnt to the ground in January of 82. On any given night you could dance to bands such as The Tone Tones, The Method Actors, Pylon, The Side Effects, Love Tractor, The Squalls, Little Tigers, Men in Trees and Limbo District, to name but a few. Another REM bootleg from Tyrone's is the 'Do You Remember? - Dead Giveaway Office' LP.

Add your thoughts?

Chronic Town EP - IRS 1981.
Rating = 8

Sure, they were no Pylon, but this was still an awfully enjoyable debut. Clearly, this young band had three strengths that they could either develop or waste: (1) a great guitarist in Mr. Peter Buck - the king of jangly arpeggiated chords, (2) a singer who, although a bit mic-shy at times, still had the kind of voice that you don't get sick of - low, but not in a pretentious way, and (3) actual songwriting talent! These are five songs that have not been written before! The style is simple (folk-rock), but the melodies are new. And that's a rarity these days, I don't think I have to tell you. Ever heard the Gin Blossoms? Yeeeeh. It's weird to think that this came out before Murmur; they sound much more confident and excited here. Hmmm. None of these were hits, but they all should have been. The "house in order" bit in "Wolves, Lower" alone should have made them hundredaires; luckily for us, they stuck around until "Losing My Religion" did the job.

Reader Comments

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
R.E.M. (they use the dots in their name intentionally; REM was a DIFFERENT southern jangle-pop band that existed before them--no joke!) did themselves a damn good job with this EP...in fact I owned the original tape years before I picked up the CD version of Dead Letter Office. I think Chronic Town epitomizes most of their career, but Murmur is an example of brilliance that they've never quite been able to top. In any case, I don't think R.E.M. deserves the "alternative" label nor the poor album sales of today...they were excellent long before "Losing My Religion" and will continue to be...as long as they can make albums that aren't annoyingly long or grungy.

dstreb@neo.rr.com (Daniel Streb)
Chronic Town is basically the same sort of garage rock/underground music in the same vein as the Hib-Tone version of "Radio Free Europe". Every song's a winner, even "1,000,000". Why don't they release it as a regular EP on CD rather than adding it on to the dismal Dead Letter Office? I guess that cuts into profit margins very quickly or something. 9/10

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Rough and tumble, jangly, and very fun until "Stumble" kind of drags. When I first bought this I was, I think, fourteen and I listened to it about six times in a row. I think it's one of those albums that does that. Michael Stipe has a full head of hair.

Muggwort@aol.com
chronic town is alot of fun. and it is better than Murmur. all the tracks are great. a great e.p.

9/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
A nice, jangly, energetic release, and the energetic part is important in assessing R.E.M. music because sometimes they can get a little draggy and a little boring. The brevity of this release, the quality of the songs and the jittery jangle eliminate that problem completely from this outing. I say buy two.

rmulligan@comcast.net (Ryan Mulligan)
8 out of ten. Incredibly innovative, shockingly unique...no, I mean that, I don't own anything else that sounds like this! "Wolves, Lower" is one of their very best songs. Whoever had the idea to put that "house in order" part in there is a genius. Unless it was Jefferson Holt. Man, I hate Jefferson Holt. You're not even a real member of the band, dude. "Gardening At Night" is wonderfully obscure. You just have no idea what he's singing about, but it doesn't even come close to mattering. Bad word there. Shout out to "Box Cars" too, as it is quite splendid. "1,000,000" is a song, but unfortunately "Stumble" stumbles. Why am I even mentioning all the songs? I never wanted to be one of those kids. I'm taking back that shout out, sorry "Box Cars". Wow, now I'm talking to songs. Glad to be one of THOSE kids.

rpd158@yahoo.com (Ray D'Antuono)
why does everyone think 'stumble' sucks???? it's the best frickin song on the record, maybe tied with 'wolves, lower'. we used to blast this shit at the subway in state college when we worked there in '96, me and ryan, when we would close the place up at night, and argue about which song is better. 'wolves lower is the best rem song ever' he would say. 'no! stumble is better, but why isn't radio free euorpe, hib-tone 45, on this EP!!!!' of course we weren't listening to the ACTUAL ep but only the last five songs of dead letter office. i have since found an original vinyl at nice price books on hillsborough st in raleigh. only 4 bucks. it's all mine now. did i mention that 'stumble' rocks? i love the way bill berry plays the same 1-2-3-4 on the floor/hyperactive hi-hat beat on each song, and it's one of the best beats ever!!!! we were going to start a bill berry fan club but we needed to find a life-size bill berry cardboard cut-out. then he went and quit the band. oh well. anyway, back to stumble. great song. especially the "father chan" part and then the guitar goes "deedle-eedle-deedle-eedle-deedle-eedle-deedle-eedle". of course i looked up the lyrics on some sketchy website once and it said "ball and chain". no, that lyric sucks. "father chan" is much better. anyway, cheers.

SneakthaSlinger@aol.com
Wonderful. I'd rank this up there with Signals, Calls, And Marches by Mission Of Burma and Green River's Come On Down as a contender for the best debut EP ever. Or at least that I've ever heard. Can't go around listening to every damn debut EP ever released!

But about R.E.M. These songs are lovelier than partial-birth abortion! I especially love that part in "1,000,000" where it gets all quiet and Michael goes "Stick it in, stick it in, stick it IN YOUR ASSSSS!!!!11 and they snap back into verse-repetition mode. I don't see(hear) what everybody seems to love so much about "Wolves, Lower" though. It's the weakest song on here. Peter's doing his thang, but Michael ain't doing shit until the chorus. On a 5-star scale(one for each song), I'd give this recording a high 5. That's right, I for damn sure would like to high-five this record! Yeah, show me some love, C.T.!

remlover72@yahoo.com (Brett P. Atlanta, GA)
Cool Site....Interesting Opinions. Chronic Town absolutely rocks my face off all of the time. PS it was released in 1982 not 1981. These are incredibly individual songs and very, very, one of a kind, like nothing we had ever heard before....ever. BOXCARS???? I FRICKING LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Add your thoughts?

Early Movements - Collectors Pleasure 1993
Rating = 5

If they haven't already done so, somebody really needs to write a book explaining how R.E.M. managed to grow from 'the worst songwriters in the history of the world' into 'the geniuses who made Chronic Town' in two short years. I mean, I could see a band replacing a member or two and suddenly having everything click, but for the four gentlemen of R.E.M. the talent seemed to just come out of NOWHERE! Seriously, their 1980-81 material gives no indication that they would ever write a single decent song, let alone become one of the most melodically inventive bands of the '80s and early '90s. Wot's...uh the deal?

Indeed, the second half of this bootleg release is almost completely worthless. The gold it's in the...

first half, which is catalogued as "Chronic Town LP Early Studio Outtakes." These eleven tracks would later be re-recorded for inclusion on such wildly disparate releases as Chronic Town EP (all but "Gardening At Night"), Murmur ("Laughing," "Shaking Through" and "Catapult"), Lifes Rich Pageant ("Just A Touch"), Dead Letter Office ("Wind Out," here billed as "Find Out") and Eponymous ("Romance," here billed as "Easy Come, Easy Go"). A few of the tracks sound a bit too similar to their officially-released counterparts for comfort, but the others are a terrifically gas-a-lot. Here are a few highlights, bulleted for you like a little boy accidentally killed by the police:

- A much speedier version of "Catapult" with "It's nine o' clock/Don't try to turn it off" sung as "It's nine o'clock/Don't turn it off/It's nine o'clock," as well as extra volume and emphasis put on the beautiful 'Cat-A-Pult' three-part harmony!

- "Wolves Lower" with a much more pronounced "House In Order" part!

- "Romance" without the loud bass slap at the end of each verse's first line!

- A second version of "Wolves Lower," this one ending the first line not with "Wolves at the door" but with a silly, abrupt-sounding "Wolves."!

Alright, enough of the highlights crap. What is this, a children's magazine often found in the waiting room of dentists' offices??? Hell no! This is www.markprindle.com and you can rub your teeth with shit every night for all we care!!! Speaking of which, I said something hilarious in an email earlier today: "I've been busy as a dam beaver...." HA HA! GET IT??? See, I was going to see "busy as a DAMN beaver" but then I realized that beavers build "DAMS," which is a homonym for "DAMNS"!!!! And once you know that piece of information, the rest of the joke falls into place.

The second half of the CD is catalogued as "1980 Garage Rehearsal" and somebody must've been short on 'b's when they came up with that name because these songs are AWFUL. I already discussed them in my So Much Younger Then review though, and they haven't gotten any better since then. In fact, the best part of this 1980 Garage Rehearsal (reportedly recorded on June 6, 1980 at the Wuxtry Record Store in Athens, GA) are two tracks at the end that are clearly not part of this 1980 Garage Rehearsal (unless two of REM's earliest compositions were stupid overproduced remixes of "Drive" full of hip-hop mouth noises, in which case 'Whoa!')

And that's my review of Bowel Movements by David Bowie.

Add your thoughts?

Murmur - IRS 1983.
Rating = 8

When I was in the 5th grade, I enjoyed watching music videos on Channel 69, a sexily-numbered Atlanta half-channel (with no VJs or TV shows) that simply played music videos all day and all of the night. Favorites at the time included INXS' "To Look At You," Big Country's "In A Big Country," Joboxers' "Just Got Lucky" and REM's "Radio Free Europe." As the years swept forth unheeded, "So. Central Rain" and "Can't Get There From Here" became popular on the channel as well. And by the time "Ages Of You" became a big hit on the local radio stations, I was all totally-ass like "Dude, this band's singles are FANTASTIC!" Unfortunately, when I was a child I had no faith in the LP-ability of these new-fangled 'bands that still exist' and stuck to my old '60s favorites instead. Then later I got into punk rock and the rest is himstory. As a result, it wasn't until the 12th grade that I finally got up the courage and interest to borrow an REM record from a friend. It was the just-released Out Of Time, and it instantly turned me into an REM fan. Then they almost immediately started sucking dick.

Which brings us to their first album, Murmur, home of the uptempo college rocker "Radio Free Europe." The overall mood of this album is much more subdued and microphone-shy than on Chronic Town, but the songs are still full-to-slambangin' with clever, unforgettable melody. Personal favorites include the mean "West Of The Fields," yearning "Pilgrimage," bizarre noise-driven "8-8," piano-gorgeous "Perfect Circle," and "Kool Thing"-foreshadowing "Moral Kiosk." The questionable mix (wherein loud drums and laconic vocals often drown out the folksy guitarwork) result in a few songs dragging more than they should, but there is much real beauty to be found here. Just don't ask me what in God's name Stipe is muttering about.

"Your luck, a two-headed cow"!?

Reader Comments

Sequel.Solutions@msn.fullfeed.com (Dick Burger)
Murmur is an impressionistic masterpiece. The whole thing hangs together, doesn't matter if you are bored by a couple songs. Beautiful sounds.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
Classic! An EASY ten. Boring? pishposh!

matias@diariodopovo.com.br (Alexandre Linhares Matias)
This is excellence in vinyl - just it.

jspringer@icsc.org (Jon Springer)
10. This record is important for so many reasons -- not the least of which was a first shot against a world of journey and like FM-crap of its day...a battle that was eventually won. Who doesn't want to do it REM's way now?

Personally, i saw REM by accident in '82 (they opened for the english beat) and picked up Murmur on a whim a few months later...it got me through high school. Before Mr. Stipe became Mr. Voice of a Generation, his lyrics, (or whatever they were) were far more touching, and never, ever boring. Back then it seemed as if every song was written especially for me. 14 years later, it holds up pretty well.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
You're right. 8/10 is a bit low for this. Think about what was on the radio in 1983. Then listen to this and realize it was the same year. If that reason alone can't boost it up to a 10 (alone with the fact that all the songs are brilliant), then you have no business posting an R.E.M. section here.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
Damn you! First you say that side two of Master of Puppets is boring, and now this??? I think ANY album that has twelve catchy songs deserves a ten! If you think about it, R.E.M. never made another album like this one, lyrically or sonically. Tunes like "Pilgrimage" and "West of the Fields" show a side of them that hasn't even been played live for years...in fact during the 300+ shows R.E.M. played on their '95 world tour, they only played ONE song from Murmur as the FINAL song of the LAST gig. So it's obviously a special album them. And if THAT doesn't convince non-believers to buy it, just point out that Rolling Stone magazine's editors voted it 1983's album of the year over Thriller, Synchronicity, and War. A pity that they didn't become a household name for another decade or so...

aaronf@lancnews.infi.net
Are you on drugs?! Murmur is fantastic. No other REM album comes close!

azitelli@stevens-tech.edu
when you're not listening to it, you think you remember the album being boring and many of the songs skip-worthy...but when it's on, you can't tear yourself away...man, i got into this when i was listening to noise rock and shit and it was still one of my favorites, still is. you gotta love everything about it. even if they inspired hootie and all that jangly Matchbox 20 crud. 9.5

Bye76@aol.com
Murmur is one of my all-time favorites, a real winner. I think it's R.E.M.'s best by far. The tone is haunting, beautiful and NOT boring for one minute. Name me a bad song. The trio of "Laughing", "Talk About the Passion", "Moral Kiosk" and "Perfect Circle" is enough to make a man go jump off of a tall bridge or something. Listen to it, love it, and bask in the glow that was R.E.M. at it's most stunning.

savage1561@juno.com (Evan Streb)
Geez. I'm lookin' at this here R.E.M. page and I see A LOT of comments like (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Murmur is really good, especially when compared to what crap was popular at the time." Is it like necessary to hate all 80's pop music. I guess it's just me but I think that popular 80's music was really REALLY good! I guess it was 'cuz I grew up with it or something but I hold the opinion that Thriller was a fucking great album! So was Rio! And So! And No Jacket Required! And Hysteria. I could go on and on... I don't see what's so bad about 80s pop music. Come on! you guys out there in Internetland email me right now Savage1561@juno.com and tell me WHY 80's music sucks cuz I'm listening to "Come On, Eileen" right now and it's a fucking great song!. I long for the day when popular music used to be good like it was ten years ago. Call me a dork but I'd rather listen to Hungry Like the Wolf than just about anything on Murmur. But that's just my opinion...

I really like "radio Free Europe" though,

InMyEyes82@aol.com
The great thing about R.E.M. is how they make simplicity sound so breathtaking. Murmur is the finest example of that. None of these guitar parts are hard to play ( PB was an amateur player back then), and Stipe's voice is not especially remarkable. But it has a steely solemnity to it that makes the songs have gravity and emotion, and the melodies here are just amazing, "moral kiosk" being my personal favorite. And how about the guitar in "9-9"? Brilliant.

10/10

dstreb@neo.rr.com (Daniel Streb)
CLASSIC!! I bought this album SIX MONTHS ago and it's STILL in my CD player!! Absolutely every song a winner. And listening to "9-9" makes me want to play guitar. Oh and "Perfect Circle" is one of the greatest ballads ever written. And what the hell are you saying when you call "Laughing", "Talk About The Passion" and even "Radio Free Europe" BORING!?!?!?! Techno, now that's boring. Murmur is a college-rock underground classic, even though it did inspire Matchbox 20. I guess you gotta take the bad with the good. Oh and dig Stipe's mumbled vocals!! Not only the greatest debut album I've ever heard but also a major grunge precursor. 10/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
No way this gets an eight!

Then again, it sure as hell doesn't get a ten!

This album gets a five. I love early REM, but there are just so many songs on here that have no melodies, at least as far as my ears are concerned. I think that "Talk About The Passion," "Perfect Circle," "Radio Free Europe," and "Pilgrimage" really kick, but the rest of this stuff is slow and BORING - and not even in a catchy, Velvet Undergroud way. All of you who worship it are simply buying into the hype - not the kind of hype that promotes Spice Girls albums, but the kind of "retro-hype" that causes people to buy these albums that are supposed to be masterpieces, but are terribly overshadowed when compared to a heap of albums that are far better - for example, REM's next seven or so. I would have rather they included some Chronic Town material - those were the bands best songs at this point. If this had "Gardening At Night," "Carnival Of Sorts," and "Wolves, Lower" on it, maybe it would deserve a ten.

richbunnell@home.com
A great album, just don’t listen to the critics first and you’ll be all right. One question—how in the bloody hell could one consider "Radio Free Europe," "Talk About The Passion," and "Laughing" boring?!? Those’re probably in the top 5 of the whole album! At least you like "Perfect Circle"—what a great song! And I actually heard it on the radio about a month ago! There isn’t really a bad song on here, but it doesn’t blow my mind or anything (though I’ll admit it sounds nothing like anything of its time) so I’ll give it a 9 as opposed to the 10’s which everyone else (save Mark and Ben) gave it—but given time it could get that too! But what’s everyone’s problem with "We Walk"? I love that song!

Oh and to Evan Streb, as much as I love Rio, So, and Thriller, No Jacket Required is one of the biggest pisspoor hit albums of the ‘80s. Faceless corporate pop crap. But maybe that’s just because I can’t stand Phil Collins. Eh.

Stumppdumb@aol.com
I have not the slightest clue how anyone could call any songs on this album "Boring". But anyway i think this is a Brilliant album. It is sorta simple if you look on how to play the songs, but it doesnt sound like it at all. A great album. Id probably give it a 9/10. By the way, i love "We Walk" as well. I dont get why people dont. Its a great song to me. I also love "Catapult", "Perfect Circle" and "Talk About the passion". The guitar in "9-9" is fuckin great

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
10/10: It's just good from start to finish plus it's got a really nice feel as a whole.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Only a retarded or Italian person would assert that this album's not perfect (including the commonly-dissed "We Walk", an obvious musical homage to the great Herman's Hermits). Sounds like being a Southern college kid in the early eighties, feeling the past and the future and getting drunk in the woods. Michael Stipe's hairline is backing up a bit.

mulliganmulligan@earthlink.net (Ryan Mulligan)
An all-time classic. Not sure if it's better than Life's Rich Pageant, it's damn close. Every song on here is awesome(well, "We Walk" is a great sing-along number, but isn't really awesome). "9-9" might be my favorite track. That melody is so cool and unique. "Catapult" is close, with 4 great sections. What's a section? "Laughing"'s got that great bass intro and the whole song rules. "Talk About The Passion", "Moral Kiosk", "Shaking Through", "Sitting Still", "Radio Free Europe"...are these guys serious? Every one of them's catchy as hell. Let's not forget the beautiful "Perfect Circle". An easy 10. Maybe the best album of the 80's. A lot better than London Calling. Does "Lover's Rock" suck or what?

Jcjh20@aol.com
Excellent, excellent record. Not a masterpiece though, just excellent songs side by side, not a bad one on here, or one that even fails to be called Great. "Shaking Through", "Perfect Circle", "We Walk", "Laughing", and "Talk about the passion" are my faves, but the rockers like "West of the fields", and "Moral Kiosk" are just awesome. I really cant understand how any of these can be called boring (okay, save for "Radio Free Europe", the original Hib-Tone single version is way superior) because the melodys are stunning. I'll also agree with Rich here and give it a 9.

Muggwort@aol.com
murmur, while not REM's masterwork is still an indispensable document of jangly post-punk. The atmosphere is great, although most of the songs could not stand alone together they work beautifully, But "Pilgrimage," "sitting still," "west of the fields" and "laughing" are incredible with or without the others. A must buy for those into great collage rock.

9.8/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
It doesn't sustain the energy of Chronic Town the whole way through, but it isn't trying too, what with 12 whole songs covering a gamut of emotions and moods. Absolutely a wonderful album, and I'm shocked that my favorite track, "Sitting Still," is mentioned only twice in the above comments. Now that is a rollicking good tune, people. "Perfect Circle" is breathtaking, and "Radio Free Europe" is one of those songs in my musical past that pointed to a wider musical world that wasn't being played on commercial radio or promoted by most of the media. Hearing it on a local college station was one of those happy accidents that got me out of my heavy metal rut.

Now if only I knew what the fuck Stipe was saying. That would be nice. Not absolutely necessary, but nice. Trade in that extra Chronic Town I told you to buy and get two of these. You can give one away to someone you love.

fidelsjuarezg@hotmail.com
A democratic group, without spectacular guitar solos or complicated drumming techniques? R.E.M. How come the non conclusive lyrics aren't practically audible? Because Stipe is only a quarter of band. No wonder why this album received instant cult recognition in America, as it demonstrated that rock and pop's influences for a promising debut album can be sufficiently simple enough for mass appeal whilst being as hermetic as a strong personality. Without Peter Buck's relaxed, non-pretentious style (reminiscent of The Byrds), or Michael Stipe's obstructive, yet thankfully shy voice (reminiscent of Nico!?!?), the group could have been a very nasty pill to swallow. Their originality lies basically in their taste for acknowledging their influences. Had they been fans for Collins-style Genesis, it would have been a complete different story.

My favorite songs are contained in the first side, "Perfect circle", "Laughing" (which I always relate to pot smoking), "Talk about the passion" and "Moral kiosk". Practically there's no room for improvisation nor crazy pseudo-experimental bar some of Stipe's lyrics, which until this point weren't heavily influenced on social issues nor his star persona- They were functional and intentionally obscure. Sometimes too obscure (as in "Sitting Still") which reinforced by the mumblings just couldn't be taken too seriously, but (as the album title suggests) the output seem first, quiet steps from a band who choose not to embrace openly their minimalistic artsy VU strong influence nor post punk and new wave. That's the charm of Stipe and what often saves him from sounding too pretentious, confronted with the typical personality of Peter Buck: down to earth and rock friendly even after english plane incidents. I'm not even mentioning the geeky appearing bass player with the funny voice nor the man with thick eyebrows and determination.

As it is, this may be their best album on the basis of pure freshness and relative originality. Only with New adventures in Hi-fi, thirteen years later, they were able to both synthesize and expand their music.

TheKarmaSlug@aol.com
WAAAYYY overrated. I can't believe so many people hold this as the first alternative, er, excuse me, post-punk album and one with a sound that came out of nowhere, when U2's Boy came three years earlier. If you ask me, U2's debut did what others claim this one did, and the sound is like a delfated version of that album. Not to say that it is, though. There are some good moments, like "Talk About the Passion" and "Perfect Circle", but I agree with you on a lot of the songs being boring...stragley they are not the same ones....

scott_colby@yahoo.com
I'm glad to see everyone can agree. The album is always an enjoyable listen and the songs that bring it to life are "Radio Free Europe"(just because something is popular doesn't mean it sucks), "Catapult", "Sitting Still", "Moral Kiosk", "9-9", "Perfect Circle", "West Of The Fields", "Talk About The Passion", and "Pilgrimage"(we don't need more religious crap, but its a good song). "We Walk" is a fine album track and "Laughing" and "Shaking Through" are lowpoints. It works well as an album and I would agree it is an 8 out of 10.

NMcpherson@fac.unc.edu (Norman McPherson)
I used to set in a chair, flop back and drink Seagram's' and Seven-Up in a plastic quart cup when the weather was bad and I couldn't work. My first wife could though so that gave me a start real early in the a.m. I'd put 'Murmur' on and get lost while the dreamy music played and Michael mumbled. Seagram's helped me a lot then. A strong nine.

watta502@yahoo.gr (Akis Katsman)
Murmur is a solid nine. It's full of great songs, even if most of them sound almost the same. My favourites are "Perfect Circle" and the catchy-as-hell "Catapult". Also, what's wrong with "We Walk"? It's a great song! Maybe the best REM album, along with Out Of Time and Automatic For The People.

ddickson@rice.edu
High number? Who?? A HA HA!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

Hehhehheh. I get it (who).

By the way, this is a good debut. I only give it a nine instead of a ten because "West of the Fields" sucks. The rest is a lead balloon, yardbird!

Okay, that also sucked.

DRosenberg@gcigroup.com
Talk About the Passion is “lifeless” and a “bore?” Maybe you’ve heard it too many times. I recently re-discovered this album and am enjoying that track immensely. I think it’s among their best songs.

halbert@utc.msstate.edu
Back in the early Eighties, I was a college disc jockey who played vinyl albums for songs and eight track cartridges for PSA's and sponsor announcements. This album is the first American effort to be classified as "Alternative". The English and Irish contributions at the time were U2, The Alarm, Cure, Modern English, and so on, but no bands, except maybe The Ramones,B52's, and X were not looking to target the mainstream, but the college and young professionals market, Thus the term "Alternative".

When I first heard this LP, it did nothing for me, I was still recovering from my Van Halen, early Journey, Styx, Foreigner,etc.. days. The first song, "Radio Free Europe" got some airplay from me, but it didn't give me a musical erection, so I later played "Laughing" and "Talk about the Passion" regularely in my rotation, but Murmer really didn't knock me off my feet, so it means little to me except that the critics hailed this as the new alternative sound to late 70's arena rock. I do like this disc now because I love so many of their following albums, Reckoning,Fables, Pageant, and Document.

When it first came out , I would give it a six or a generous seven. Years later, I give it an eight or maybe a nine.

pobbierarr@hotmail.com
Yay, a rewrite!

Disappointed you didn't up it to a ten Mark, but at least you removed the comparison with James Taylor. That was way below the belt!

thepublicimage79@hotmail.com
"8-8"? Don't you mean "9-9"?

anyway, this is a good album, although it took me forever to appreciate it. more later.

Alainna Earl
radio free europe is probably my favorite R.e.m song.

Ben
Though I could see how people would love this album, I don't. If I wanted to hear stuff like this, I'll just put on an early Beatles album instead. Michael Stipe's lyrics make no sense, and though all the songs have great melodies, they all sound exactly the same. The reason why it gets a 7.5 from me is because I like the production, and none of these songs are actually bad (although "We Walk" is way too cute). I guess my favorites are "Radio Free Europe" and "West of the Fields". Not only is there better R.E.M., but there's better stuff like this in general.

Add your thoughts?

Reckoning - IRS 1984.
Rating = 8

I used to accuse the first three REM LPs of being "too slow," but now that I listen to them again, many many years later, I can easily see my error. Most of the songs aren't slow at all; the problem is that (a) the production style and instrumental tones are very muted so there are no great explosions of energy like on Chronic Town or their later work, and (b) Michael Stipe sings everything like it's a guide vocal. He sounds bored out of his mind, and it really affects the feel of the songs. Listen to "7 Chinese Brothers," for Christ's sake. The band is playing nice mid- to uptempo folk-rock piece, and Stipe's just muttering and talk-singing his way through it like he hasn't even learned the song yet! Still, how can one deny the grandiose worthiness of songs as harrowing as "So. Central Rain," cheerily rockin' as "Pretty Persuasion" and hypnotically beautiful as "Time After Time?"

I suppose I shouldn't complain about the energy vaccum since the mood is still very pleasant. You don't need to rock all day. Sometimes it's good to just take it easy and let some softened arpeggios drift over your head and drip little bits of rainbow in your hair, setting it aflame with pleasantness and a really smelly "burning hair" odor. Then smoke some reefer and drive a truck full of explosives to an elementary school.

Nah, don't. Pleasant relaxing album though, if it doesn't put you to sleep.

Reader Comments

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
I think the album on a whole has a quicker pace than Murmur (save for "Camera"), but that doesn't mean it's better. I will always wonder why the band stopped at ten songs on this album. HOW could they try to top Murmur with this if it didn't have as many songs? It's certainly one of R.E.M.'s weaker discs, but if you know the lyrics and what each song is really about the whole shebang becomes a lot more interesting.

Bye76@aol.com
This album is a very strong follow up to the Godhead Murmur. "7 Chinese Brothers" is a rollicking, beautiful beat poetry song, "So. Central Rain" makes me melt every time, and I love "Letter Never Sent"'s guitar line to death. Only misstep is "Camera"....that song I find boring. Other than that, lots of great Southern-fried jangle rock, and while not as breathtaking as Murmur, it's a solid album all the way through.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Reckoning is another explosion of crafty melodies, heartfelt (though not cheesy) vocals and great pacing. The two ballads are in the correct spots so that the album is well spaced. Personally, side one of this album, containing "so. central rain" and "pretty persuasion" is pretty much flawless. Side two is great also, with the fine song "don't go back to rockville". Basically, I like it almost as much as Murmur, and it's certainly more concise and direct than Murmur, despite what the Spin Record Guide would have you think.

10/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Much better than the hit-or-miss debut, Reckoning somehow manages to pack plenty of catchy melodies into a smaller number of songs. The entire first side is fantastic, with "Harborcoat" being perfect pop and "Time After Time" being one of those immortal ballads that sounds like you've heard it endlessly on the radio. And, by the way, "Pretty Persuasion" and "So. Central Rain" have plenty of gas in their tanks! They rock harder than anything on Murmur, and more convincingly than Monster. And, again, "Time After Time" is perfect. Sorry, that fact just bears repeating.

Side two is weaker, with less memorable tunes, but "Rockville" is a classic of the American underground - a true beauty that, according to critics, reinvented "southern rock," whatever the hell that is. And "Camera" is amazing! Really beautiful, though not even close to that other ballad on here. You know - the one I've mentioned about eight times? Yeah, that's the one.

I guess I'd have to give it an eight, since it's up against Automatic, Green, and Pageant But if this were the product of another band, it would surely get a none or ten.

richbunnell@home.com
No weaker than the last album, it has only about half of the atmosphere but at least twice the energy. More individual songs stick out, in particular "Harborcoat," "Time After Time," "Don’t Go Back To Rockville"(which is actually listenable country because of how tongue-in-cheek it is) and "So. Central Rain," which they rewrote 14 years later, added a bunch of sound effects onto it, and called it "The Apologist." I’d give this one a 9 too, it’s just as enjoyable as the debut!

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
8/10: Similar to above but with some less memorable songs.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Very pretty guitars, perhaps Peter Buck's hour of most lovely guitar. Drags a little. I like all of side one. "Time After Time" is my favorite song, not just to get back at Pavement either. Michael Stipe's hair is in a holding pattern.

mulliganmulligan@earthlink.net (Ryan Mulligan)
This one would get an 8 or a 9 from me. When it works, it's fabulous("Harborcoat", "Time After Time', "So. Central Rain"), but it's definitely too slow at times("Camera"). I love the verses of "Rockville", but what a nerdy chorus. Their 3rd best, if you ask me. What's he saying though?

vexor@neo.rr.com (Vexor)
[WARNING: The following paragraph contains heavy use of parenthesis. If parenthesis cause you great pain for some odd reason, please aviod reading further.] Man, does this album start off great! "HarborcOat" may be the most underrated song in R.E.M. history! The wonderful vocal melodies (coupled by marvelous riffitude) and harmonies (love that chorus! "Buuuuuuuuuyyyyyyyyy my haaaaaarrrborcoat!"), and is packed with energy (none in their gas tank? Waa!); I never get tired of it! "7 ChineSe bros.", which might be the best song on here, has even more heavenly melodic riffage courtesy of Mr. Buck (that riff just towers over everything during the chorus, DAMN!). "so. Central Rain" is interesting because it sounds absolutely nothing like the rest of the album (except maybe "ROCKVILLE") as it's got a sort of countryish flavor and the production is completely different (it's has a very subdued sound as opposed to being bright and shimmery). And "Pretty Persuasion" rocks and kicks ass harder and meaner than anything off Monster. However, I find "Time After Time (annElise)" to be overrated. The weak riff just doesn't do the soaring vocal melody justice (listen to the mostly accapella acoustic version on the Document re-issue to get a good idea of the song's real potential). But it's not bad; it certainly doesn't BLOW, despite what Brian Burks will tell you. That aside, side one is almost perfect; the first four songs are absolute classics, and "Time After Time" is just, ehh, average (aside from a killer solo break).

But then, ugh! I may be the only one who believes this, but the second side is ATROCIOUS! "second GuessinG" is nice enough, but it's mostly because of the bouncy energy and concert hall-sounding mix. But then you've got "letter Never seNt", an awful song with Stipe doing these stupid grunts and a horrible, malformed "chorus", not to mention the fact that the song goes nowhere. And I'm sorry, but "camerA" just blows. It may have a nice '70s ballad atmosphere to it, but the song just sits on its ass without doing anything interesting. "(don't Go back To) ROCKVILLE" is okay, it's a pleasent country-made-listenable number that just kinda passes by without leaving a serious impression, much a good portion of Automatic. The album, unfortunately, ends on a sour note with "little america", which has a pretty good riff but the rest of the song just sounds half-baked and the chorus is a wretched, unmelodic mess. Sorry if I'm probably the only one in the universe who finds this album heavily flawed in song quality, but this is my opinion and I'm sticking with it. Divide the first side (9) with the second (4) and this album gets a 6.5. Round that up and you get a 7.

Oh yeah, and if you're wondering why I gave the song titles screwed-up capitalization, it's because that's how they're capitalized on the back cover and on the CD. And you all know that it's my duty to be as authentic as possible (smiley).

Jcjh20@aol.com
Classic album, one of my favorites. "So. Central Rain" is really the most well known song here (And still played live on their recent tours), probably, (maybe "(Dont go back to) Rockville" too) but everything else on here is excellent shit, indeed. "7 Chinese Bros." is peppy, and damn catchy, as is "Pretty Persuasion", "Harborcoat", and "Second Guessing". "Little America" and "Letter Never Sent" are very nice songs with great creative guitar licks courtesy of Peter. "Time After Time" (pretty weird in the beginning! The guitar sounds like a dang sitar when it starts out) and "Camera" are beautiful ballads. So there ya go, i definatly suggest anyone only familar with newer REM to get this album. Even though i really like Reveal and Up, i do really miss this early side of them. 9/10.

Muggwort@aol.com
reckoning is one of r.e.m's average albums, not because the song writing is spectacular but because it is probably the catchiest album of all-time (and I do own nevermind).

the songs vary from great (7 Chinese bros.), to wonderfully banal (so. Central rain) to just plain shitty (little America). but no matter what the quality of the song is they are all catchy.

8/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
Another winner in the R.E.M. canon. That's three winners in a row for those of you keeping score at home. I like the cleaner production on this album. It allows Peter's guitar to really chime and jangle with abandon. While not as atmospheric as Murmur, it makes up for it by sounding a hell of a lot brighter. And I don't buy your assertion that there was nothing in the tank either, Mr. Prindle. The first three songs may not be hard-rockin' masterpieces in the tradition of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom," but they sure as hell don't lack for energy. "Harborcoat" is a spiffy, poppy wonder, and I just love those bass lines in "S. Central Rain" that lead into the verses. And "Pretty Persuasion" flat out rocks indeed. I know that's not one of the first three. I'm just trying to make a point... and my head hurts.

Can I make a gripe that might tarry from the subject a tad? Why must everyone say that "Rockville" is country made listenable? All that tells me is that you're not a fan of country music, so anything you say on the subject of country, listenable or not, is questionable at best. Hey, hate country music all you want. I hated it most of my life. But if "Rockville" is a good song, just say it's a good song. Personally, I love it, but then I love Jimmie Dale Gilmore and several other guys with three names.

Also, the end of the album starts to drag a bit. It's not bad, but can't compete with the wonderment contained in the first five or so tracks... "Rockville" being a stellar exception. And lay off of "Camera." It's purty.

Pavementadam@aol.com
An incredible follow up to an incredible debut. Amazingly, Reckoning has very few similarities to Murmur. In fact, they are so different I can't rate one above the other. Side one is pure brilliance opening with Harbourcoat. Sounds like a single til Stipe opens with "they crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off". I also challenge anyone to claim that there is a more original and beautiful single than "So. Central Rain" from the 80's. (I still get goosebumps when I hear it) . "Pretty Persuasion has that magic quality, where when I play it for the uninitiated, most claim that they love it and swear that they had heard it before. I concur when Pavement claimed that "time After Time" was their least fave song......but that only means it is the lesser, yet inclusive of the ten classics. "pretty Persuasion", "rockville", and "camera" are also 80's classics. Murmur and Reckoning were truly the most original albums of the 80's and deserve their high status.

halbert@utc.msstate.edu
The 3rd or 4th, if you count the bootleg, release from the band that solidified Athens,Ga. as a musical mecca to be reckoned with, gave us a more upbeat sound from the band as compared to their previous LP, Similar to the "Chronic Town" EP.

"Harborcoat", "Pretty Persuasion", "Little America", and "7 Chinese Brothers" have a faster paced speed to them and the opening riff of "South Central Rain", reminiscent of several Byrds tunes and the apologetic "I'm Sorry, I'm Sorry chorus during the song, make it an unforgettable number for me.

The song "Rockville" will always be special in my memory because my friends and I would be partying pretty hard and during the early morning hours before sunrise, we would gather around, play this song on the turntable and sing the chorus "Don't go back to Rockville, and waste another year'. Those lines seemed to speak to us, because we sang it several times years after its initial release, Especially since we were delaying our graduation from being a college student and entering the"Real World.

My roomate had the vinyl version and I had the cassette format of "Reckoning", so it holds a soft spot in my memory, but it still lacks so *8" is a good mark for this one.

Ben
Sounds like Murmur part 2, except with better production. Songs aren't as good though, but one of them ("Don't Go Back to Rockville") is better than anything on the previous album. Unfortunately, one of them is worse than any of the crappiest stuff on there ("Camera"). The album is very pleasant, even of it does get boring, and Michael's voice isn't at it's strongest. Listening to this album again, I realized that "Harborcoat" and "Little America" are a lot better than I remembered them. I'll give this a 7 Chinese brothers.

Add your thoughts?

Fables Of The Reconstruction - IRS 1985.
Rating = 8

Eeven lazier than the last one! And this one honestly IS slow. I guess you'd call these songs "folk lullabies." Or "coma rock" maybe. So sluggish and relaxed. But like that last LP, if you can separate (remember - there's "a rat" in "separate" - you'll never spell it wrong again) each song from the one that came before, you'll find that they're all actually very well-written, creative and melodic. It's just the overall mood that's pulse-freezing. The only "rockers" on the album are the dark, confusing train ballad "Driver 8," the hilarious horn-laden funk rocker "Can't Get There From Here," and the "Driver 8"-wannabe, "Another Engine." All the others, like "Wendell Gee," "Green Grow The Rushes," and "Maps And Legends," have all the energy of, say, the letter L. They're pretty, though. If you're looking for relaxing 80's college music, give it a whirl. Some are dark, some are light, and they're all, you know, songs, pretty much.

Reader Comments

Sequel.Solutions@msn.fullfeed.com (Dick Burger)
Fables is a dreamy, southern, moody album with no commercial appeal. The bootleg versions of many of the songs, especially "Life And How To Live It", have more fire. Fables is a unique artistic achievement - I dare you, double dare you, to name any recording by R.E.M. or anyone else that is similar.

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
Hey! Fables is a lyrically superb album that sparks true feeling and emotion. Yah, it's slow, but it's good, melodic, and inventive. It was a lot like Automatic, and has its own unique feel that pulls you from the very first song to the last song.

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
I think you and my ninth grade English teacher are kindred spirits. That's the way she taught my class to spell separate! Yay for you!

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
I'm with Scott and Dick. This is art, and true art cannot be dull!! Has any band ever, before or since, come up with as weird a riff/groove as "Feeling Gravity's Pull"? And "Driver 8" and "Life" are incredible.

Not quite Murmur or Pageant, but no snoozer, either.

JLR5@uno.cc.geneseo.edu
This album is far from boring. Only an untrained ear would say that. It is an amazing album with lyrics and sounds that only REM could accomplish so well. With songs like "Wendell Gee", "Maps and Legends", and "Feeling Gravitys Pull" it is yet another great album by a unique band.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
It's certainly a different approach, and very hard to "rank" in terms of their other albums. It's more ambitious than Reckoning but can't match Murmur, so it makes a nice little in-betweener. Plus I love the fact that Stipe borrows the "reason had harnessed the tame" line from the last song on Reckoning and incorporates it here on "Feeling Gravitys Pull" (fans will know what I mean).

greggo@pacific.mps.ohio-state.edu (Greg Mohler)
'Tis a beautiful album, prolly the most atmospheric chunk of tunes R.E.M. ever put out, but the Prindle-Man is right. The first time I listened to Fables, I thought, "man, all these songs sound the same." A week of careful listening revealed to me the dark southern swampy American Gothic-ness of it, and the tunes were kicking my ass (favorite song: Kohoutek. The way the enigmatic vocals are almost competely swallowed by the wall of jangle... damn! The epitome of mid-80's R.E.M.). But... after a few months, I'd be crankin' the Fables, and I would realize... "hey! these tunes are kicking my ass, but I can't keep my eyes open!" After a good Fables-listenin', I'd be groggy and semi-conscious the rest of the day. Oi!

InMyEyes82@aol.com
This is where the band (God bless 'em) took a bit of a falter. Despite the murky classics "Driver 8", "Auctioneer" and "Green grow the rushes", as well as the fun(ky), hilarious "Can't get there from here", Fables of the Reconstruction is a little inconsistent. And, for the first time in their career, R.E.M. came up with a few songs that are forgettable, like "Kohoutek" and "Wendell Gee". I still enjoy listening to the album, but it's a bit of a downer.

7/10

richbunnell@home.com
Dude, Mark, "Life And How To Live It" isn't an energetic song? I mean, I guess it's not the fastest song ever written, but it's a hell of a lot faster than "Driver 8" and "Auctioneer"! This album starts to lose me a bit once the second half kicks in, but it still has enough great songs and a cool, murky enough atmosphere to qualify as a classic. "Can't Get There From Here" is out-of-place, but at the beginning of side 2 it works as a sort of "wake up call" for those who were put to sleep by the slooow (but still good!) "Old Man Kensey." 8/10

By the way, TMBG should cover "Can't Get There From Here." Seriously. Linnell could do Stipe's lead vocals and Flans could do Mike's backing vocals. Yeah, I'm a nerd.

avsouza@webtv.net (Tony Souza)
In 1985, a friend loaned me a copy of this, and when I listened to it, I liked it very much. Considering what was going on in pop music at the time, this album was like a breath of fresh air. At that time, most bands were using drum machines and synthesizers and when I heard this, it was great to here just electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, etc. The songwrting was also a step ahead of most other bands.. Looking back now, there are some thin parts, but I think the dream-like quality this has is a real plus. I agree with the reviewers' rating.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Sure, not as great as Lifes Rich Pageant, or even (dare I say it?) Green, but this is a damn good early REM album - with one of their best tunes, "Feeling Gravity's Pull." Man, I love it. Notice the similarity (and superiority) to REM-clone Live's later hit "Lakini's Juice." Both have a really akward guitar riff, both have out-of-place strings, and both are pretty dang good songs. I prefer the REM, though, because, unlike Live, they actually came up with some original ideas.

Rest of the album is good, too, though not their best. I like "Wendell Gee" - reminds me of Elvis Costello's "Little Triggers", far from the "total suck job" Prindle claims it is.

amitb84@hotmail.com
for those who don't like the mighty fables here's some advise. imagine being in a band pissing each other off, being in a different country recording an album in the freezing winter. with that in mind put on fables and then you will relise just how good this album is. a definate 10 (up their and maybe even better than murmur, remember i said maybe)

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
6/10: I'm sorry but this album is just dull - It sounds like they just couldn't be bothered to do anything properly. (Apologies to Nicky Wire!)

smcquill@home.com (Sean McQuillan)
Fables is the best thing they've done. It's just that if they'd kept going in that direction on Pageant, they would of lost us. Still, its the gem in their catalogue that needed to be made.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
When this album is on, it's phenomenal. When it's off, it blows. It's usually on, though. The first four songs are some of my favorites. "Can't Get There", "Green Grow", "Auctioneer" and "Good Advices" are all brilliant. But really, really we don't need "Old Man Kensey" or "Wendall Gee" in our lives no matter how blissfully Southern they are. No Stipe hair news here, but Mike Mills' shag 'do really enhances his natural resemblance to Bill Gates.

Jcjh20@aol.com
Very great album in my opinion. Might be slow, but the songs are classics if your paying attention. The only thing close to a stinker is "Maps And Legends", which is Ok, but kinda bores me. "Life And How To Live It" definatly gives a clue to whats ahead, as it is a song that would fit perfect in Lifes Rich Pageant. "Cant Get There From Here" is a nice funky rocker. And "Driver 8", "Green Grow The Rushes", "Feeling Gravitys Pull", and "Auctioneer" are REM classics. "Kohoutek" and "Wendell Gee" are also beautiful songs that seem to be underrated among REM fans as well. I love "Good Advices" and "Old Man Kensey" as well. Id give it a very high 8.

Muggwort@aol.com
Fables of the reconstruction is the most boring album in r.e.m's catalogue the only song I love is "feeling gratuities pull" the rest although well written doesn't have enough hooks to keep my attention.

7/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
I went to dig this out of the old vinyl collection this afternoon to refresh my memory in an effort to have a well-formed opinion if not an intelligent one, and I couldn't find the damn thing. This being the case, a general reminiscence will have to do.

First of all, this is the R.E.M. album I've listened to the least mainly because it didn't make much of an impression on me. It kind of meanders by without leaving any heavy prints. "Driver 8" is nice and "Can't Get There From Here" stands out because it's pretty darn good and because it's pretty darn atypical for R.E.M. "Green Grow the Rushes" sparks a pleasant memory as well. This is not a bad album in the way an album by, say, Creed is a bad album. It just didn't stick to my ribs, if you know what I mean. I'll probably still go out and replace it on cd, though. I would, however, call this album a bit of a misstep.

By the way, the over-the-top folkiness of the album can be partially attributed to the fact that it was produced by well-known folk-rock producer Joe Boyd. He's worked with folks like Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny and he signed Nick Drake and worked on some of his music. Dark and folky is his middle name (are his middle names?)

rmulligan@comcast.net (Ryan Mulligan)
Draggy. "Driver 8" is the only real classic here. Train song with a train video. "Auctioneer" exists for reasons I'm not sure of. "Feeling Gravitys Pull" rules too, but that little riff is stolen from "Pop Song 89" (released 3 years later). Step up. Step up. "Can't Get There From Here" sounds nothing like R.E.M. Cool song, though! Most of the rest of them are not stuck in my head because they have no melodies. One of those records that sounds fine when it's on, but you don't actually put it on that often. 7/10

ah@adamhammack.com
a good portion of this album is like going to sleep on a heavy dose of sedatives, like cough medicine or opium. not that the album itself is terribly druggy at all, but it is indeed terribly slow.

terribly, of course, being the traditional way of saying "pleasantly".

as memory serves, only "life and how to live it", "can't get there from here", and bits of "auctioneer (another engine)" speed up to above a paraplegic mime's pace. everything else is catatonically slow, uncharacteristically maudlin, and quite heavy on the atmospherics to boot. they haven't made but two other albums that can match the sustained ambience of this one. (they are, if you're asking me, which nobody ever has or ever will, "automatic for the people" and "up".)

the guitar riff of "feeling gravity's pull" alone should pull you in and get you primed. if that song doesn't do it for you, then take the cd out and use the little hole in the middle for some other more creative purpose.

congratulate me, guys. i managed to resist the temptation to make a blatant, crass joke about the little hole in the middle of cd's!

unless you count as a joke those last two sentences where i was talking about congratulating me for not being a perv, in which case nevermind. and the two before it where i started talking about a little hole in the middle. like girls have in the middle of their

edm1213@msn.com
this album is dreary and slow. but the feeling and atmosphere of this album might make it my favorite of REM's 80s albums. I take back what i said in my comment on their 2008 album (I forgot what it's called at this point seriously, all I know is it had a song on it called "I'm Gonna DJ") about not caring about their early stuff as much as the pop hits from the late 80s (Green) onward. I got ahold of the first 5 albums for $5 or less used recently, and I have to say they were on to something in their early years that I wish they had stuck with (though I like a lot if not a majority of the material from Green to UP in '98 to some extent). It might have taken me till i was almost 30 appreciate this band's early material, but it's never too late for anyone to do anything in this life (hey, Lemmy didnt even form Motorhead til he was 40 or 50 or something right?).

back to R.E.M. This is a different type of Southern Rock for lack of a better word. Murmur thru Document's downbeat, depressive Southern feeling can't be beat. If I remember right Cliff Burton was a big fan of REM's first three albums, the most recent of which woulda been Fables, before his tragic passing in '86. Draw from that whatever you will, metal folks. I don't even think of myself as particularly metal anymore. But the first half of Fables has got the down depressed deep South feeling in spades, and will keep you listening for the second half at least.

Gravity, Maps and Legends, Driver 8, those are classic tracks here. Cant Get There, Wendell Gee, everything else grew on me. all of the others before Green are 9s, this is a 10. But enough about me, let's talk about Slayer (im listening to Hell Awaits as I write this).

notomich@gmail.com
Decent album. Not perfect. Too slow for the most part, plus some of the songs are just halfassed. "Green Grow The Rushes"? "Wendell Gee"? Yecch.

But some of the songs are remarkable and truly atypical of R.E.M.

"Feeling Gravitys Pull" is one of the five best songs they ever did - why couldn't they write more material that evocative, bizarrely catchy and eerie? Peter Buck almost sounds like Keith Levene and Andy Gill on that song.

"Maps and Legends" and "Driver 8" are also wonderful.

Ben
This ones slower and a lot harder to get into. I started out liking this one less than the first two albums, but now I like it better. I think "Can't Get There from Here" (R.E.M. getting funky?!) is the best song they ever did. Other classics include "Driver 8" (of course), "Feeling Gravitys Pull" and "Auctioneer". I guess the point of this album was to get back to their southern roots of something. Whatever it was, it worked.

Add your thoughts?

* Lifes Rich Pageant - IRS 1986. *
Rating = 10

Finally, they crank up the asbestos and rock!!!!! So long, folk! Hello, audible vocals! A TRUE stand-out. And I mean that in the Spandau Ballet sense of the word. Lots of hits - the moody lead track "Begin The Begin" (can you beat that little "doodle-oo-doo-dee-doo-doo-doo" guitar bit? No, you cannot!), the sad harmonious "Fall On Me," the dark sandbagger indictment "Swan Swan H," and the upbeat Mike-Mills-larynxed "Superman" cover all polluted the airwaves with tasty goodness for a good half-year or so. And did someone say "rock?" No, they didn't! Nevertheless, "Hyena," "I Believe," and "These Days" totally book ass along like folk punk or something! My two favorites weren't hits, but neither fail to bring a chill to my refrigerator; they're called "Cuyahoga" and "What If We Give It Away?," and I suggest you run on down to your local Blockbuster and rent them tonight. Sure, one or a couple seem to slip by with no noticable effect, but only because the rest are so outstanding. Lots of terrific melodies and excitement. Yes sir, ma'am. The pinnacle.

Reader Comments

dfayes@mail.ic.net (Dena)
In terms of this album, you forgot to mention that when it came time for the band to record this album they had little material, resulting in them putting on covers or old songs ("Superman," "Just A Touch," etc) which led to a somewhat incoherent flow, although the album contains some AMAZING tracks like "These Days" etc....

Sequel.Solutions@msn.fullfeed.com (Dick Burger)
Right on!

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
I completely agree with you...Life's Rich Pageant is an absolutely wonderful album, but one of the only songs you didn't mention is my favorite on the album! "Flowers of Guatemala" is a breathtakingly beautiful song with wonderful imagery. Others, such as "These Days" and "Begin the Begin" are also amazing, but "Flowers of Guatemala" deserves recognition.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
I agree completely and absolutely - only Husker Du (I'm quite serious) approaches this in terms of quality output in the eighties. This album makes me feel really good, even the sad stuff like your faves. And I really like your term "folk-punk".

Not Really Peter Nicholson (nicho@dcscomp.com.au)
(My name is not really Peter Nicholson, my friend wrote this, I don't like them myself): A fine album by any standards. Four million out of ten!

jay44@webtv.net (Jesse McClung)
I really used to despise REM about three years back; "Shiny Happy People" sounded a little gayish to say the least. Eventually I got around to appreciating their longevity and consistency, and started compiling a collection of their past albums. At first listen Life's Rich Pageant didn't strike me as anything great, but after reading your review of it I decided to give it a listen all the way through and I enjoyed it much more. I still think AFTP is their finest record.

seo@total.net (Stphane Ouimet)
This is the album that made me discover the band. And what an album! Some relief it was, since Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Wang Chung (where are they now?) reigned supreme during that period. Best record R.E.M. ever made.

Weigelda@aol.com (Phil Persing)
I totally agree. This is definitely R.E.M.'s best!

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
I love anything that REM puts out, and "Fall On Me" is my favorite single. It converts Life's Rich Pageant from a decent album to an REM essential.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
Takes a back seat to Out of Time for their best album, but it's awesome nonetheless. "Superman" is THE best REM song of all time. And "Fall On Me" is, of course, a classic. My only complaint is a lot of the songs (like "Hyena", "Just a Touch" and "These Days") sound the same.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
For some reason I used to HATE the album for many moons when I compared it with R.E.M.'s previous work. Why? I wish I could answer that, but one day I was listening to it and I realized something: THIS is the new R.E.M., and they kick ASS now! Can't say it's better than Murmur, but musically it's got some real power to it (witness Peter Buck's fist guitar "solo" on "The Flowers of Guatemala"), and all the lyrics are related to America in some way, shape or form, but they're really tough to crack...in fact when I saw the lyrics to "Just a Touch" for the first time I couldn't stop laughing. The only weaknesses are that "Underneath the Bunker" is too short for an instrumental (or an official track), and "Superman"--although I love the wind-up Godzilla toy featured at the start of the song--is a pretty weak way to end an album like this, especially since it's a cover. But the only thing that's really missing from this album is...THE APOSTROPHE! It's nowhere in the title, just like "Feeling Gravitys Pull!" Methinks someone has to teach this band proper grammer...er, grammar!

paklaus3@mci2000.com
I believe that some people are music critics and that other people have their their own web pages. You sir have your own web page! Life s Rich Pageant is superior to Murmur and Fables of the Reconstruction in the same way that Beavis and Butthead think Ozzy is superior to the Replacements. Pardon me for using B&B, as an example but considering your understanding of REM music they seemed a likely source to cite. It rocks therefore it is good? Compared to their previous work Life s Rich Pageant has all the depth of a bottle cap. Have you listened to this LP more than once?

Bye76@aol.com
I echo Mr. Prindle's sentiments here! This album is probably the most severely underrated one of all time. It's got a "rock" feel to it, while still retaining the dreamscape ruminations of the past two records. "Fall On Me" is breathtaking. "Just a Touch" is their most punky, fun song, perhaps of all time. The instrumental sounds inane and boring, but other ballads like "Swan Swan H" and "Flowers of Guatemala" are very beautiful. This one's probably even better than Reckoning. So why does everyone label it as being mediocre?

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Lifes Rich Pageant is a definite step up from Fables, in that it is a light- hearted, positive, friendly album as opposed to Fables' creepy older brother. A few songs, like "Fall on Me", "Begin the Begin" and "Just a touch" are die- cast classics and are some of the most brilliant work this band has ever done. Again, as with Fables, there are a couple of nondescripts here ("Underneath the bunker", "What if we give it away") but for the most part I love this one. And there's a cool pictogram on the cover (Buffalo Bill)!

8/10

richbunnell@home.com
Awesome album. I guess that in retrospect it's a bit of a sellout, but only in the sense that the guitars are charged up and you can actually hear what Stipey's saying. I agree that "What If We Give It Away" and "Cuyahoga" are the outright highlights on this one. Especially the former -- yowee, what a great song!! "Begin The Begin" and "Fall On Me" also impress me. Easily one of R.E.M.'s best releases. 9/10

kduffy@imagina.com
SWEET!!!! you kick ass!! not only do you put up with all the hate mail you get for not workshipping everyone's favorite band, but you like life's rich pageant!! i read the review because i assumed you would have some "asanine" comments on how it could have been sooooo much better, but instead you like it as much as i do! this is the only rem album that really means something to me; i thought i was the only one who likes it.. do you know what would be cooler? if you caved in and gave daydream nation a 10 rating! submit! submit! you know it's a good album! it's a 10! the sprawl is genius and total trash is funny! anyway. i'm going to go calm down now.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
I don't know why it took me s long to comment on this album - it's one of my faves, and really makes me feel stupid for saying that Green gets a ten.

Anyway - this album is superb! Starts out with "Begin The Begin" - the best opener they've ever done and sounds like they will ever do, if that box-o-crap "Airportman" is any signal of their sound on future releases. And then, they go right into "These Days" which is every bit as good a great rocker! A few of the songs aren't all that special - I really despise "Just A Touch," and "Hyena" is kind of stupid (but catchy!) - however, the rest of the album is a fine, well-produced way of "whupping booty." I love it to death.

And, to my good pal Rich Bunnell, who said in the Eponymous section that "Fall On Me" is the only real highlight - wait a sec! "Superman" isn't a highlight? That was a hit single, and a hugely popular tune that a lot of people associate closely with the band (though not as close as that stupid version in that recent car or pentium commercial). "Swan Swan H" isn't a highlight? It sounds like nothing this band had ever recorded! Folky, but in a real authentic, civil war way. And as for "Cuyahoga" and "Begin The Begin" - NOT two of the best tunes ever? Anyone who makes that claim is just asking for it.

So - it's not perfect, but it's superb. I think this one is pretty close following Green as my favourite by the band.

richbunnell@home.com
No, no, no Ben, I wasn't saying that "Fall On Me" is the only good song on Lifes Rich Pageant--it has tons of great songs, but I personally feel that they all work well together sitting there on one album as opposed to cut up into little chunks. "Fall On Me" however was the big single from the album and if one song had to come off of it, it was the best choice. Well, "Superman" probably could've been taken onto Eponymous too since it seems sort of like a really really catchy afterthought instead of part of the whole. "Swan Swan H"? Good song, but "best of" material ahead of "These Days" and "Cuyahoga"? No way!

Now Document, that was much more of a singles album than LRP. It's perfectly imaginable for the three songs from Document on Eponymous to be there, but if a song like "Begin The Begin" was on there, it wouldn't sound right because what it is isn't so much of an individual track as much as it is one of the most kickbutt album openers ever!

jaimeadam@earthlink.net (Jaime and Adam)
Oh yeah, this album is great. It gets no better than Fall on Me. 8/10, I say behind Automatic in the band's pecking order, think about that what you will.

But now my real issue, what's with the song list? Do I have the only copy where the songs on the back have no bearing whatsoever on what you are hearing? It gets real old having to pop out the disk all the time because the only place the songs are written properly is on the CD itself. What noisy cats ARE we?

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
9/10: This is such an underrated album, and it's got 'Fall On Me' on it.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Not their best, no, that'd be Murmur sir. Nice try, but dull tracks like "Flowers Of Guatemala" and "What If We Give It Away" render this album a pathetic almost-perfect. Sorry. Michael Stipe has a wide expanse of forehead.

danzig9@hotmail.com (Daniel Lawrence)
When I told one of my friends I had gotten an REM album, he was pretty upset; being I'm mostly a metal guy. Maybe I'm getting too soft lately, but this record is just amazing. I really like Michael Stipe's voice and his lyrics quite a bit. This is my first REM record. Forgive me because I don't know much about REM as whole, as most people that have written in here do, but I do know what sounds good and this records sounds exactly that. I especially dig the chorus in "These Days". "Fall on Me" is just great. Wonderful production too. I can't compare this to any of their other albums, but this is pretty freakin' great. 10/10 even though "just a touch" is stupid.

bickbyro@altavista.com (Keith Turausky)
If you're listening, Prindle, it was your review of this record (oh, and the Tom Petty/Ramones connection) that convinced me I could trust your critical opinion---no one who considers Lifes Rich Pageant the best R.E.M. album would ever lead me astray, I figure. It's been my favorite R.E.M. album---and probably my favorite album period---for almost 10 years, and it hasn't aged a bit (unlike, and again I find myself in agreement with Prindle, Murmur).

There's not much for me to add that hasn't been said here already, except that a major component of the awesome Pageant sound is the old-school pump organ employed by Mike Mills on (I think) every song but "Swan Swan H." The effect is particularly subtle but particularly nice in the final verse of "These Days." Oh, and the title comes from one of many funny scenes in "A Shot in the Dark," which you should see if you haven't.

I read an interview once where Peter Buck said he didn't think R.E.M. had ever made "one of those truly great albums." I beg to differ.

Jcjh20@aol.com
This is REM at their most punk rockiest. I dont know if its their best album, but its definatly up there. Great combination of straight ahead rockers ("I believe", "Just a Touch") and regular beautiful classics REM always comes up with like "Flowers of Guatemala", "Fall on me", "What if we give it away". "Just A Touch" is actually a old REM tune, that they have been playing around with since 1980, so i guess they stuck it on here for lack of tunes, and it is the weakest song on the album, as well, in my opinion. 9/10

mulliganmulligan@earthlink.net (Ryan Mulligan)
A fabulous album. I give it a 10 and rate it just a little behind Murmur. I can't even believe how good the start of this album is. "Begin The Begin" destroys me everytime. "These Days"? Wow! "Fall On Me"? Beautiful. "Cuyahoga"? Ok, nerdy chorus, but good song! The only misfire is the short and useless "Underneath The Bunker". Dig the weird as hell folk-ballad thingy "Swan Swan H" and the great cover of "Superman" sung by "nerdy" Mike Mills. "Just A Touch" and "I Believe" are also excellent. Really impressive album, but for some reason, I always feel there's something missing or it's somewhat uncertain. Know what I mean? Stipe's lyrics are still insane, but I can hear them this time!

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
Criminy, is that feedback at the beginning of this album!?! So much for the somnambulent folkiness of Fables... Like many of you, I rank this as my favorite R.E.M. album. It's got a nice, full sound and some really wonderful tunes that more than a couple of you have mentioned above. And that cover of "Superman" is fantastic. I've never heard the 60's original, but I can't imagine I need to hear it now. Other standouts to my mind are "Fall On Me," "What If We Give It Away" and "Flowers of Guatemala." Give this to anyone who says R.E.M. don't rock... this and some of the songs off Document. After saying this is my favorite, I should probably write more about it, but I'd just be parroting what a lot of you have already said. Great album by a great band!

Pavementadam@aol.com
Is it just me, or is Begin The Begin one of the coolest, most rockin' songs ever to not have a chorus? Anyway, along with Murmur and Reckoning, this release has to be considered a true 80's classic. Not a bad song in the bunch (save the terrible and pointless Underneath The Bunker). Both sides are equally excellent. Side two probably (well in my humble opinion) contains the most underrated REM song I Believe. These Days, Flowers of Guatamala, Superman, and Cuyahoga are also classics. By the way, I live near Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio..and my only gripe with Stipe is the ridiculously bad pronunciation. It is (chi-a-hoge-a)...OK I will stop bitching now...Peace!!!!!

NMcpherson@fac.unc.edu (Earl McPherson)
I traded a bunch of albums at the Record Exchange in Greensboro, North Carolina for this CD back in the Eighties. One of the best trades that I ever done. I gave it to a kid who lived around us and he loved it. I kinda felt sorry for him because he'd hang around me [an old guy in his mid-thirties] and I thought that he needed a little attention. That was over ten years ago and I never replaced it but the tunes still linger. Maybe it's about time to.

spectre316@email.com (Matt F.)
I just picked up this album a few days ago, and... wow! At first, I was like "this sounds like the same song over and over, save for the singles 'Fall on Me' and 'Superman' which were released in 1986 and 1987 respectively. 1986 was a great year because this album came out and that album by the Smiths that everyone likes came out. I haven't listened to the Smiths album yet, but maybe I should pick it up at FYE when it's really cheap, like I did for this album 'cause it was only TEN DOLLARS and I thought 'My God, I haven't listened to R.E.M. for over a year now, I-needs-a-refreshin'!'"

But then it really grew on me, like FLOWERS OF GUATEMALA! It grew ALL OVER ME! (That's how the lyric goes, right?) THEY GREW EVERYWHERE, LIKE ON MY EYES AND ON MY BUTT!

It's a really good album. I surprised you didn't talk about "Flowers of Guatemala," Mark! That song would be great to hear on record, seeing how it's the first song on the second side. Like when you start li stening to the second side, you'd probably go "wow, this album like really changed!" 'Cause it's all like pretty and non-rocking, and the rest of the album is fucking kick-ass look-ma-I'm-chewing-tobbacco and grabbing-girls-asses-in-a-dirty-bar-at-the-age-of-seventy-three-because-I'm-kickass rock. Eww, tobacco is gross. That stuff puts ugly white bumps in your mouth!

And then those bumps like ooze out white stuff!

GROSS!

I really really really like this album. Every song is really great, and as such, I think the album is a bit too short. I wish it'd go on for at least ten more minutes or something.

I think I'll pick up "Murmurmurmurmuring" next, because I guess the burned copy I have is illegal! I just found that stuff out!

Oh man! I HOPE I DON'T GET CAUGHT! WITH MY PANTS DOWN!

LIKE I DID A COUPLE YEARS AGO WHEN MOM WALKED IN ACCIDENTALLY!

liverpudding@hotmail.com
Is it just me, or does this rank up there with the entire Replacements discography in its need for remastering? On every format I've heard (LP, cassette, CD), the volume of the album is a couple clicks lower than just about everything else I own. Great songs though, one of their strongest batches!

Ben
Yep, the pinnacle indeed. I'll only give this a 9.5 simply because I don't get "Swan". Until hearing this album again a couple days ago, I also didn't like "What if We Give it Away" (the only R.E.M. song from this era they never performed live). But yeah, they finally decide to rock, and it works wonders. Hard to pick a favorite but it's probly "Begin the Begin". But it doesn't matter because this album is very even. Well fucking done.

Add your thoughts?

Dead Letter Office/B-Sides Compiled - IRS 1987.
Rating = 7

Tons of lousy covers (Three Velvet Underground songs? How could that possibly be necessary?) and some fairly interesting original material. In fact, I seem to recall "Ages Of You" being a hit for a few weeks back when I was about thirteen! You? Some rock, some drunken country, some silliness, but all as a whole to end well, really fun. Highlights include a version of "Seven Chinese Brothers" with lyrics read directly off of an old gospel album cover, a horrid take on "King Of The Road" during which you can clearly hear the guitarist shouting the chords to bassist Mike Mills in the background, and a headspinningly stupid hard rocker called "Burning Hell." Go ahead and buy it; where else are you gonna hear a band as serious as R.E.M. doing an Aerosmith cover? Hah? Did Joy Division ever do "Dude Looks Like A Lady?" No, I don't think they did.

Reader Comments

bona@boppo.pp.fi (John S/vderholm)
It's Mike (Bass) who does the shouting. He's shouting "E" to Peter (Guitar) for the first minute or so.

JOHNML@goshen.edu
It's important to remember that the Dead Letter Office CD also contains the entirety of Chronic Town at the end of it. This alone makes it worth buying, since it's (at least in my experience) much easier to find than Chronic Town by itself.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
The CD issue is great for its inclusion of Chronic Town. Also, I really love the cover of Pylon's "Crazy".

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
8/10. Especially since Chronic Town is on the cd. This album is a lot of fun to listen to. You're not supposed to take songs like "Burning Hell" seriously.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
You should mention that Chronic Town is included on the CD release, but I guess everybody else has already done that! Y'know, when I first bought this album I laughed my fanny off, because there truly is some weird stuff on here! Unfortunately, after you listen to it a couple of times the joke gets rather old, and you find yourself listening to it only for the Chronic Town songs. So even though big R.E.M. fans will love what's on here, the average listener will be INCREDIBLY tempted to get rid of it in any way (s)he can.

Jcjh20@aol.com
I personally love the Aerosmith cover of "Toys In The Attic" on here, its funny to hear Peter Buck soloing, he hardly ever does shit like that. And the "7 Chinese Bros." (called "Voice of Harold" on here) with the gospel liner note lyrics is interesting. Plus "Walters Theme" and "King Of The Road" are pretty darn hilarious too. 8/10

Muggwort@aol.com
The only reason anyone should own dead letter office is because it contains chronic town.

6/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
This one is not for the casual fan, but I like it bunches because I was more than a casual fan for a while there. Personally, I like hearing bands do covers, and as Stipe and Buck, at least, are avowed VU fans, three songs by those guys seems okay to me. Anyone who doesn't have a problem with the Velvets shouldn't have a problem with R.E.M.'s take on "Pale Blue Eyes." It rivals "Superman" as their best cover ever.

You know, R.E.M. are not exactly noted for their devil-may-care wackiness, so it's interesting to hear them goofing around. "White Tornado," besides being their only "surf" tune, is a bounding instrumental from a group whose instrumentals can be lackluster. AND the cd includes Chronic Town.

rmulligan@comcast.net (Ryan Mulligan)
If the cd didn't have Chronic Town at the end of it, then it wouldn't be very good! Okay, it has its moments like the great VU cover "There She Goes Again" and to a lesser extent the other two VU covers, but none of the three are better than the originals. "Walters Theme" and "King Of The Road" are funny, but if I wanted humor I'd buy a George Carlin or Sesame Street record. Who's funnier than Grover? The first song sure is good, though. 6/10

liverpudding@hotmail.com
Not to be a voice of discontent, but this ranks as one of my favorite REM albums. It is definitely the REM album I reach to most often now that the '80s are a long shadow. Nostalgia may have a lot to do with it, but I really dig the rawness of the whole thing. It may not be as inventive as Murmur, or as ass-kicking as LRP, and 'Burning Hell' is pretty bad, but it reveals the quirky underbelly of the band. And I love Peter Buck's sloppy as hell guitar on 'King of the Road'. I don't know how many times I've unsuccessfully tried to replicate that solo.

Add your thoughts?

Dead Giveaway Office - Bootleg
Rating = 7

The Replacements weren't no joob. When they released an illegally recorded bootleg under the title When The Shit Hits The Fans, they knew that their young emasculated audience would laugh ironically at all of their unlikely, hilarious cover tunes that were unavailable to the homebound Replacements product purchaser. REM did not feel the same, so a bootlegger was forced to create Dead Giveaway Office and sell it on street corners 'round the globe, as women of the night showcased their wares and drunken charlatans staggered through the bracing Chicago wind to islets of their own sick misery. "Your loss is my gain," this bootlegger cliche'd to Messrs. Buck, Stipe, Mills and Dolenz. "What you refuse to share, I make my bed upon."

And Thank Goodness for small memories, because this is one fun collection of unlikely REM cover material recorded mostly live in concert on flat monophonic audiotapes. The energy is fantastic on these recordings, with Michael Stipe forsaking his artsy bisexual persona for refreshingly amateurish energy and poor shouted vocals. Because this is not your normal store-bought release and thus you, the Internet's lonely traveller, may not ever have seen or heard of it before, allow me to discuss it track-by-track.

Okay, right now I'm on the track of the northbound 6 line, and the first song is GAH@!!!! (*SPLOICK*)

(*32 years pass*)

Okay, I've been reincarnated and grown up to be an entirely new person named Mark Donavaon Prindle, so now I can complete this review. Here are the tracks, along with minor descriptions writ by none other than fuckin' me.

"20th Century Boy" - After a hilarious country-western intro in which Michael Stipe welcomes everybody to an evening of covers and originals, the band goes into a bland little rock song that may or may not be by T. Rex. I've never heard the original, but it's sure no "Bang A Gong"!

"Pills" - The New York Dolls! I've never been so catchy and infectual!

"Theme From 'Barney Miller'" - More humor than an exploding pool table filled with battery acid in a children's daycare center!

"Secret Agent Man" - Penned by brilliant songwriter PF Sloan (who wrote for Turtles, Monkees, Barry McGuire, all the greats!) and recorded by Johnny Horton. They play the chorus wrong, but at least they're not about to reinstate the draft like SOME presidents I could name.

"Hootenanny" - A worthless, shitty, messy cover of a worthwhile, witty, messy Replacements song.

"D.O.A." by BLOODROCK!!!! REM doing a BLOODROCK COVER!!!!!! Before they begin, Michael Stipe announces, "This is the worst song ever written by mankind" and admits that he's reading the lyrics from a piece of paper. And then they play A BLOODROCK SONG!!!! Michael never quite manages to find the right singing notes (because they're DIFFICULT! I tried to find them once while recording a parody of "D.O.A." and it takes a lot of concentration to get them right. They kind of completely go AGAINST the chords instead of with them.), but the chorus, complete with harmonic wailing by Mike Mills, sounds PERFECT. It is impossible not to sing along with them, even if they're "taking the piss" out of the song, or "taking a piss" on the audience, as they occasionally did during guest appearances by flautist GG Allin.

"Omaha" - An okay song. It might be by Moby Grape, I don't really know.

"I Got You Babe" - Mike and Michael perform this Sonny & Cher classic as a heartfelt duet! Strangely, Cher's lines are sung by Mike Mills, by far the manlier of the two, with his big huge muscles, handlebar mustache and 6-pack.

"Moon River" - Stipe sucks the fun out of the club by quietly warbling this Henry Mancini track a capella as the band prepares to tear the house down with their ass-rockin' funk metal classic "Saturn Return"

"Rave On" - Stippy does a silly Buddy Holly impression in this jaunty rigmarole from the nineteen-fifties.

"So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star" - Stichael Mipe can't sing in the high register so enjoyed by the Byrds on their original version of this classic Unrest song by Nazareth, but his choice of low notes is fine. A keeper. A TRAPPER keeper! A TRAPPER JOHN MD keeper!!!!

"Pale Blue Eyes" - Pale Brown Shit. Didn't we already have to cringe through this Velvet Underground travesty on the REAL Dead Letter Office?

"I Can't Control Myself" - REM sprinkles some fuckin' fairy dust on this old Troggs beach blaster with the weird, mopey chord sequence. The Ramones covered this too. Maybe there's some law that if your band name starts with an R, you have to cover this song. In fact, I bet you a million dollars that's the case, because I can't think of a single other band whose name starts with an R. That's probably because they all decided to change their name when they heard about this law.

"Crazy" - Drums twenty times louder than music, much MUCH weaker version of this Pylon song than you'll find on the actual store-sold Dead Letter Office.

"Femme Fatale" - I'll never understand why people like the Velvet Underground. Their songs were so BORING! Lou's solo stuff puts a tiger in my tank, but my goodness did he have a boring bunch of boring people in his boring Velvet Underground band.

There you have it! A word-by-word confrontation of one of your more intrigugin g Bootleg s on teh marekt of day! It's certainly nothing you'll play constant-day, but if humor's with you and your fifth copy of Around The Sun is all worn out, I bet this batch of throwaway covers will put a smile on your face. It may not be your smile per se, and it may still be covered in blood from the face it was originally sliced off of before being glued to yours, but these are risks we take when we decide to save money by moving in with an autistic serial killer.

Reader Comments

me@benmassey.ca
R.E.M. may have been a great band, but they were not a great Bloodrock cover band.

Add your thoughts?

Document - IRS 1987.
Rating = 8

Stronger production, tougher overall sound (more bassy, heavier kinda), and the (a) folk, (b) punk and (c) jangly melody of Lifes Miss America Pageant are gone the way of the passenger airliner. This is a solid ROCK record. Quite a varied one too! Gigantic hits were found in the person of fast as hell "It's The End Of The World As We Know It," evil anti-ballad "The One I Love" and slow ringing rocker "Finest Worksong," and the non-hits brought out tougher, moodier sides of the band as well. To me, this feels like REM's version of the Ramones' Road To Ruin, where they leave behind the wonderful but monotonous/predictable sound they're known for, tighten up their sound, toughen up their mix, and play mature hard (for them) rock. Rock songs as bitter as "Welcome To The Occupation" and "Oddfellows Local 151" would've been inconceivable on an earlier REM records, and even the happier-sounding songs ("Disturbance At The Heron House," "Exhuming McCarthy," "Fireplace") are lyrically about as disturbing and bizarre as you can get ("Throw the wall into the fireplace"!? What the hell is he talking about?).

This is a confident if pessimistic non-folk-rock record, and both the songwriting and production are very strong. Like a good cup of ball smegma.

Reader Comments

Sequel.Solutions@msn.fullfeed.com (Dick Burger)
Every bit as good as Pageant.

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
It's really good; less melodic, but has it' points of excellent kick-butt crank the volume-until-your-next-door-neighbor's-ears-pop-off!

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
NOT every bit as good as Pageant. The hits deserved to be hits, but overall the album was missing some of the melodiousness that REM usually manages to put in their albums. Part of the reason REM is so great is that they can rock with the best of them, but even their hardest songs have great melodies and harmonies.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
Not quite as amazing as the last, but I think as individual songs, "Occupation" and "Fireplace" surpass most of Pageant. I happen to really like "Worksong" and I have to say that it was a great breath of fresh air in a '95 show dominated by Monster (eeek).

Taken with Pageant and a coupla cold lagers, this is wondrous summer porch-chillin' music. Try it sometime, people will sing along as they walk by.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
This album has some incredible songs and some really annoying ones, but not the extent that Green does. The only things that piss me off about it are that people still regard "The One I Love" as a romantic tune (like this one guy I stood next to at a concert...when the song came on and he started singing only the first part with a smile on his face I wanted to take a Louisville Slugger to those balls of his!), and that yet another cover on here was tacked on for filler. Seeing as this is R.E.M.'s FIFTH studio album, aren't they a little old for this? In fact, they seem to take this cover approach in a half-assed way. Their first three albums have NO covers, but the next two (which are arguably their best) have one each! The game is afoot...

InMyEyes82@aol.com
My second favorite R.E.M. album ever. This one is SEVERELY underrated by Mr. Prindle as well as other guests on his page. Let me explain.

1) This was the turning point where the band answered their critics, who were saying that, on Lifes Rich Pageant, the stories and ruminations about the Old South were lazy and, get this, the exact same thing that Reagan was spinning with the country at the time. On Document the band steps up and confronts political issues like the pointless party system ("Disturbance at the heron house"), Yuppie America ("exhuming mccarthy"), etc.

2) This album was where the band (and, especially, Stipe) came out front from the shadows and played their hearts out. The production is bombastic yet uncheesy, the guitars loud without being Monster-level, and Mike Mills has his most fabulous bass-line to date on "Heron house".

Overall, a magnificent album both musically and lyrically. Skip "Lightnin' Hopkins" though. 10/10

richbunnell@home.com
Excellent album, it rocks in the same way Lifes Rich Pageant does, but with slightly better production and more of a sense of individual songs. I like every one of the last four songs that seem to be universally panned by reviewers—"Lightnin’ Hopkins" is awesome! The drum beat that dominates the song works well, and even with Stipe’s hokey accent it sounds great. And of course there’re undeniable classics like "End Of The World," "One I Love," and "Finest Worksong"(by the way Mark, the song honestly wouldn’t WORK if it was faster—as it is it’s a kickbutt opening tune). It’s not a PERFECT album, but each and every song is great in some way. "Welcome To The Occupation" wins the award for "most generic R.E.M. song ever" - and it rules! 9/10

avsouza@webtv.net (Tony Souza)
R.E.M. is many different things to many different people, so it's hard for me to say which is the best album they have done. This album, to me, is a step up production-wise. The hits hold up after a decade of listening, and the lesser known tracks are still interesting. They try to be a little more mainstream with this outing, and they do so without sacraficing their uniqueness.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Yes, it's overrated, and yes, it stinks after Life's Rich Pageant - but...

"Finest Worksong" is the best song ever written! Okay, so maybe not the best, but I challenge you to find me something I'll like as much as that cool guitar riff. Wait - it's not even a riff! It's just one chord being jammed on rhythmically until the verse, when it switches to B. That rules!

So? I mean, Talking Heads could write entire songs on one chord, and every one was great. But they couldn't come up with that jiggy piano solo in the middle - not to mention that part right after it, when the entire band leaps back into the verse, but this time with an energy that's been subdued the entire song. And then, out of nowhere, they drop into E-minor and the whole song falls apart - in a clean-but-interesting way.

In fact, maybe it is the best song ever. I think I'll listen to it right now!

ZENWOK@aol.com
How could you give this an eight? I'd say it's at least a nine, maybe even a ten! I can't believe anyone would dislike Finest Worksong because it's "too slow"! Also, Lightning Hopkins is one of my favorite songs on the album. It has that cool thing at the beginning, and what I'm going to call the chorus doesn't even have words!

I think you could have said a bit more about Oddfellows Local 151, which is one of my favorite songs on the whole album.

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
9/10: This is nicely varied and one of their most interesting albums.

smcquill@home.com (Sean McQuillan)
R.E.M. has not made a rock record as satisfying as this. It has a perfect mesh of bass and guitar and packs some punch by not being dull like monster. Occupation is one of their top five songs ever, ranks up there with Drive and Stumble. Also, this is the best record from a Bill Berry standpoint. His drums are phenominal here.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
My second favorite REM album. The hits are pure genius, and all the other tracks are arresting, from the white funk of "McCarthy" and "Fireplace" (love that sax solo), to the work songs "Worksong", "Occupation", and "Oddfellows", to the holy fake-sitar anthem "King Of Birds". I'll admit the cover and "Lightnin' Hopkins" are weak, but that's all I'll admit! Michael Stipe has started to sort of comb his hair forward.

Jcjh20@aol.com
Damn good! Everyone whos anyone knows "One I Love", and "End of The World As We Know It". Classic songs known as a couple of the best songs of the 80's. I love the cover of "Strange" on here too! They totally REM pop-ified it and made it a totally catchy classic cover version! I also really like "Exhuming Mccarthy" too, may be dopey, but its a nice pop song. "Distrubance at the Heron House", and "King Of Birds" are also a few songs i like a lot from this album. "Finest Worksong" is an awesome opener here too. Looks like they are getting stronger with the production here, this would be their last album till they sign to a major label. 9/10

Muggwort@aol.com
"king of birds" is r.e.m's best song, "the one i love" is really catchy, "end of the world . . . " is a lot of fun, "oddfellows local 151" is a disturbing tale of alcoholism, and "disturbance at the heron house" is weird. unfortunately the other songs on document sound like filler. but those 5 songs raise the grade of document to ay least a very low 8.

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
This album starts off with a great track, "Finest Worksong." The sound is just huge, especially for R.E.M., and Berry's pounding rhythm really sends it over the top. I can't imagine why Prindle thinks it's too slow. Played at Ramones speed or faster would rob the song of its grandeur, its sonic depth. Elsewhere the band is in typically fine form, especially on "Disturbance at the Heron House," "It's the End of the World...," "Exhuming McCarthy," and "Oddfellows Local 151." And the ballad "King of Birds" just slays me. What a great song!

Why was "The One I Love" the song that broke big for these guys? Aside from a lot of people misinterpreting the lyrics (apparently, all they register is the song title in the chorus), R.E.M. had already written a poop load of songs that were a lot better. It's not a bad song, of course, but it's pretty standard R.E.M. fare. Nothing standard about this album, though. If not for the scary brilliance of the first two and Life's Rich Pageant, I'd probably be calling this one my favorite. Another winning album.

rmulligan@comcast.net (Ryan Mulligan)
Political, yet good. Stipe's almost coherent, and this album is heavy on the guitars. He's singing songs about (Paul) McCarthy and (Sam) Lightnin' Hopkins, noted politician, but even though he's singing about important stuff, the songs are very well written. They're catchy too. "Finest Worksong(not the alternate horn mix) rocks hard and I love that cover of "Strange". It kind of tails off at the end a little, but before the end there's many good tunes! "The One I Love" was a huge hit, and even though all three verses are exactly the same, it deserved it. The standout is obviously the one with the really long title that I'm not gonna type, though I guess I could've instead of typing that crappy substitute. A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies! I like the one where Mills is all "it's a sign of the times!" too. That one is actually the same one that's about McCarthy. This is right before their sell-out (every seat in every arena they play) phase, filled with bubblegum pop and cherry flavored licorice, but for the moment they were on top of their game. I give it a 9.

bickbyro@lycos.com (Keith Turausky)
Just a couple notes:

1) "Finest Worksong" would, indeed, be better faster. For proof of this, check out the version on the Green-era "Tourfilm" concert. Actually, everybody should check that out anyway, as it is an absolutely wonderful "document" heavy on the Lifes Rich Pageant, Document, and of course Green. It's even got "Feeling Gravitys Pull"!

2) I really like "Lightnin' Hopkins." Peter Buck is goin' crazy on that track!

Add your thoughts?

Eponymous - IRS 1988.
Rating = 9

Ooooohh! A compilation of all the pre-Warner Brothers hits! Fantastic record, as you probably already may have suspected. Far from comprehensive, though. Only one track from Life's Rich Pageant, but THREE from Document? And what the boop is "Talk About The Passion" doing on here? If you're cheap, buy it immediately. Otherwise, do the right thingy and buy all the original albums.

Reader Comments

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
As I did when I was 15 and tired of shitty hard rock, this is a great way to start. You'll find yourself having everything else pretty soon, though. Listening to this is like watching only the asteroid field scene in Star Wars. You just can't get by on only this much.

Still this record is worth having for the horns on "Worksong", the superior single-only "Radio Free Europe", and the obscure "Romance". Give me the Chronic Town version of "Gardening" any day, though!

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
I have to agree that Life's Rich Pageant is underrepresented, but there is something to Document. I'd have a tough time deciding which one to omit. Eponymous is an excellent sampling of REM's early work, but I would also recommend buying the albums themselves. It's worth it.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
I like the version of "Gardening at Night" on here better than the one on Chronic Town, and the new horns mix for "Finest Worksong" is certainly an improvement from the original, but it's just unforgivable that only one song from Pageant is on here. It kinda makes the album look like a black sheep to anyone who buys this album first, like Van Halen's Diver Down akin to Best of Volume 1. Comprende?

richbunnell@home.com
Good compilation, but the thing is that early REM wasn’t a singles band at all. The first five songs all blend into a uniform mush that doesn’t let up until the easily identifiable "Can’t Get There From Here" comes on, then the mush starts again until "Fall On Me." R.E.M. didn’t become much of a singles band until Document (and then they stopped being one again after Out Of Time) --while the albums released earlier were great, the songs still didn’t lend themselves to singles. Also, I think the reason that only "Fall On Me" was included from Lifes Rich Pageant was because it’s the album’s only real standout track — the rest of the album only works well as a whole. Plus, it offers more of an incentive to buy that album, which no person even slightly into R.E.M. should be without. 8/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
"Talk About The Passion" is on here because it's a classic, obviously. It still gets radio play, at least where I listen (though that may be only because it's on this album.

This is not a definetive package by any means. Life's Rich Pageant is too great to only have one song, and there are a heap others that are left off. An import album that I have has "Carnival Of Sorts," "Cuyahoga," "Perfect Circle," "Pretty Persuasion," and "I Believe" in addition to most of the songs on here, but it's still missing plenty of good stuff ("Superman," "Wolves, Lower," and "Begin The Begin.")

However, the take on "Gardening At Night" is superb, and the horns are a nice addition to "Worksong." And as for the single version of "Radio Free Europe" - it should have been an album of its own!

Jcjh20@aol.com
"Talk about the passion" definatly belongs here. A good compilation. I would of added a few songs, though, like "Superman", "Swan Swan H", "Wolves, Lower", and maybe even "Wendell Gee".. I love that song, even though not many people give a damn about it..

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
Pretty slight as far as anthologies go. Skip it and get all of the original albums. They are that good, even Fables...

Add your thoughts?

In The Attic: Alternative Recordings 1985-1989 - EMI 1999
Rating = 8

Things are looking exceedingly grim. My wife is tired of being married to an unemployed bum, and nothing I do seems to be helping me to acquire a full-time job. This is the most difficult struggle of my life, and I don't know what to do. One thing's for sure: I don't give two shits about a compilation that EMI released without even getting REM's approval.

If you must know, it's acoustic, live and slightly altered mixes of 3 tracks each from Document and Fables Of The Reconstructions and 2 each from Lifes Rich Pageant and Reckoning, along with two songs you already own on Dead Letter Office, one song you already own on Eponymous (if you own Eponymous) (it's "Gardening At Night" with the high vocals), and three exciting rare items that might interest you. These three items are (a) a cover of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have To Do Is Dream" with beautiful group harmony vocals, (b) a lovely instrumental Floyd Cramer cover, and (c) a one-minute shouty piece of crap throwaway. As for the acoustic versions, the songs are of course excellent but they sure seem slow without those propulsive Bill Berry drums. Also, you haven't lived until you've heard Michael Stipe sing the entire first verse of "Time After Time" a capella, only for Peter Buck's guitar to reveal that he's been singing in the completely wrong key the whole time.

You have lived without hearing Michael Stipe sing Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain" a capella though. Yech.

You know the best thing about this CD? The title. well, the title combined with the fact that "Gardening At Night" was recorded in like 1981. Way to go, EMI Naming Committee!

None of which goes very far towards securing me a job. Emotional scars build up. It's no fun being yelled at and talked down to. I guess I need to try harder. Think harder.

Reader Comments

theidiot7769@aim.com
If you're going to kill yourself, please review Nick Cave first.

But don't kill yourself.
You bring joy to too many people. Regardless of whether this was your original intention, you've been doing it for too long to stop now. You have a responsibility to continue indefinitely. Think how much more miserable your average reader's life would be without fond memories of Lefty McGarnigle and his wife fucking. Think of how much more ignorant we'd be if you hadn't pointed out to us that Robert Smith sounds like that guy from The Cars. Think how comically inept we would be if we couldn't steal your jokes, like the one about the Gallagher brothers' male nurse giving the BAND AIDS.

So frequently a peer of mine will say "Hey, Prindle updated."
"You read Prindle?," I'll reply.
Their response, invariably: "Of course, he's my hero."

The kids love you. Just remember that.

...and if you do decide to off yourself, review Nick Cave first.

stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
Hi Mark

I hope things are not really as grim as you present them here. Your reviews bring great joy and entertainment to countless people, and it's shocking that you are not a multi-billionaire as a result of these obvious talents.

Take care

Mike Hiltz
I think I agree with your review of this, if I'm reading it right. It's a completely unnecessary album full of good, solid material. hard to fault on the contents, but the big picture is probably "a little less than necessary". I'd also like to second the thoughts of the other commenters. I've been reading and enjoying your site on a DAILY BASIS for more than a decade. It's part of the reason I became a writer. Let's not forget the greatest hits - "Who's Missing"? "Fossils"? The fact that the "Pixies EP" review is largely an essay on "Dead Man's Curve", by Jan & Dean?You buried one of the most charming pieces of writing, in many ways capturing the essence of being in love, in the middle of a damn review of Big Black's "SONGS ABOUT FUCKING"! And you've turned me on to more good music than probably any other single source. Although this album is probably not one of those pieces of great music. But it's not bad. I'd give it about an eight.

Garry R. Burroughs II
Hey Mark!

Things will get better. I promise.

I’ve read yer damn site for years, and I’ve been tempted to write before, but…well, it’s odd, this talking to a stranger who seems kinda like a friend, and then having the info put out there so publicly.

You’ve been told it several times before, and I know it, ‘cuz like I said, I read yer site a lot, and you will be told it again, but you really, truly do make life better for others. I don’t think that you really even grasp exactly how beloved you are by people you’ve never met, never will meet.

So, yeah, struggle. Endure. It’s stupid, and it sucks, and we all fucking hate it, but, goddamn it, it’s what we do.

At least yer first publicly posted internet comments aren’t going to be stuck under a review for a stupid R.E.M. album.

Add your thoughts?

Green - Warner Brothers 1988.
Rating = 8

This record is amazingly poorly-paced. An equal distribution of electric rockers and mandolin-driven folk songs makes for a pleasantly diverse listening experience, but the fact that the first seven songs are about ten times better than the last four kinda does it in a little. "Pop Song 89," "Get Up," and "Stand" are stupid, exuberant, and wonderful pop rockers, "You Are The Everything" and "The Wrong Child" are beautifully sad (and sadly beautiful) mandoliners, and "Orange Crush" and "World Leader Pretend" are the same sort of pessimistic rock that propelled "The One I Love" into the hearts of dozens. In fact, rumor has it that the reason only the lyrics to "World Leader Pretend" were printed on the inner sleeve is because Michael Stipe thought the rest of the songs were garbage. I like 'em, though! At least those first seven. And then?

"Turn You Inside Out" is even slower than "Finest Worksong" (I like a slow ballad, but a slow "rocker" irritates the bowel movement out of me), "I Remember California" is a rip-off of the far superior "Oddfellows Local 151," and both "Hairshirt" and the untitled eleventh track are weaker mandoliners. Why? Why set up an album so that it starts off your best one yet, and then ends boring and slow? Oh well. Still deserving of an 8. Those first seven, man, I dig 'em. And the last four aren't that bad; they're just a lousy way to end an album.

But I like how "4" = "R" on the album cover. Hold it up to the light! Tee hee.

Reader Comments

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
REM goes pop.....AHHHH! No! But some songs were great like "WORLD LEADER PRETEND," and Mike Mills steps up with actually good back-up vocals. Green shows a multi-talented band at a sadly low point.

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
Green is definitely a good album. I pretty much agree with you..."Hairshirt" and "Turn You Inside Out" are two of my least favorite REM songs, but don't discount #11. It has a certain lilt to it that always cheers me right up if I'm in a bad mood. Also, it's not really a "mandoliner," it's just a really happy song a la Frente's "Accidentally Kelly Street" (which I also love).

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
I'm with Scott on "World Leader Pretend". Too beautiful for description. "Turn you Inside Out" always sounds like a half-assed "Worksong" rewrite to me. "Orange Crush" is perfect car radio ear candy.

pbfss@qldnet.com.au (John Maitland)
If REM aren't the most boring band in history this album goes pretty f*@*ing close to being the most worthless and pretentious piece of crap I ever bought. God save the Ramones and let this stuff pass into the FM catalogues of the world along with Phil Collins and Starship.

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
8? Where are the other two? Hell, where are the other three? Green is undubitably the single greatest album ever recorded. "Pop Song 89" and "Get Up" start this one off real well, and then it takes off. "You Are the Everything" is the greatest poignant song in history, and the only reason I don't miss it when it ends is that "Stand" and "World Leader Pretend" are on the same five-star level. "The Wrong Child" is actually pretty cacophonous, but it always seems to pass quickly and thus detracts minimaly from the album... and it's all the more tolerable when you realize what's after it. "Orange Crush" absolutely rocks and "Turn You Inside Out" (how is it slow? I don't think it's anything like "Finest Worksong"....it's much more powerful...you obviously like their pre-WB stuff better, and I prefer the WB) keeps up the pace. The last three are a bit disappointing, but they're certainly tolerable and can be easily omitted from your listening, seeing as they're at the end of the CD. GREEN kicks ass.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
Green used to be my favorite R.E.M. album, but then I realized how annoying "The Wrong Child" and "Hairshirt"...it's certainly two of their worst songs. "Turn You Inside-Out" is quite a rocker when performed live, and the rest of the album is very good. The reason for all the mandoliners is because the band originally wanted the "air" and "metal" sides of the album (R.E.M. comes up with different names for both sides of each of their albums...how now, brown cow?) to have acoustic and electric tracks. However, that idea was abandoned and the song discrepancies on this album remain. At least Stipe still can't type..."R" is right underneath "4" on standard keyboards. Ooopsie!

PhilTheBob@aol.com (Willie Williams)
Amusing trivia: The reason track 4 on Green is listed as track "R" is that Michael Stipe is an awful data entry specialist. He typed the inlay card, messed up, and the lazy sod didn't bother to go back and fix it. That's the same reason there's no apostrophe in Lifes Rich Pageant. Go ahead, pull it out and look for yourself.

Burney2061@aol.com
Nice album, 8, same sentiments as our man Prindle...

geowi@voyager.net (Jordie Wilkie)
I'm sure a lot of people noticed about that 4=R thing, but I'm not so sure that it was a typing error. Document had "No. 5" on it, and the next one had a four meaning something weird. Almost as if they were counting down to something...I mean, why is the 4 only visible on the cover when it is in the light? That doesnt sound like a typing error, more like trickery. Did anybody happen to look real hard at the album covers before Document??? Ah HA!!! FOOLS!!! Well, neither did I. Oh well, your'e probably right anyways.

Itchload@aol.com
It ever occur to you(^) that Document may have a R.E.M. no. 5 on it because it's their fifth record? Also, I never realized Turn You Inside Out was so unpopular among R.E.M fans, I always really liked it. The last untitled track is catchy too, although Stand kind of annoys me.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Unfortunately, I am in total agreement with Prindle's statement that the fun stops after track seven. But, man what a first seven!!! "Get Up" and "Stand" are fun, catchy as hell pop rockers, the two mandolin songs are beautiful, and "World Leader Pretend" and "Orange Crush" are the two bonafide classics. A great album up to number seven.

7/10

richbunnell@home.com
Really, really uneven. For every spectacular song there's a nondescript stinker ("The Wrong Child"?? Why?). Also, the songwriting seems kind of restricted, like the band didn't want to take any chances this time around or something. I really like "Orange Crush" and "Get Up" though, and "Stand" is a fun, if stupid, hit single. Also, to Doug Tedeschi - if you agree that almost all of the songs at the end aren't very good, HOW can you give the album an 11? 7/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this among all these Green-haters, but this is my favourite REM album. And, yes, I do have all of them. I realize it's kind of a sellout - but it's got great songs - especially "World Leader Pretend", "Get Up", and "Orange Crush". And - you're going to hate me for this, each and every one of you - I friggin LOVE "Hairshirt". I think it's a damn pretty song - the most beautiful one on here. Sure it's repetetive, but so was "Nightswimming", and everyone loves that song. And, sure, "I Remember California" is a rewrite of "Oddfellows Local", but first of all, that song was an awful rewrite of "Feeling Gravity's Pull", and, secondly, it's a perfectly enjoyable piece of music. "Turn You Inside Out" is not as good as "Worksong" (what is?) but it's cool and catchy.

I give it a ten.

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
7/10: Bit patchy this, but 'Orange Crush' and 'You Are The Everything' are both ace.

msimko@stny.rr.com (Lex)
I have to agree with Ben that this is absolutely the best thing they've ever recorded. Wait a sec, what about OOT or AFTP? NAIHF? Fables?? Well then...um...it's at least AS good as all their other stuff, although The Wrong Child is 100 times better than just about anything they've ever written, though the untitled song didn't strike me as being terribly interesting. California is essentially the Oddfellows riff again, but the lyrics are different and I'm more of a lyrical musician, myself. Hairshirt is beautiful, almost as much as World Leader Pretend. Every streetlight creates a fly in the hand of the world as we know it, and i feel the frequency, Kenneth.

Jcjh20@aol.com
Great album in my opinion. Id give it a 8. I personally think "Untitled 11th Song" is very underrated, its probably one of my favorite REM songs. I also love "Wrong Child". And i also think "You Are The Everything" is very overrated. Pretty boring and uninteresting to me. "Turn You Inside Out" and "Hairshirt" are pretty cool songs. I dont think they are as bad as some of these people think it is. I do admit "I remember California" is a rip from "Oddfellows Local 151" but its still a pretty cool song. 8/10. And i also think that John Maitland is one of the most ignorant, people i encounter everyday and he should put his head out of his ass and stop acting "punk" and listen to the fucking music!

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Half great, half weak. The first five tracks are some of the best they've ever done. I'm pretty much disinclined to listen to the rest. I like "Hairshirt" a little. Michael Stipe has grown his hair long and seems to have gotten a perm, and he has long bangs that seem to come from the middle of his head and thin out badly.

BuddhaCat1@aol.com
Sure "I Remember California" is likely to put one into a coma, but I'd like to point out that "Oddfellow's" is a ripoff itself...but not of "Feeling Gravity's Pull." Played on the guitar, it is EXACTLY THE SAME SONG AS "THE ONE I LOVE." Put that in your pipe and smoke it. And anyone who doesn't like "Turn You Inside Out" obviously never was so angry they wanted to rip somebody's entrails out. Damn that grammar sucks. Gotta get off the booze.

Muggwort@aol.com
Green sucks!!! Although several of the songs are fun it is extremely shallow. there are only 3 great songs "world leader pretend," "hairshirt" and "orange crush," the rest are amusing but little more.

5/10

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
The major label debut! Hurrah! Actually, the label switch didn't seem to have much of an effect on the guys, but maybe putting out their 7th release of original material did. I agree with Prindle that they really shoot out of the gate with the first part of the album, but on the whole the album seems a bit disjointed and confused, like they decided to try everything without thinking about how it would all sound together. And "Stand" is just a dang goofy song. However, "Pop Song 89," "Orange Crush," "World Leader Pretend," and "Turn You Inside Out" are really fine songs, especially "Turn You Inside Out." They almost sound menacing on that one until you go back and listen to the Stooges or something that is actually menacing. If you can get past the lack of sonic unity on the album and dig on their willingness to explore the possibilities behind their folk-pop, mid-tempo rawk and somber balladeering, it's good. I mean, it really is good. I don't think you can accuse them of compromising for a major, anyway.

jbhippie@hotmail.com (James Hippie)
As I found with a lot of band over the years, I liked REM much better before I knew anything about them. Previous to the release of Green, Michael Stipe started taking out ad in college newspapers that read Michael Stipe Says Vote Democratic! Not Michael Stipe Says Vote Democratic Because. . . ., after which he could have added any number of arguments to educate his fans and convince them to support his cause. But hey, whatever you do, don't fucking think about it! Just do it 'cause Michael Stipe says to! God, what a fucking prick. . . .

Oh, the music? Well, when Green was released on election day in 1988 I was at Tower bright and early to get my copy, and I thought it fucking sucked! Stipe's discovery of vocal enunciation, which had been happening over the last few albums, and the placement of his vocals at the front of the mix really ruined this band's sound for me. I couldn't believe it was the same band that made Chronic Town and Murmur. That was the first year I was eligible to vote in a presidential election, so I got drunk, threw my vote away on a third-party candidate, redeemed my voting stub for a free beer at the World Famous Chee Chee Club, picked up two hookers and subsequently got burned for 100 bucks on a three-way that never happened, and somewhere along the way threw Green out the window of my car in a drunken rage. I haven't missed it since.

luapnamttip@hotmail.com
Well, I guess it sounds like Joy Division, but I don't care, because a lot of the songs are really catchy. It might be a little too samey and one-dimensional, but, listened to in small chunks, it's totally satisfying, no matter how overdramatic and silly the darkness may seem at times.

Add your thoughts?

Christmas Fan Club: Best Season 88/89 Single
Rating = 7

Every year around Christmastime, we here in the Christian States of America like to celebrate a little holiday called “Christmas.” On this holiday, we murder a tree to death and hang a sock on the wall, for Jesus. But that’s not all we do! We also listen to an annual Xmas single that REM has recorded specifically for its fan club (of losers). The Beatles did something similar back in the ‘40s, so REM said “Hey, we’re from Liverpool too; we should do that.” But the hilarious thing is that they aren’t from Liverpool at all! They just got confused because they each own a pool filled with human livers.

This first single features two songs. The first is a shambling, rickety cover of “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” performed on bongo, drums, acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano. Unfortunately, the traps and mouth harp are so loud that they drown out the axe and ivories that are actually providing the melody. Even worse, I don’t know any slang terms for ‘bongo.’

The b-side is a real ‘Trick or Treat’ though! Television’s “See No Evil” may have nothing to do with Christmas (especially since on Christmas, you do see evil, in the form of a hulking bearded man yelling about whores), but REM rips it a good shred by cranking up the energy, distortion and vocal harmonies in ways that Tom Verlaine and Sexy Jim could only have dreamt!

(Okay, his name isn’t Sexy Jim, but I’d have to look it up and Wikipedia is way downtown.)

Add your thoughts?

Christmas '89 Single
Rating = 7

REM’s second annual Christmas Day Surprise repeats the previous year’s formula of pairing a ridiculous drunken Christmas song with an excellent post-punk cover. This time ‘round, they present a rendition of “Good King Wenceslas” that not only sounds nothing like REM (goofy group vocals, bells, bass organ) but also sounds strikingly similar to the version the Butthole Surfers would record a few years later! Sadly, the song just isn’t very good. It’s about a guy with hot feet, for Christ’s sake. What the hell kind of Christmas topic is that!? Sometimes my pud itches too, but you don’t see me writing a carol about it. Side B FTW! That’s how we roll! Just sayin….

Sorry, lapsed into idiot language for a second there. Side B is an energetic, tuneful cover of Mission of Burma’s “Academy Fight Song.” Buy it, play it, love it! Coffee, tea AND me!

MY ITCHY PUD: A CHRISTMAS CAROL
By Mark Prindle

‘Ho ho ho’ said Santa bright
On this Festive morning
But my pud was itching bad
So I shouted ‘Warning!’
Santa said ‘I fear no itch,
I have ticks from reindeer.’
So I brought him down a mug
Of Mom’s homemade cocaine beer

‘Thank you for the brew,’ he said
‘Here, please take a present’
But my pud, it itched so bad,
It really wasn’t pleasant
Santa felt so bad for me that
he rubbed on some lotion
Felt so good, my pud released
A magic Christmas potion.

Amen.”

Add your thoughts?

1990 Holiday Single
Rating = 5

Hey kids! It’s time for your favorite cartoon…..

R.E.Maminals!

Starring….
Peter Buck, the friendly deer!
Michael Stripe, the friendly skunk!
Bill Berry, the friendly blueberry!
Mike Mills, I don’t know, some asshole

PETER BUCK: “Hey, I was trotting merrily through the woods a few minutes ago when I suddenly got this great idea for a Christmas single.”

BILL BERRY: “Do tell, Mr. Buck! What’s your idea? I do hope it doesn’t involve digesting me, har har!”

MICHAEL STRIPE: (*is frightened by Berry’s ominous suggestion; emits foul stench*)

PETER BUCK: “Of course not, Mr. Berry! My idea is that we cover that old Burl Ives chestnut ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ but, in celebration of the season, we change the title to ‘Ghost REINDEER in the Sky!’”

MIKE MILLS: “That’s a terrible idea, you stupid deer. That song has already been covered by over 50 artists, including Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Spike Jones, The Ventures, The Outlaws, The Sons of the Pioneers, The Ramrods, Frankie Laine, Dick Dale, Elvis Presley, Duane Eddy, Johnny Cash, The Shadows, Roy Clark, Marty Robbins, Dean Martin, Lawrence Welk, Kaleidoscope and The Marshall Tucker Band. Do you really think the world needs yet another rendition of it, even with a changed word?”

PETER BUCK: “Actually, while you were speaking just now, I went ahead and recorded it.”

MIKE MILLS: “I’LL FUCK YOU UP THE ASS, DEER!!!!”

BILL BERRY: “Don’t fret, Mr. Mills. There’s always side B. Let’s do something nifty for side B!”

MIKE MILLS: “Okay, we’ll do that Porgy & Bess song ‘Summertime.’”

MICHAEL STRIPE: “Isn’t that a little depressing for a Christmas song? Not to mention unseasonal. Also I totally tooted back there.”

MIKE MILLS: “Bite it, you skunk! We’re doing ‘Summertime.’”

(*they do ‘Summertime’*)

BILL BERRY: “See? That was swell! ‘Ghost Reindeer in the Sky’ may have been a waste of time, but I’d say we did a heck of a job on ‘Summertime’! I particularly loved the somber organ, guitar arpeggios and high-register vocals.”

MIKE MILLS: “Suck my grass it smells! According to Wikipedia, there are already 24,400 different recordings of that song!”

PETER BUCK: “I wanna buck myself.”

That’s all, kids! We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of….

R.E.Mammograms!

Add your thoughts?

Out Of Time - Warner Brothers 1991.
Rating = 8

Shoes! Ten years into their career, they're still coming up with this many creative pop-folk-rock melodies? What are the odds on that? I'll be the first in line to pronounce "Belong" a stinker, but the rest are grander than a banjo! Just melodies from Heaven that stay inside your head where you must sing them all day! Stipe is singing louder and prouder than ever, and hitting notes all over the place. In fax, this one ends with four of the greatest songs they've ever performed; learning from Green's mistakes, eh? EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?????????? Plus, Mike Mills sings "Texarkana" and "Near Wild Heaven" just wonderfully; he doesn't have the presence of Stipe, but he hits all the notes, and it's a nice break from Mr. Smelly's increasingly James Taylor-ish twang. The many, many hits off this record include "Radio Song" (jangle-funk-rap, but not nearly as embarassing as it could've been; it's actually quite playish and fun), "Losing My Religion" (an obsessive follow-up to "The One I Love"), and "Shiny Happy People," which is a much better -- and less sickeningly happy -- song than I used to think it was.

This album doesn't kick as much asse as Life's Son Of A Bitch Pageant, but the melodies are remarkable! Seriously, a normal pop rock band coming up with this many great new melodies over a period of ten years - that's something special. Cherish it!

Reader Comments

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
This is a great album from a great band. The melodies are excellent and, for the first time, when faced with the challenge of true radio/TV/Platinum/Record Company Parties/Charity Work/Joining Scientology/ Planet Hollywood Openings/Dating Madonna success, they turned out an excellent album, lodging them permanently into the spotlight like Rush Limbaugh into a movie theater seat.

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for mentioning the wonderful melodies. Melody is what sets REM apart from many other bands. "Belong" is definitely rather stinky. I agree with just about everything you said..."Me in Honey" and "Texarkana" are wonderful, as are most of the other songs. One thing: even if "Endgame" is "dentist's office music," it's beautiful.

CZEZMZ@aol.com
I like the harmonies in "Belong."

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
LMAO at Scott's post!

jgwood@atcon.com (Matthew)
I generally have to agree with you. But I find "Belong" to be the most misunderstood song in their collection. It has a feel to it that shows sweetness and sorrow at the same time. Out Of Time is by far my favorite album. It boasts beautiful love songs and a seriousness that can't be found in previous albums. In short, this is the only "11" on a scale of 10 and Katie Pierson is a good addition to "Me In Honey". This album completely outdoes Automatic and LRP.

01252557@brunnet.net (Heather Hartling)
I happen to LOVE "Belong"

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
Nine out of ten is accurate, but it's "Radio Song" and "Endgame" which detract from this one, no "Belong". The final four are certaainly the gold in this CD. "Country Feedback" has worked its way into my absolute favor, and "Me In Honey" closes it off well. A good CD becomes a great CD through the last two tracks.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
From start to finish, their best album. I like Pageant too, but that's all non-stop rock. This has a little bit of everthing. I don't care if people think it's overplayed or if they sold out when this came out. There's a reason why Out of Time put them over the top. It's because it's so damn good!

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
Blech! Blech blech blech! HOW ON EARTH can you rank this receptical of unoriginality so high on the Prindle-O-Meter (tm)??? It's only ten songs with a crummy filler instrumental, and aside from "Losing My Religion" (which has NOTHING to do with Christianity, mind you, it's a southern expression for "wit's end") the rest of it is all distinctly over-instrumentalized, over-produced, over-bearing, and under-R.E.M. Anybody who thinks "Shiny Happy People" is better than the weaker tracks on the first couple of albums should really listen to them. The funny thing is that THIS is the album R.E.M. won all the awards and album royalties for, yet the one that would come out one short year later is light years better and got none of the recognition this one did. Anybody who thinks Out of Time is good should compare it with Murmur and Automatic for the People.

Burney2061@aol.com
I just don't see how anyone can like this one--not enough meat to keep a man healthy, "Shiny" HAS TO BE the most annoying song ever writter...okay, behind all the Hootie and the Blowfish songs...

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Out of Time is PURE POP, and as such, it succeeds quite admirably. It's one of their most consistent all the way through, and I dont skip any of the tracks at all. My one qualm might be that Stipe's lyrical presence (besides the brilliant "Losing My Religion" and "country feedback") is not really remarkable as much as it was on Green, where he tackled environmental and social issues. But Mike Mills turns out two great pop songs and "Radio song" is very cool. Probably coulda made "endgame" a bit shorter, but beggars can't be choosy. Love it.

9/10

richbunnell@home.com
Kind of uneven, like Green, but unlike on Green the songs have superb production and don't all blend together into a languid mush. "Radio Song" is a spectacular opener, showing what rap SHOULD be used for - backing vocals and texture, not entire crappy songs and albums. Yeah, bring it on, rap fans. Being a huge B-52's fan, I'm also quite fond of the two songs with Kate on backing vocals, even though it's cool to hate "Shiny Happy People." WELL THEN, I GUESS I'M NOT COOL. 8/10

daniel.nester@nyu.edu
It's hard sometimes hard, I know, to make a break with a band when people are attached to them, but Out of Time simply sucks COCK!! Like, Rattle and Hum, it was their decadent follow-up to the commercial breakthru; like U2, REM went on to shove slick mid-80s production and politics in our faces, when they should have kept on mumbling and jangling. Thankfully, after this album, there was some improvement on all fronts. But I'm curious as to how "Radio Song" could be any less embarassing than it was. Bass slapping, maybe? A guest vocal from Anthony Kiedis and Morrissey? Oy, vey. I couldn't make my way through it, but I had to listen to the KRS-1 rap just for comic relief. Buy Reckoning and let it go.

WyldLash@aol.com
In defense of "Belong" and "Shiny Happy People"

Recognizing that this will change the mind of nobody.

REM's great obsession with the inability to adequately articulate emotion comes to the fore on these two difficult songs. "Belong" jettisons words entirely in an attempt to find a vocal expression for the kind of sorrow only hinted at by muttered lines like, "those barricades can only hold for so long." "Shiny Happy People" boldly courts ridicule as it strives to unironically embrace simple joy.

They are both ambitious arrows aimed at teeny-tiny bull's-eyes, and they were both probably fated to end up wide of the mark.

But every band should have half so much ambition.

And I'll split my infinitives whenever I damn well please, thank you very much.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
I really like this album. I'm very aware of the fact that it's their poppiest, but, somehow, it's also their most musically varied.

I really like "Belong" - I don't know, but I find it to be quite beautiful. I also feel that "Radio Song" is underrated by many - sure, it's got rap on it, but it's a very appropriate use of the genre - second only to David Byrne's on "Crosseyed And Painless." I think that "Shiny Happy People" is stupid yet cute, and that "Endgame" is a perfectly fine instrumental.

And you're sure right about those last four! "Country Feedback" is one of the most moving, depressing songs I've heard - out of a collection of over 600 CDs! And "Me In Honey"? All I can say is that I'm listening to it right now, and it's still superb. Really hypnotic, yet also bouncy and catchy. Great stuff.

And, as everyone knows, "Losing My Religon" is a great song - the biggest of their career. I give the album a nine as well - it's really well produced, too.

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
9/10: To me, this is what Green should've sounded like; a good mixture of melancholic stuff and poppy stuff.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Very good, very poppy. Seems to be a concerted effort to become a hit band very much on their own terms. I like "Shiny Happy People". I feel a need to state that because of all the hell people put that innocent little song through. Michael Stipe has taken to wearing hats.

msclguru@email.unc.edu (Michael J. West)
This is the album where I started to lose interest in REM, really. It was good, and creative, and literate, and ambitious, and all those other wonderful critic-friendly adjectives. But it was also starting to get boring. Folks, I'm sorry, but "Losing My Religion" is a FUCKING BORE!!!!! Its highest renown in my book comes from its being the only track I skip over every time I listen. No matter what anyone says, frankly I far prefer "Shiny Happy People" to that overrated bit of MTV-adored garbage.

jcjh20@aol.com
Love this album. All the songs on here are absolutely great and its one of the few albums where i could listen to it straight through. "Losing My Religion" is a great song dispite it being a very successful hit and everything. Production is great as well. I really like the Mike Mills lead vocals on "Texarkana" and "Near Wild Heaven" as well, it'd be great if he ever sang more lead in the future. And "Shiny Happy People" is a fantastic pop song, i dont care what anyone says. 9/10.

Muggwort@aol.com
Out of time was my first r.e.m album and the first album I really I fell in love with. Because of this importance to me I would have to give it a 9 even thought several of the songs are nothing more then over produced fluff.

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
Better than Green, but not up to the standard set by the earliest albums and Life's Rich Pageant. I really like "Radio Song," but then KRS-One is one of my favorite rappers, so I was biased going in. This album also has my son's favorite R.E.M. song, although he's more accustomed to the Sesame Street version "Shiny Happy Monsters." All in all a spiffy album, but I started losing interest after this one and haven't bought a new R.E.M. album since. Not because I don't like them, but because there's so much other stuff to get and so few dollars with which to get it.

landonmoblo@attbi.com
anyone catch "shiny happy monsters" on Seseme Street? I'm serious.

PaperWaight@aol.com
Ok, just to add some perspective, these are the REM albums with which I have had a roll in the hay: Murmur, Life's Rich Pageant, Document (though we only kissed), Green, Out of Time, Monster, Up, and Reveal. So I don't get around as much as some of you do, but I'd still have to say this album is not as good as people say it is! In fact, it's their worst out of the ones I've heard. And not because they changed their sound. It's just boring! Not interesting! It's school macaroni, people! "Radio Song" is okay. "Losing My Religion" is obviously a classic. I even like "Low." "Near Wild Heaven" I cannot stand, I could probably tolerate it were it surrounded by better crap. "Endgame" is rather nice dentists office music. "Shiny Happy People" is awful damn catchy. ....wait.....did I say this album is bad? nooooooo......wait, hold on I'm not finished. "Belong" - see that's a crucial point in an album. After after a seqeunce of 6 songs of this particular exact caliber, you tend to think, "Ok. This is all good, but I'm startin' to get kinda hungry. What's for dinner?" And then they feed you 5 rice cakes. Not piles of shit, just rice cakes. They wet (whet?) your appetite, then feed you fucking rice cakes! Am I the only one who's gettin' hungry?

watta502@yahoo.gr (Akis Katsman)
Out Of Time is a brilliant pop album of the nineties. Even the least good songs like "Low" and "Belong" are very enjoyable. I really like "Near Wild Heaven" and "Shiny Happy People", they are very... innocent! Also I enjoy "Losing My Religion" a lot, although it has to be one of the most overplayed songs ever (it's a good song but nothing really special, IMO). But my absolute favourite has to be "Half A World Away", the singer sounds very melancholic in this one. 9/10

Add your thoughts?

Holly Jolly 1991 Single
Rating = 5

It’s a strange dream come to life when REM crafts a whimsical composition combining Christmas-related complaints (ex. “Take a white marshmallow, put it on a coat hanger, put it on the fire, get some chocolate bars and some bread crackers, and then you slush it, and then you eat a hundred of them and vomit”) with tiny snippets of Holiday Carols (ex. “Jingle Bells” on guitar, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on organ, “Jingle Bell Rock” on ukulele). Nobody’s brain explodes from intelligence, but we at least enjoy a yuletide chuckle or two. Such is sadly not the case for “Baby Baby,” a bland and basic pop song originally recorded by fake punk band The Vibrators.

I’m sorry there are no jokes today. It’s hard to feel light-hearted after watching all this horrifying Japan tsunami footage.

But no, I can rise above it! In fact, I will rise above it! To entertain you with JOKES and a GOOD TIME of LAUGHTER GAGS! Here we go:

Q: What’s the difference between Michael Stipe and a tsunami?

A: Death. So much brutal, hopeless death.

Add your thoughts?

Automatic For The People - Warner Bros. 1992.
Rating = 8

Having received more money than God and a baseball player combined for Out Of Time, R.E.M. had to come to terms with the fact that their "alternative" days were long gone. They couldn't mumble and act artsy any more; they were huge stars, all pushing thirty-five, and their singer, according to reports I received while an Atlanta resident, had become an enormous egomaniac. So? So they made a professional-sounding adult pop-rock album. You wouldn't think they could play a sort of music that is so similar to Out Of Time, yet so different in such noticable ways that it cost the band thousands of former fans....but they did! And for every fan they lost as a result of hokey AOR crap like "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" and "Everybody Hurts," they gained two or three new ones on the strength of welcoming pop anthems like "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" and "Everybody Hurts." I mean, whoda thought that ol' Mr. Mumble would end up singing a song as universally sympathetic as "Everybody Hurts?" Not I, said the blind man (before falling down the elevator shaft).

Admittedly, this isn't the most creative set of melodies they've ever tossed down the elevator shaft of American culture; in truth, a lot of the time, it sounds like they're simply imitating other successful "adult" pop stars ("Drive" - Pink Floyd, "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" - Jimmy Buffett, "Everybody Hurts" - Everly Brothers, "Ignoreland" - Yes). Still, the songs stick in your brain a heck of a lot more than most sissy rock (i.e. Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Don Henley), and some of the slow ones (especially "Sweetness Follows," "Nightswimming," and "Star Me Kitten") are gorgeous. Plus, the two songs that actually sound like R.E.M. (Green-era, anyway) are totally top-of-the-tightrope. One is "Monty Got A Raw Deal," which has a mandolin and is about god-knows-what, and the other is the stupid-but-sorrowful "Try Not To Breathe," which puts Mr. Stipe in the guise of an old man who wants to die. Aww, man. Good crap. And "Everybody Hurts" is already on grocery store muzak programs! I've heard it!

Reader Comments

dfayes@mail.ic.net (Dena)
I have to disagree with the person who wrote that he/she dislikes AFTP to such an extent. The album shows full use of their talents, going from acoustic instruments, to rock guitars, to strings, not to mention Michael's voice at his best, and then there are the lyrics. Just b/c you're annoyed b/c of radio overplaying songs like "Everybody Hurts", don't forget the rest of the album!

Sequel.Solutions@msn.fullfeed.com (Dick Burger)
Jeez, the melodies are in fact very creative. In fact, this is the most appealing part of the record.

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
The album was epic, and I thought it was the best the band made since Fables. It had its own feeling that drew you in, and for some reason this album remains one of the grandest things I have heard in my life time. EVERY SONG is unique, but keeping with the same tone that unites the songs. "FIND THE RIVER" is the best REM song ever and is a perfect way to end the album. "IGNORELAND" is excellent. EVERY SONG is EXCELLENT. This is a true ground-breaking/interesting/melodic/powerful/moving/dreaming/emotional/ artistic/Take-the-cucumbers-out-of-your-ears-and-listen-to-it-before-you-die- not-having-truly-experienced-music album.

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
I once again pretty much agree with you. "Nightswimming" and "Sweetness Follows" take my breath away every time I hear them, and "Star Me Kitten" is almost ethereal in its evanescence. I agree with Scott that "Find the River" is one of their best songs ever, though I thought "Ignoreland" was this album's total suck song. As for Dawn, the simplicity of "Everybody Hurts" is its genius. It's a wonderful song because everyone in the world can relate to it! Everybody DOES hurt. I have a special bond with AFTP because it's the album that got me into REM, but even now, after hearing all the other albums many-a-time, I still recognize AFTP's value.

CZEZMZ@aol.com
You thought what?! "Ignoreland" is so fucking cathartic. One of my all time favorites by any artist of any genre. Listen again. By the way, leave the thesaurus on the shelf for a while. The sound byte glut hurts my ears/eyes.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
I'm in with the majority, this is great stuff. Sad, beautiful, perfectly played. "Drive" and its peculiar video were the best thing on MTV that year, even better than "Jeremy". "Monty", "Ignoreland" (sounds like Yes?!?!? whaaa?), "Sweetness", "Try Not to Breathe", and "Find the River" are all REM at the top of their form. Even "Everybody Hurts", while damaged almost irreparably by overexposure, is still really good. I'd agree on the charges of AOR MOR mediocrity only for "Sidewinder"; too cute, this song was rendered unnecessary by "Shiny Happy People".

jgwood@atcon.com (Matthew)
There is no good crap, and this album is AMAZING .... <-- place a positive noun here.

rgelling@nero.UVic.ca (Randy Gelling)
Actually, I've never liked REM but I think this is a great album. My problem with REM is that, like U2, they're really a pop band pretending to be a rock band. I mean, come on, where's the rhythm section on these records! And when you can hear it--it sucks! They should've listened to the Stooges before they started but now it's too late so at least they can be a good pop band. Their melodies are strong on this album. REM finally accepted that they should stop embarrassing themselves by trying to rock and instead go pop. Great use of strings, etc. In fact I'll go out on a limb here and say that Automatic for the People is what the Beatles were trying--but failed --to do on Sgt. Pepper (except for "A Day in the Life" of course).

jlehgoss@erols.com (Joseph Goss)
In my opinion, AFTP is the only REM album worth owning since they moved to Warner Brothers. Perhaps it doesn't have as many new melodies as OOT, or perhaps it does. I don't judge their albums on a melodic basis so much as on the overall effect they create - coherence, mood, etc. By my standards, ATFP easily edges out OOT, Green, Monster, and Hi-Fi.

01252557@brunnet.net (Heather Hartling)
Are you CRAZY?!? Automatic for the People is lyrically and musically PERFECT! Songs such as "Nightswimming", "Find the River", "Man on the Moon" . . .etc are already classics! Regardless of what the future brings, this album will live on for R.E.M. as Seargent Pepper . . . did for the Beatles. Wake up!

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
ARRRGH! What the hell is REM thinking with this one? 11 and 12 are the only saving graces. "Everybody Hurts" is okay, but I hate hearing it on the radio. AFTP is an anomaly from a great band. If Green ain't borke don't "fix" it with this garbage.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
AFTP is pure R.E.M. in what may be their musical peak. Not as groundbreaking as Murmur, but musically it's their best. I just don't see why people feel the need to knock this album for the most insignificant things ("John Paul Jones did the string arrangement; 'Everybody Hurts' sucks; there are no 'hits'; the songs aren't about anything, etc."). First of all, the melodies and string arrangements on here are rods (ye olde English!) better than the ones on Out of Time. Second, while "Everybody Hurts" may have been overplayed, it's still a very emotional, moving song that is NOT artificial. I couldn't imagine someone like like Eddie Vedder or John Lennon singing this song, but I think Michael Stipe pulls it off quite nicely. Plus, all the songs have meaning, but you have to pay attention to the lyrics. "Drive" is about the '92 elections ("Bushwhacked"), "Monty Got A Raw Deal" is about the actor Montgomery Clift, "Ignoreland" is about the American media and politics, and "Man on the Moon" is a tribute to Andy Kaufman, whom Stipe was an admirer of. Plus "Find the River" is the best R.E.M. album-closer my ears will ever hope to experience. AFTP may not be as accessible as R.E.M.'s more popular works, but it is a very relevant American work of musical work. AND it's better than Out of Time!

Burney2061@aol.com
This is more like it, very nice, memorable..."Drive" just BEGS to be played at maximum intensity...

m.persson@telia.com
I just love "Everybody Hurts"!!!!! It's the best song ever made!!

kduffy@mail.imagina.com (Kay Duffy)
this was my favorite album.

in the sixth grade. but i still really like nightswimming and find the river, so it's okay.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Another mellow, beautiful, touching album by this band. It almost seems like us fans were spoiled by how many great songs these guys wrote. Anyhow, A4tP is not a rock album, obviously. It's a dark pop album, kind of Out of Time's Goth sister who wears black makeup and listens to Sisters of Mercy all day. The truly remarkable ones here are "Man on the Moon" (classic) and "Nightswimming", as well as "find the river", one of the best they've ever written. Buy it today.

9/10

richbunnell@home.com
I was bored out of my skull by this one when I first bought it, but it's really grown on me. I'll never be the biggest fan of "Everybody Hurts," possibly because my life has never gotten to the point where I want to put a gun in my mouth, and that instrumental is pure filler, but the rest is as pretty as REM has gotten post-Fables. "Man On The Moon" is one of those timeless-sounding songs that will live on despite overplay and its inclusion in a disappointing tribute movie of the same name, and though "Drive" definitely rips on Pink Floyd, it's one of the best openers the band has ever done. As for the controversial "Ignoreland," I do agree that it sticks out like a sore thumb, but it doesn't matter because the song is AWESOME. Stream-of-consciousness Republican-bashing glee. (By the way, to David Straub, I think that when Mark said the song sounds like Yes, he had the commercial Rabin-era Yes in mind, and the instrumentation of the song definitely sounds right out of 90125.) 8/10

9402992h@student.gla.uc.uk (Dan Hackney)
"Try Not To Breathe" has the finest little love squeal of feedback I have ever, ever heard. The only thing is you get the impression that it took months of careful planning and experimentation and lost most of its sparkle. Like the record as a whole. I'm a big believer in bands not being allowed to spend more than a day in the studio at a time. Look what happened to Husker Du once they could afford proper studio time at Warner Bros...

dstreb@neo.rr.com (Evan Streb)
Why does everybody absolutely love this album with their entire being? I just get tired of ballad after ballad. Sure, "Nightswimming" and "Everybody Hurts" have nice melodies, but "New Orleans Instrumental # 1"??? "Find the River"??? Brutal! The rockers are much better than the slow ones. "Ignoreland" and "Sidewinder" are two of their best ever. It's a good album, but it's nowhere NEAR as good as everybody says it is. That's just what I think. I'd personally only give it about a high seven (several). And what does "Star Me Kitten" mean anyway?

richbunnell@home.com
Well, if it's any clue, the "Star" is like a "CENSORED" symbol. Think about it.

moolila@hotmail.com (Ornit Abiri)
this one goes out to the one who said r.e.m. pretending to be a rock band but finally decided to go pop. well the thing about r.e.m.(and u2 for this matter) is that anyone who's not a music expert can easily feel and say that this band is creating what realy love and since they are always open to all different styles they showing many faces of themselves and forming many music genres -they don't need to make pretend when writing and performing their music cause that's r.e.m's nature and they can easily pop jam and excite or ROCK any cradle and still excite. and don't forget these guys actually started their way as punkers in the early punky 80's , and even though they were never realy that famous world wide until out of time release in 1991 , still the well-known rolling stone claimed them to be the best rock n' roll band in the world in 1987. cause they already knew their thing. so that's the big mistake-correction here, Randy.

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
10/10: Obvious, I know, but this is probably my favourite.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Despite the stupid Democratic party theme song that is "Ignoreland", this is a wonderful album. Makes you feel good to listen to it in a way that only Murmur does. It took balls to release "Drive" as a lead-off single, and it paid off. Michael Stipe's alternately wearing whimsical hats and grunge-inspired toboggans.

Jcjh20@aol.com
Fantastic album. I really love it. Every song on here. Yes "Everybody Hurts" is an incredibly passionate song and i ain't sick of it yet. "Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" and "Ignoreland" are like the only up-beat numbers on here, and the former is dang catchy, and the latter is funny, and is an awesome song. But the rest of this stuff is beautiful "Nightswimming", "Find The River", "Star Me Kitten" (Fuck me kitten!), "Sweetness Follows" and the dark Pink Floydy opening number "Drive". And "Man On The Moon" is a down-right classic. Ill give this album the 10 now, but who knows, my favorites always change all the time, but ive loved this ever since it first came out.

cola@together.net (Brett Colasacco)
Far from R.E.M.'s most consistent LP, Automatic for the People is nevertheless a strong contender for their best. Alongside the instantly forgettable instrumental and the shameful "Star Me Kitten," the album boasts four genuine, breathtaking masterpieces. And "Man on the Moon," the record's most well-known tune, isn't one of them! "Everybody Hurts" comes first, easily the most famous of the four. Few singers would lay themselves as bare as Michael Stipe does here, and the subtle playing with dramatic crescendos fits the song's highly emotional content. "Sweetness Follows" is the second dynamite number, and it's arguably the greatest of them all. Using gorgeous strings alongside painful dissonance, it becomes Automatic's centerpiece. "Nightswimming" is the most striking track, forcing you each time to remember the moment when you first heard it. The arrangement is especially spars! e, limited primarily to simple, repetitive piano chords. But everything works. "Find the River" is a knockout, also. It starts with a few deceptive, strummed guitar chords, but soon builds into a magnificent opus that leaves the listener hanging at its spitfire conclusion. I don't think I've ever heard R.E.M. quite so ambitious as this.

What about the rest of the songs? They're all listenable. "Drive" is a fine opener, and whereas "Try Not to Breath" and "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" are moderately disappointing, the energy in "Monty Got a Raw Deal" and "Ignoreland" more than makes up for their weaknesses. Of course, "Man on the Moon" made its debut appearance on this album, though it took the film, Man on the Moon, to popularize it some years later. And that's it! This collection is really neck-and-neck with Murmur in R.E.M.'s oeuvre, but, considering the strength of its core quartet, I'll give it a nudge. 10.

Muggwort@aol.com
being a large fan of dark popular music i really love automatic for the people. it shows r.e.m at there most depressed and most beautiful i would have to say it is one of my top 3 r.e.m albums

9/10

robchaundy@yahoo.com (Robert Chaundy)
Stop ragging on Peter Gabriel.

NOW.

As for the album, you said it, really - nice, pretty, awash with integrity and wholseome all-american yearningness. But dull. AS ARE YOUR CONSTANT POPS AT PETER GABRIEL!!

I'm getting old.

fidelsjuarezg@hotmail.com
The star in the "Star me kitten" title resulted as a minor tribute to the Rolling Stones' "Star star" a.k.a. "Starfucker". Changing of the names for obvious marketing reasons... Oh! And it's my favorite song in this album whenever I care to extrapolate lust throughout a pop song, not mentioning that it follows what's probably the most elaborated song R.E.M. had written at the moment... you know which one... the one about Andy Kaufman in a wrestling match. Curious how the personality of the band (which equals their good taste basically) merges perfectly when they're doing the country ("Don't go back to Rockville", "Country feedback", hey... they are consistently inspired numbers, not to mention some of my favorites, which can't be said always when it comes to R.E.M. as childke popsters.)

specializedvideos@yahoo.com
I think this is an excellent album, but as with any album hailed as a classic repeated listening reveals many flaws. "Drive" is one of my all time favorite REM songs and leads off great. The next two songs may be considered sellouts, but sound fine to me and then you get "Everybody Hurts", which I hated at first, but I am probably the only person who actually had it grow on them. I guess my life has gotten more depressing. It is still not a favorite, but at times I do really enjoy it. "Sweetness Follows" is a classic and "Ignoreland" and "Monty Got a Raw Deal" are also wonderful. I did get tired of "Man On The Moon", but it is OK. When I play this CD I can't understand how "Nightswimming", "Find The River" and "Star Me Kitten" would be enjoyed by anyone, but after reading review after review here most people seem to call them favorites so what do I know. Still I have to stick to my opinion and say they are boring as hell. I like this one a lot, but wouldn't call it a classic.

ZRobELee@aol.com
No question about it. R.E.M.'s best. It's the kind of album that can transform R.E.M. haters to fans overnight. Gone are the angry, geopolitical ballads of Document. Gone are the infectiously poppy 80's dance hits of Green. Gone are the mumbled and confused love ballads of Out of Time. The culmination of a 12 year career, and back to back to back platinum albums is not disappointing. AFTP is a sure fire thumb way up...a true 10/10.

What makes it so special? Well for starters, there's only one track on the whole CD that I don't like; Ignoreland. Out of 12 songs, if a fan is only disappointed with one, than the musician has done something right. The amazing thing about these tracks are that each one builds up a unique sort of momentum. Half way through the song, it peaks, and it creates the illusion that we're gonna be hit with some sort of catchy, driven lyric. But, BAM! we just go down the cycle again, gradually descending until the song ends. Does anybody understand basically what I was trying to say with that? Nevermind.

Anyway, Drive is quite an opener. Not their best work, but quite an opener. I'll admit, the lyrics aren't Stipe's strongest...seeing as he repeats the same phrases over and over again...but hey, it worked for Nirvana. Besides that, the guitar and drums do this track a world of justice. We'll skip Try Not to breathe...not that it's not a fine song. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight is a silly little ballad...loosely based on The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It paints whimsical images of a jabberwacky type creature in my mind, and I'm still lost as to what exactly it means. And no, I'm not high... I usually skip it. Everybody Hurts is fabulous. Plain and Simple; fabulous. New Orleans Instrumental is a nice, slow experiment, and it leads into a somber, depressing Sweetness Follows. The next true highlight is definately Monty Got a Raw Deal, which I take to illustrate a lynching...although it's open to interpretation. Again, the momentum, the vocals, the drums...it's the whole package. Ignoreland is upbeat, but mediocre, Star Me Kitten is peculiar and uncharacteristically "vulgar" (in a light sense of the word). Man on the Moon is a fitting Tribute. Nightswimming is one of their more beautiful songs; a tribute to lost innocence for young and old. Descriptive, majestic, relaxing, and masterful. Find the River is much like Nightswimming with Stipe's generic Southern, rural theme. It relishes in the cliche of Urban America's destruction of Rural America, but it does it so gracefully that it appeals to me (a self proclaimed city lover.) 10/10...10/10...10/10...if you don't like this album, YOU'RE NUTS!

ddickson@rice.edu
Man, you weren't kidding when you said your R.E.M. reviews were bad! Your sense of humor back then was merely SUPER FREAKIN' hilarious, as opposed to the insanely on-the-floor-coughing-out-loud hilariousness it possesses today. I have draconian standards, sir, and these jokes are just AWESOMELY funny, instead of the UNBELIEVABLY AWESOMELY funny that my draconian standards demand. Tsk, tsk.

Speaking of which, Automatic for the People rules mercilessly. The best album of the '90's I've ever heard, besides Mellon Collie. Better, in fact, then OK Computer. Come to think of it, though, you'd probably agree with that last sentence. So nevermind, which is overrated.

remlover72@yahoo.com (Brett P. Atlanta, GA)
Jesus Christ, the album sold 14 million copies in the U.S alone.

ddickson@rice.edu
Aye, REM fan. All the more reason to call it overrated. If an album sells 14 million, it'd better be worth 14 million. I'd say, personally, in my estimation, Baby Chasing Dollar Bill's worth about 1.5 million (copies sold). I don't knock its influence or revolutionary power, but I am of the opinion that it is perfectly possible for an artist to cause a revolution with three or four great songs and eight other okay/passable ones, as long as it sticks out compared to the rest of pop culture at the time. Hence Nevermind. I mean, look at the Wrens. They're GREAT! How much have they sold? NOTHING! Sales figures mean nothing in either direction. That said, a high selling album can be a great one. Even today. Like (*the rest of this comment censored due to security purposes. People don't like high- selling modern groups unless they're Nirvana. It's against the law!*)

spydabass@aol.com
I downloaded this album over a year ago (October 2005) and wasn't too into it. Some songs were alright, see? But then again I wasn't much of an R.E.M. fan back then. I had "Document" which was cool, but I wasn't really big on their stuff. I liked "Man on the Moon" and "Everybody Hurts" but it didn't affect me much.

Fast-forward to February 2006 - listened to "Murmur" on a whim, really enjoyed it, and thought to myself, "Hmm, maybe I should give Automatic another go." So I did, and then it I was all like, "Whoaaa. This is... really, really good!"

And now it's one of my favorite albums of all time. To put it in dramatic, stupid terms, it's just one of those albums that feels like it's apart of me. Like "The Soft Bulletin" or "Blood on the Tracks."

Just a few tracks that I love...

"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - I fucking LOVE this song. Call it hippy-dippy bullshit as much as you like, I absolutely adore this song. The way the strings move in and out, Stipe's weird vocal, just the whole exuberance of the thing. It uplifts me.

"Ignoreland" - I thought this song didn't fit into the album much when I first heard it. Now it makes a lot of sense to me, looking at the lyrics - "I know that this is vitriol / no-solution, spleen-venting / but I feel better having screamed, don't you?" It's kind of a recogniton by Stipe that writing political songs really is pointless, but goddamnit, it feels good to bitch about it. And for some reason it makes a lot of sense, and meshes well with the rest of the album.

"Nightswimming" - oh god. Oh my. I'm gonna cry just thinking about that song.

"Find The River" - the most beautiful album ending I've ever heard, and I think I've heard a lot of great ones. It's a sad sad ending, as is life, but it's reassuring. Life goes on. "I have got to find the river." Oh man.

Sorry if I've gotten all sentimental here - this album is a personal watershed moment. I'll always love it. Best album focused around death that I've ever heard. It recognizes the darkness, the slow agony of it all. But it also highlights the beauty of what life is. 10/10.

again, sorry for the lame sentimentality, that's what music like this does to a pussy like me.

bry1425@msn.com
I have always had U2 and R.E.M. in the same category. My favorite U2 album is "War". But you cannot deny that U2's best album is "The Joshua Tree". My favorite R.E.M. album is either "Document" or "Lifes Rich Pagent" depending on my mood. But "Automatic For The People" is R.E.M.'s best album. "Find the River" and "Nightswimming" are Godlike. "Drive", "Try not to Breathe". "Everybody Hurts", "Monty Got a Raw Deal" are amazing. This is one of the greatest attempts at getting a mood down in a record that I have ever heard. Even with Micheal's laugh in "The Sidwinder Sleep's Tonight".

Add your thoughts?

Mystic & Merry 1992 Single
Rating = 8

Spizzenergi’s “Where’s Captain Kirk?” was a big hit among the members of my body when we watched Urgh! A Music War way back in dusty old ‘90. My ears in particular felt great relief as this hooky Ramones-meet-Dickies punk tune provided a brief respite from the boring new wave and reggae horseshit stinking up the rest of the movie. So the members of your body can only imagine how excited all of us were when we heard that Athen, Greece’s REM had covered the song for one of their annual Holiday Singles. My legs performed a joyous victory dance as my hands banged into each other with glee and my colon released its vice-like grip on my gut flora, mucus and chyme. In short, a fantastic time was had by all of us here at Mark Prindle.

Side B’s cover of Babes in Toyland’s (not Babes in Toyland’s) “Toyland” turned out pretty good too -- just the members of Michael Stipe and a piano singing a song for members of children and members of their children’s children. My duodenum had some good things to say about this one, and my Golgi apparatus briefly packaged macromolecules with a bit more spring in its step. However, my kidney thought it was kind of a waste, my leg fell asleep in the middle, and my liver spewed bile all over the place. And don’t even get me STARTED on that asshole my anus.

But I guess it’s true what the members of Abraham Lincoln said: “You can fool all the members of all the people some of the time, all the members of some of the people all the time, some of the members of all the people all of the time, and some of the members of some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the members of all the people all the time."

“Also, I’m tall and have a stupid beard.”

Add your thoughts?

The Automatic Box - Warner Bros. 1995
Rating = 6

So are you fellows following this whole xxPrincessPunkxx shenanigan? Actually, it might be over by now, but Official MarkPrindle.com Interview Transcriber(TM) Jim Laakso didn't alert me to it until last night. If you're a young person, you probably knew about it the day it happened but I'm a wrinkly old piece of shit so I don't hear anything about youth culture happenings until a whippersnapper such as yourself gives me the low-down. I didn't even know what 'pwned' meant until about 10 minutes ago, and apparently that term's been around since the mid-'80s! Indeed, I have been an elderly bald old bag since I was 12 years old.

But my point is this -- xxPrincessPunkxx (look it up on YouTube or Yahoo! if you're over the age of 25) is a 15-year-old Canadian girl who made the mistake of posting a ludicrously earnest 9-minute video on MySpace (and elsewhere, perhaps? Not sure) in which she screams and literally bursts into tears about the injustice of emo/scene kids being hated because they look different than everybody else. She says a lot of awfully stupid things in the video, and it's impossible not to laugh at how over-dramatic she's behaving. HOWEVER.....

I don't know what it is with you young Internet people in today's society, but some of your kind really need to learn who your enemies are. This xxPrincessPunkxx girl pulled a boner. What is the natural human reaction to this type of situation? To laugh, maybe forward it to a friend or two, and that's all. She's a powerless adolescent nobody, posing no threat to anyone, just trying to get some attention. So what do you young people in your big pants do? You hack into every Internet account she has, spread her personal information all over the Web, post Photoshopped porn pics of her, create entire web pages devoted to making fun of her, and barrage her with so many prank calls and death threats (!!!) that she has to change all of her contact information. And not you personally, but most likely a young person of your "Generation Y" generation because my generation ("Generation L") preaches peace and love, at Woodstock.

Was she asking for it? Basically, yes. At the end of her footage, she beseeches viewers to forward the video to their friends, because she feels so strongly about its emotional content and message. Also, as she admits in her later "Defeat" video (watch that one too), she wants desperately to be recognized for something (as most of us do at that age). But I'm not concerned here with whether or not she needed to be taught a lesson about humility (and humiliation); I'm concerned here with the sort of group-think that leads to such a massive attack on a single powerless child.

Basically, kids are assholes. That's my point. I was going to say something about how things sure have changed since my day and kids have gotten crueler and so forth, but now that I think about it, that's not true at all. It's just that today's young people have the technology to humiliate people on a global scale, while my generation had to make due with however much emotional pain and embarrassment we could cause at the school level. And quite frankly, if a similar video had been made by a 'jock' (if that clique still exists; not sure), xxPrincessPunkxx would probably have been among the viewers making such outrageous fun of it. But that's not my point. My point is this -- THANK FUCKING GOD NOBODY IN HIGH SCHOOL EVER SPREAD A RUMOR THAT I MASTURBATED IN THE BATHROOM. Sure, it wouldn't have been true, since I was too stupid and anxiety-ridden to masturbate until I was like 20 years old, but that wouldn't have mattered. I only mention this because it DID happen to one guy at my school - Keith Baker - and he was teased mercilessly as "BOB" (Beat Off Baker) for the next three years of his education. You know what he does for a living now? He's a professional bathroom masturbator. See? Kids are pricks.

Not the kids who read my site, of course, but all the other ones.

I swear I had a point about 'compassion' when I started writing this, but I think I've finally figured out that the problem is just the nature of kids -- they have tons of weird hormones running through their minds, their energy levels are ludicrously high, and they have limited power over their lives. Also, some haven't decided yet whether it's cooler to be funny or nice, and peer pressure at that age supports funniness - particularly cruel funniness, because it's more taboo-breaking. Which brings me to another point -- my own hypocrisy!

No, I'm not talking about the way I make fun of Paul Simon's mustache here on the Internet and then turn around and whine about young people pissing on the life of a 10th grade nothing. (TOTAL JUDY BLUME REFERENCE) I'm talking about how the difference between 'witty' and 'not witty' can change my entire attitude towards bullying tactics. See, if you dig around online, you can find lots of stupid, sexist attacks on xxPrincessPunkxx that just aren't very smart or funny. Things like a screen grab of her crying, above the caption "Your Tears - They Only Make My Penis Harder." Or a prank phone call by some twerp who can't think of anything to say besides "I'm gonna have to see some tits, or that's it." The interesting thing is that witless jokes like these are easily as mockable as xxPrincessPunkxx's original video - at least she wasn't trying to be funny and failing - plus they very clearly take time to do. Why on Earth would somebody rich enough to own a speedy computer go out of their way to make fun of a non-celebrity whom they've never met? Do they really have so few interests that that's how they want to spend their time? Christ, if I had that kind of free time, I'd fucking USE IT! Alas, I'm an adult and have to spend most of my time either at the office (ahem, now, ahem) or having sex with 5,000 women at a time.

But about my hypocrisy -- two girls posted a parody video that I found hilarious. They made up their hair to look like xxPrincessPunkxx's, and they say lots of really funny satirical stuff about 'emo kids' in between bouts of crying -- for a full NINE MINUTES, to mock the banality and interminability of the original. Yes, I laughed at it, because by gum it was a funny parody. So at very least, is there any way to keep UNFUNNY people from bullying and harrassing others? Come on, "Emo Chin" just doesn't make any sense. Yes, she claims to be emo and yes she has a prominent cleft in her chin, but the two are entirely unrelated. And there's just no humor in a death threat, unless it's like to the president or something.

So you see, I'm a gentle soul who can't bear the thought of a young innocent girl being mocked in an unfunny fashion.

But I do have one other point -- sexism among youth. "Your Tears - They Only Make My Penis Harder"? "I'm gonna have to see some tits, or that's it"? What do (unfunny) comments like this mean? Women know that their feminine wiles give them psychological power over men, so do hateful (unfunny) comments like these represent an aggressive male counter-reaction to this advantage? Is the intention to make her feel like her thoughts are worthless but her sex isn't? More to the point, there is clearly enough in xxPrincessPunkxx's video to make fun of without having to make her feel sexually violated. Is the problem just that teenage boys get boners a lot and don't know how to talk to girls? Whatever the case, both of these comments (as well as the Photoshop PrincessPunkPorn) demonstrate that xxPrincessPunkxx does wield some level of sexual power over her tormentors, whether they intended their messages to be read that way or not. Also, and more importantly, neither the comments nor the porn are funny.

Seriously, xxPrincessPunkxx's video is so stupid and self-centered that you'd have to be out of your mind to feel sorry for her after watching it. Yet that's exactly how I feel now, thanks to all the unfunny people who jumped on the backlash bandwagon in hopes of earning some of those humor (ie popularity) points for themselves. Shame on you. Shame on all of you.

Except the two girls who made that hilarious parody of her. That was great! Make more!

At this point, you're probably wondering what all of this has to do with REM's Automatic Box. Well, one of the stupid things that xxPrincessPunkxx says in her asinine video that all you monsters used as an excuse to unleash a vicious personal attack on a little kid who could have been your best friend is "Hit me once, I will turn my face like Jesus did. But if you hit me twice because I am something that you ain't, I will BOX the fucking shit out of you!" So you see the connection.

Released around the time of Automatic For The People, The Automatic Box is a set of CD-singles compiling b-sides and rarities from their Warner Brothers years (to date). More specifically, it includes 7 instrumentals, 6 cover tunes, 2 alternate versions of LP tracks, and 3 non-LP originals with vocals (2 from film soundtracks, 1 from a b-side). The instrumentals are half-written and mostly pretty disappointing (not shocking when you consider titles like "Organ Song," "Mandolin Strum" and "New Orleans Instrumental #2"), but the covers show an interesting range of influences (Robyn Hitchcock, Syd Barrett, Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, The Tokens and Suicide) and "Fretless" is an astonishing song. Granted, at this point you can find "Fretless" - along with "It's A Free World Baby," "Chance" and "Pop Song '89 (Acoustic)" - on the band's Rarities And B-Sides disc, but there are enough other rarities on here to make it worth a purchase if you already have all their studio albums. One song is a 12-bar blues jam performed on a mandolin, for example. Another calls itself "Winged Mammal Theme" and then makes you smile when the only lyrics turn out to be "Bat Man!" And if you liked the way they referenced "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight," wait until you hear how playfully SERIOUS they are in their rendition of The Tokens' original! Great Scott, Michael Stipe! Why didn't you sing all Vegasy like that on Murmur?

Oh that's right, it would have sounded like shit.

Reader Comments

arp@slab.org (Ashley Pomeroy)
That would have been perfect if you had made the introduction just one long paragraph - or if you had narrated it yourself, saying slightly more than 2.8 words per second thus taking nine minutes to read it out (1,546 words divided by 540 seconds). You would have to say zzzprinkpunkzz and miss out all the punctuation in order to fit it in, or edit it to chop out all the spaces, but it would be fab.

lumpy_monkey@hotmail.com
"'Your Tears - They Only Make My Penis Harder'? 'I'm gonna have to see some tits, or that's it'? What do (unfunny) comments like this mean?"

I think you may have answered your own question when you talked earlier on about how cruel funniness is encouraged in youth because it's seen as more taboo-breaking. Any "humor" in those statements would be derived from how "shocking" they are. Wether or not it's actually just hurtful and mean is irrelevant. With so few taboos left to break, it seems like the only way to get noticed is to just take it to it's furthest possible extreme and act like a hateful, bigoted asshole. Some people will enjoy it from an "ironic" standpoint, probably because it allows them to distance themselves from the actual weight those words carry. Others may enjoy it because it allows them to feel comfortable within their own resentment and insecurity. The point is, this is just one of the natural casualties of a society that values cynicism and ironic detatchment over open-hearted sincerity - which is what got xxPrincessPunkxx into this mess in the first place. Sure, she made a complete ass of herself, but she did it while expressing something she felt very sincerely about, and there's something much more admirable about that than trying to peg yourself up a few notches by making another human being feel worthless.

And yes, I hate using "society" as some sort of big imaginary bogeyman. But really, society is just a reflection of the general population at large, not just the establishment. For all the crap we're forcefed by mass media/the powers that be, you'd think basic human decency would still prevail in a situation like this. Shame on us.

Add your thoughts?

1993 Happy Holiday Hoedown Single
Rating = 3

Hicks, rednecks and bumpkins. That’s my motto. And no more hicks, rednecks and bumpkins than down South of Florida way. Or at least down South somewhere. That’s why REM performing a hick redneck bumpkin version of “Silver Bells” isn’t high on my list of things to not despise. Pedal steel, drawling Southern vocals. I’m falling asleep.

Side B is a melancholy piano instrumental from A Charlie Brown SeXXXmas, that old TV cartoon where Linus fucks a tree.

Add your thoughts?

Monster - Warner Bros. 1994.
Rating = 6

A despicable album. Trying to make a "raw, rough punk rock album," the best they could come up with was a bunch of mid-tempo three-chord rock played with a really loud shimmery distorted guitar with about a million effects on it. Like U2 on Achtung Baby, this is nothing but a bunch of old bags trying to prove they can compete with the young ones. Gone is the reliably creative R.E.M. of old; these melodies are mostly generic and predictable, and the singer could not sound more pleased with himself (falsetto in two songs? Why?).

So why a 6 instead of a 2? 'Cause I'm wild about that guitar tone! All that delay and reverb and chorus and distortion and vibrato - it's the coolest over-processed sound I've ever heard! Totally 90's, dude. Plus, I actually really like the guitar lines for "I Don't Sleep, I Dream" and the godlike "You." Otherwise, "King Of Comedy" is an INXS rip-off, "Strange Currencies" is a happier rewrite of "Everybody Hurts," "Bang And Blame" is a dumber retread of the "Losing My Religion" riff, "I Took Your Name" is a weak Loop rip, "Let Me In" is an indecipherable "tribute" to the late spokesman of a generation to which not a single member of R.E.M. belongs, "Circus Envy" is the kind of mean rocker that only a bunch of sissies could write, and "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" is the first song on it.

I actually enjoy listening to this album, even though most of the songs irritate me. Punk? Mean and harsh? As my good friend Chris Crowson so eloquently put it, "Monster makes Life's Rich Pageant sound like CRASS!" My father loves it to pieces, but you know fathers. It's not jangly. It's not creative. It's barely pretty. But man-o-bert what a guitar tone.

Reader Comments

kmoore@tsipr.com (Kevin Moore)
OK, OK already. As a self professed U2 fan (owning everything they have ever recorded - including hours of out takes from Rattle & Hum, the recording studeo tapes from Achtung Baby, and their original demo) - I resent the negative overtones.

Monster is finally bringing REM back to their garage sounding roots, with enough guitar and melodies to add balance. The previous albums sounded like they took too much prozac and were trying to impress Barbara Bush.

letson@mindspring.com (Peter Williams)
can't stand this lame attempt to rock. did pete buck get an ac 30 for christmas or did someone tell him that the one he already had came with that nifty little tremelo effect? i think they couldn't have made a worse record had they let scott litt choose every song. he sucks too! oh yeah, it might have the worst cover art i've seen. i think it was all a joke that they'll let you in on in 2000. Let us not forget that it was this fine record that brought all of those glittery cowboy suits out of some elvis shrine and into your living room. what the fuck was mike mills thinking?

monkey37@localnet.com (Scott Moore)
EXCELLENT! PLUG IT IN! TURN IT UP! Mail it to Newt Gingrich and tell him to blast it at the next meet of Congress and see how many old farts kick off. This album deserves the label, WARNING: This music could cause previously polka-raged/live with your mother till you're forty/goes trick-or-treating dressed as Fox Mulder/monkey-boyz to break out in a violent sudden rash of coolness!

no_such_user@davidson.edu (Maurelle Ponder)
Hated Monster. Didn't buy it, didn't like it, wondered what had happened to the REM I know and love, wondered what pod people had taken over the brains of the band. I don't care how enjoyable it is to listen to, IT'S NOT REM!! It wasn't melodic, it wasn't pretty, it wasn't sincere. It sucked. I give it the 2 you were thinking about giving it.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
Worthless piece. REM look uncharacteristically desperate here. So disappointing after AFTP. I, for one, was irritated by the over reliance on a CHEEEEEEZY guitar tone for most of this record; this from a band that could sound completely unlike itself or any other over and over from song to song only two years before! Thankfully, the new one is much better...

jgwood@atcon.com (Matthew)
This album, although it did have much success, never ceases to amaze me (in a negative way). I'm a diehard fan and all but, except for "Bang And Blame" and "Strange Currencies," it seems like they were *trying* to write music, not doing it. Believe me, I regret writing this, but a few catchy tunes will never win me over the way amazing songs such as "Belong", "Find The River" and "Perfect Circle".

HDVW143@aol.com
This album is, at very best, fair. There are only a few good songs here. There is way too much distortion. REM were good when they played REM, but it sounds like they are trying to impersonate Offspring on this one. Don't get me wrong, I love Offspring, but REM should stick with what they know.

deeeeter@aol.com (Christophe Juliet)
I think there is an interesting parallel here between u2 and rem that you make. Yes they both take a very unexpected turn in style ....BUT, I think it works for both bands. Achtung (an excellent album) and Monster a very good album. Yes the guitar is the best, love that distortion. I'd love for a band to pick up on that sound!

01252557@brunnet.net (Heather Hartling)
Your "review" of this album is pretty lame. Sentence after sentence, you contradict yourself. I happen to have thought the album was great. Sure . . . it wasn't exactly typical R.E.M. material, but if everything were "typical", life wouldn't be very interesting.

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
A few tracks are fun to listen to, but Monster has few redeemable songs. "I Don't Sleep I Dream" is the only noteworthy REM, though "Kenneth" and "Bang" would rock for other bands. One last note..."Tongue" is actually quite good if you ignore the lyrics.

k4w7@marisrb.marist.edu (d')
This isn't a fantastic album, but it does the trick. the last three songs kill me though. They're really great.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
For a real REM rock album, go to Life's Rich Pageant. Stay away from this lame crap.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
It's hard to imagine that my dad thinks this album is the best R.E.M. has to offer, and he doesn't even know what "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" is ABOUT. This album got me started with R.E.M., so I look at it quite liberally. For your information, "Tongue" is sang in falsetto because Stipe is playing the part of a tormented, sexually abused woman (although it took me a while to figure that out). Though the last few songs at the end are pretty bad, the rest of the album has a unique feel to it, although it's nowhere near as interesting as Automatic was. But this is the R.E.M. album that all the kids own, so how can you tell 'em to put Pageant in their pipe and smoke it opposed to this? Forceably? Yeah, but them seem to like it!

Itchload@aol.com
How come every review of REM has to mention U2 negatively and vice versa? Not just you Mark, but everyone. It's actually become a cliche. On another note for you Sonic Youth fans out there, that is none other than Thurston Moore singing the "Yah, you know me" part in Crush With Eyeliner. I think he plays some guitar too. REM had been trying to make a real rock album ever since the early 80's as punk was a big influence on Michael, it's just a coincidence that it came at this late point in their career. In other words the weren't trying to make a record for the kids.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Agreed with most people, this album's a bit of a step down. But not by much! There are still an awful lot of great songs here ("bang and blame", "kenneth", "tongue" and the fabulous "star 69"). On the end it starts to kinda fall apart with a few nondescript "grungy" songs that I dont plan on listening to that much. And "strange currencies" does sound WAY too much like "everybody hurts", which I dont like that much in the first place (too obvious). It's still a fairly enjoyable album though.

7/10

richbunnell@home.com
Retch. Most of these "songs" aren't real songs, they're just 4-minute long ideas. The good songs are "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" and "Star 69" (actually one of R.E.M.'s best ever) with small honorable mentions going to "King Of Comedy" and "Bang And Blame." But most of these songs are just crap - "Crush With Eyeliner" is one of those songs that goes on for a really long time without actually DOING anything, and the melody is awful too. The "guitar tone" that you praised so much is nothing but an echoing guitar riff. Whoopdiedoo, it sounds like crap and it's in every single freaking track. And "Tongue"?? I understand that this song is an R.E.M. fan-favorite. This goes to show you how dangerous it is to get yourself too caught up in the reins of fandom. 4/10

avsouza@webtv.net (Tony Souza)
A lot of people hate this album, but I love it. R.E.M. have always unafraid to try new things and to change moods from CD to CD, so I take this CD in that context. It's good to hear them let loose and turn it up. They've shown they can go the softer route on previous CD's so why not try something different? A band should try new things and not get stagnent. It may not be a classic R.E.M. CD, but it still has the bands' elements of good songwriting and strong melodies.

dstreb@neo.rr.com (Daniel Streb)
I think somebody else did something like this on your site, but here goes:

1. Airbag
2. Paranoid Android
3. Subterranean Homesick Alien
4. Exit Music (For A Film)
5. Let Down
6. Karma Police
7. Fitter, Happier
8. Electioneering
9. Climbing Up The Walls
10. No Surprises
11. Lucky
12. The Tourist

Monster compares to that?!

Stiple6107@aol.com
I've always liked "let me in" "you" and "kenneth" okay it isn't ehir best work, but the guitar tone is great...if you don't play guitar and spend hours searching for tones it would be hard to explain why i love it so much...anyway i believe it's worth owning...even with all it's faults it's not as bad as people wish it was...

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
6/10: Could've done with a few more actual tunes, if you ask me.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Not as bad as everyone says. In fact, I'd say it's pretty darn good. The whole glam rock thing that starts on this album and hopefully has ended baffles me, but "Crush With Eyeliner" is the best example of REM-as-T. Rex-ripoff. Good tunes, really. Micheal Stipe has shaved himself bald now.

Jcjh20@aol.com
Not a bad album, in my opinion, actually. I remember buying it when it first came out, after wearing the magnificant Automatic For The People tape i had out. But i never took it as a disappointment, i actually quite enjoy it, but i do agree that they could of done 10000 + better to follow up Automatic.. than this. But its still enjoyable. "You" is personally my favorite track on the record. Although that little riff part that Bill repeats a few times kinda sounds like "Over the hills and far away", i still love the song, still think its one of the best REM songs written. Best lyrics out of any of the other songs on the album probably too. I really like "Tongue", "Star 69", "Crush With Eyeliner", and of course, "Whats the frequency Kenneth". "Let me in" is nice too, although all the distortion kinda kills it. I guess maybe if you listen to the album and forget that REM ever made great albums like Automatic or Murmur or something, then it could be quite enjoyable (same goes for ! UP)

billsangry@aol.com
Silly lyrics show you don't care anymore.

amcquill@home.com (Andrew McQuillan)
Why do people hate this album? It's way way better than Reveal. This is actually the first R.E.M. album I heard all the way through and I don't have a problem with it. It's Reveal that's boring and tired.

Muggwort@aol.com
Monster is r.e.m's lame attempt to be a glam/grunge band. Stay away at all costs. there is not 1 good song on here! Hell it's so bad you'd be paying too much if someone gave this to you for free!

2/10

specializedvideos@yahoo.com
I can't understand why everybody hates "Bang and Blame". I absolutely love that song, "Crush With Eyeliner" and "What's The Frequency Kenneth?". "You" and "Tongue" are fun and you are right the guitar sound does make up for some weak material like "King Of Comedy" and "I Took Your Name". I also admit a lot of the album does sound damn lazy and some of the songs are downright emabarrassing, but nowdays you can program the songs you like on a CD and this one is pretty enjoyable if you do that.

NMcpherson@fac.unc.edu (Norman McPherson)
I'm glad that I didn't spend any money buying this thing. I heard it on my ex-wife's cd player when I had enough nerve to go back to the apartment. When we were together we went to see them during their "Green" tour in "89: best damn concert that I ever saw. And then in a few years they came out with this? What in the hell is this stuff? I never bought another cd of theirs again- that's been almost ten years ago.

ZRobELee@aol.com
A unique album that genuinely demonstrates the band's unprecedented skills at changing their image with each passing album. Monster attempts, with mixed results, to manufacture a grunge album from jangle rockers. "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" is one of the catchiest tracks R.E.M. has recorded, and thus recieved universal acclaim. it single handedly tapped into a generation of listeners subconscious, and Stipe's political display at the Grammy's that year further stabalized his position as spokesman for a generation. Crush with Eyeliner is over played dribble, but Star 69 is a relatively catchy upbeat track which i would certainly listen to (if all other R.E.M. cd's vanished from the earth, and I had suddenly grown tired of everything else on Monster.) The three most impressive tracks are Strange Currencies, Tongue, and Let Me In. The first is a slow, romanticized ballad that reminds most of an amped up Everybody Hurts. It's absolutely infectious. Tongue is the timeless R.E.M. track; they have one on each cd...it always tells a tale of lost innocence, like Nightswimming, Hairshirt, Find the River, Don't Go Back to Rockville, etc.. Finally, Let Me in is a touching tribute to Stipe's good friend, Kurt Cobain... it's intentions remind me of Man On the Moon with even more personal ties for the band itself. For those four tracks (track 1, 6, 7 and 10) alone, I would give the album a seven. the rest is mediocre to dribble, but it stands that Monster was R.E.M.'s last great, commercially viable compilation since the band got artsy and started producing garbage in Berry's absence.

SuprLoud@aol.com
OK man, I dunno about the chowderhead who tried to compare this record to OK Computer, but I say to whoever he is ya know, Pick a better fucking point of comparison, eh? Having loved that damn Radiohead album myself I am now 7 years older and wiser and I can see why some people hate Radiohead too. I mean, I hope this cat doesn't think his precious Radiohead record is "Nevermind" or anything, though it's certainly a very good album. Anyway, I just don't get what some people have against "Monster". I may be somewhat biased as this was (incredibly) my first R.E.M. purchase, but it was a damn good one at that. A very strange album, no question, but did it ever occur to the record's detractors that R.E.M. might be trying to sound cheap ON PURPOSE? I mean, what the fuck else is this glam thing anyway? Granted, "Monster" isn't their most songful album, but it's often exciting and almost never less than interesting. If this band's approach to rocking hard didn't rock as hard as one might wish it's certainly an odd and eventful detour, and well worth the ride at that. Also, check out those Duran Duran electronics on "King of Comedy" - and hey, who said Michael Stipe has no sense of humor? Not me.......8/10

airsces@yahoo.com
The sloppiest REMjob I've experienced thus far. I do like "Tongue" though, it gives me a moist, tingling sensation! "King of Comedy", "Let Me In" and "I Took Your Name" are just AWFUL though. The only songs on here I really enjoy are "What's the Frequency Kenneth?", "I Don't Sleep I Dream", "Strange Currencies" (it's a pretty song! it DOES sound a bit like "Everybody Hurts"....except good), "Tongue", and especially "You". The others range from mediocre to nauseating. I'd give it a low 6. The guitar tone IS damn cool though, when it's not droning out bland, lifeless melodies.

the_words@hotmail.com
I used to think this record in general (not having heard the whole thing at the time) was a joke until I rediscovered "Crush With Eyeliner" through some obscure mix-CD while being on a road trip, passing the state of Virginia. I couldn't believe how much it rocked in comparison to my impression of the song when it came out as a single with video back in the day.

I agree with the review. A lot of readers don't seem to get the point about the guitar tone. It's not just some fascination about the tremolo effect; it's the raw livesound of it. Plus for instance that clever whistely lead sound at the beginning of the chorus of Crush With Eyeliner... Great stuff. Smart. It may be a midlife crisis record, but it's still dealt with cleverly.

The songs though, I only really like the named song plus "Kenneth". "Strange Occurancies" DOES sound like a happier rewrite of "Everybody Hurts", but I prefer this one. The rest is mostly good, but nothing to get all riled up about.

Finally, no, there's no point for anyone at all to go pick up LRP or Murmur or whatever, instead of listening to this. Those are completely different records, neither can replace the other.

csellars21@yahoo.com
Peter Buck's guitar tone on this fucking album. Dude. It gives me the most epic boner any man could ever hope to achieve. It kicks balls. No. It kicks you IN your balls, cuts your arms off, then proceeds to tickle said balls with a feather for 90 hours straight. But enough about my ex-wife. I know for a fact every guitarist that listened to Monster went out and bought a Sovtek Big Muff the next day.

Oh, and "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" is ace. But you knew that.

edm1213@msn.com
see, this is where people start hating them, and here i am ready to call this the best thing they ever did (along with the first few songs on Up, which only Bill Berry seems to think is their best album... remember the VH1 Behing the Music: "I leave the band and they make their best album, I am now the world's number one REM fan." funny).

in fact if it wasnt for "Strange Currencies" (Everything Hurts Part 2 basically, and i hated Part 1) i'd give it an 8 or 9 maybe.

As it is, "I Dont Sleep I Dream" "Circus Envy" and "I Took Your Name" (it does sound like Loop) are 3 of my favorite songs ever by them. Very high 7, really. And better than Achtung Baby, but that goes without saying.

Add your thoughts?

1994 Yuletide Lite Fan Club 45
Rating = 5


You know what? I’m tired of being “the funny one.” The guy who “makes everyone laugh.” The guy who “comes up with these hilarious things and causes mayhem to ensue at his every whim and mercy.” So no more. Never again shall a joke pass these lips or finger! From now on, I’m going to be “the illiterate one.”

Flfipper dang ol’ dun “Sex Bobm” and R.I.M. said “PBBLB FAGGOT, GO FUCK YOURSELF DOUCH

That’s right; from now on, I’m going to be “the romantic one.”

On this single, REM covers Flipper’s “Sex Bomb,” but in a high-speed thrusting pulsating breast with a tattoo of a dick on it and a lawn sprinkler jetting semen back and for

You heard it here; from now on, I’m going to be “the intellectual one.”

This silly 78-RPM version of Flipper’s classic “Sex Bomb” may be a mite repetitive, but it’s also a world of cartoon lasers and wonderful fun. In fact, it reminds me a bit of whatsisname’s thingy, you know the play or opera or whatevs where the guy goes doody-doody-d

Oh, you’re looking for laughs? I guess you haven’t heard – from now on, I’m going to be “the spiritual one.”

The B-side, an original instrumental entitled “Christmas in Tunisia,” sounds like a streamlined, polished Sun City Girls – a minor-key Eastern-jazzy thing that I personally don’t care for, nor do I suspect would Jesus. Which reminds me – am I nuts or does an erect African-American penis look a lot like a turd? I brought this up during my sermon las

But that’s not all! From now on, I’m going to be “the Pavement-quoting one.”

From now on, I “can see the sun.”

Add your thoughts?

1995 Fan Club Single Served Fresh And Hot
Rating = 5


Don’t worry, Christian mothers: there’s nothing ‘wicked’ about this cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”!!!

It is, however, ‘gamey.’ Michael “Cycle Pipe” Stipe can’t hit the high “I-IIIIII” notes, and Peter “Eat Her Fuck” Buck doesn’t even bother playing those awesome bendy notes that distinguished Isaak’s original from everything else in the world. As today’s skateboarding young people might say, “Wicked Game” is wicked lame!

Actually, I’m not even sure it’s Cycle Pipe singing; it might be Mike “Bike Thrills” Mills.

Side two features a barrelhouse piano performing Allan Touissant’s jovial “Java” as Cycle Pipe says things like “Hot java!” It’s okay. But where’s the Xmas? There’s no Xmas on this disc at all! Say what you want about the Beatles – that they stunk, were all gay, and later reformed as Atlanta Rhythm Section – but at least all their Christmas singles referenced the holiday at some point. This thing might as well be an Arbor Day Fan Club Single or, alternately, a Take Your Daughter to Work Day Fan Club Single.

I’m about to fall asleep again, so here are some jokes to keep us both awake, theoretically:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
He was “egg”-cited about something he saw on the other side!

How many light bulbs does it take to change a Polack?
Depends.
On what?
No, that’s what you need. Forget the bulbs.

Where did Wile E. Coyote get all his death metal?
From Roadddddddjn
You fell asleep while typing that, didn’t you?
Does a bear shit in your mother?

Add your thoughts?

New Adventures In Hi-Fi - Warner Bros. 1996.
Rating = 7


Jesus, guys. Chop off about twenty minutes and you got a damn fine album. Leave 'em on, as you evidently decided to do, and you got a 65-minute marathon with maybe six great songs and more filler than you can shake a featherduster at.

First of all, much to my chagrin, about half of the disc reprises the slick fuzz-lite of Monster, dragging with it all the smarmy self-adoration and weakass cock posing that made that product occasionally unpleasant. However, they've also decided to bring back the somber old R.E.M. mood we grew to love so in those fine '80s. The combination of the two styles is bound to not completely please either group of fans, but at least there are some well-written songs again!

It's also a surprisingly diverse record, ranging from Monster leftovers "The Wake-Up Bomb" and "Low Desert" to emotional e-bow demonstrations "E-Bow The Letter" and "Leave" to moody hip-hopper "How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us," along with lots of fantastic lead runs on top of lonely chords. This stylistic range is likely a result of their interesting recording process: these songs were recorded in 10 different cities! Some are from soundchecks, others from live shows, some from dressing rooms, and still others from an actual studio!

Unfortunately, every song LITERALLY goes on forever. Out of 14 songs, only TWO are shorter than four minutes! What is this, The Grateful Dead all of a sudden here, with the long songs that won't end? Is that what this is, here?

Reader Comments

jgwood@atcon.com (Matthew)
To sum up my opinion I saw the following: I'm glad Monster was just a stroke of bad luck and this album, like it had been intended for Monster, has songs that'll absorb you if you let them. It's good to see that love songs like "Bittersweet Me" and "Be Mine" are still out there and you don't gotta depend on R&B shit to hear one...I see no precedence in this album; it is a completely new perspective for them...I eagerly await the next 5 albums they're signed to make. (and I hope we see no repeat of Monster).

hawkinsb@rnd3.indy.tce.com (Bret D. Hawkins)
Amen...Your review of this album is just about right on target. My only addition is whatever happened to Stipe's soaring vocals ala "Get Up!" or even better "I Believe"? I wish he'd go back to using his upper register...

gheule@hnet.net (Molekh)
Which is the best ever REM album? It's a tie: Murmur and New Adventures in Hi Fi. The perfect combination of sadder, quieter songs with louder, more upbeat (but always with a darker undertow (actually "undertow" is the only song I don't like on this album)) rockers works. "Leave" is the best, I love "Bittersweet Me", and "New Test Leper" is recorded to sound 1000 times more intense than Automatic acoustidrivel. I agree that it could've been 20 minutes shorter; maybe REM didn't want to be TOO good...

bthom@turbonet.com
I don't know buddy, you said the last two were despicable, or something worse, but you still gave them ok ratings. That means either you have a really weird rating scale system, or you're just crazy. I prefer to believe you're crazy, because those two are the only ones by them I like. Heard Green, was ok. Heard out of time. Got sleepy. Heard Automatic For the People, got interested. I think "Everybody Hurts" is one of the few radio singles that hasn't worn off on me. I didn't like it at first, but now I love it more and more. Anyway, later on I heard Document. And strangely again, the two radio songs were the only ones I liked. The rest was pretty tuneless and boring, like much of their stuff. Anyway, I had made up my mind about REM, when I heard Monster. I loved it. All the songs were interesting, everything was great. But even still, it wasn't amazing. So I'd pretty much given up on them again, thinking they had gone from a radio band to an okay band. Then, almost by accident, I got New Adventures for my birthday. And it is incredible. It's one of the three almost-perfect albums I've ever heard. How can you put it down? 10. Monster 9. Green and Automatic, 7. The rest 6.

01252557@brunnet.net (Heather Hartling)
This is my favorite album. Mind you, it wasn't the best (Automatic ... was the best), but how could you possibly call their songs "filler" and retain any dignity for yourself? "How the West was Won ..." is a piece of pure artistic genius! And how dare you compare R.E.M. to such crap as BECK ?

lehmann@ideasign.com (Doug Tedeschi)
The length of this album just means more great music. The first track is one of the most original, creative, and successful songs ever, in my mind. You would've cut it from the disc, and it would've robbed REM fans like me of a great tidbit of REM. I'd say, with a band as great as REM, the more tracks they produce while they're still with it, the better. "Undertow" and "E-Bow" give us something truly worth listening to, and "Leave" and "Wake-Up Bomb" make set this CD off to a fantastic start. five GREAT tracks out of six. Sadly, "So Fast, So Numb" is the only other really good track, as this CD is barely worth listening to after the first six...though it makes highly pleasant background music. This one's an eight, at least, if only because of 1,4, and 5.

k4w7@marisrb.marist.edu (d')
"leave", "departure" (noticing a pattern?) and the patti smith song are really nice. The rest is lacking in the r.e.m. post-everything blare.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
This album kept my attention for about two weeks at best. Since then I haven't listened to it. Between this and Monster, what the hell is wrong with these guys? I'm really starting to get worried.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu
Between the time that Monster and this album came out, I had bought all of R.E.M.'s albums from scratch, learned the lyrics to nearly all their songs, read several books about them, and seen the band live TWICE. I got this album the day it came out, and the first thing I noticed when buying it was this: IT'S FOURTEEN TRACKS LONG! Then I popped it in the CD player: OH MY GOD! IT'S SIXTY-FIVE MINUTES LONG! I knew that in one way or another, this album was going to have too much of SOMETHING. And by golly, was I right! Although I love "The Wake Up Bomb" and most of this album as a whole, I feel the only thing this album needed was polish, meaning the elimination of a few tracks (like most of side two), and the recording of them in a STUDIO. Many of these songs were recorded live for the sake of a "raw feel," but it only makes the studio ones like "E-Bow the Letter" sound (unfortuantely) more well-done. I eagerly await R.E.M.'s next album, but I'm kind of in a tizzy as to where they're going to go from here...are they going to end up like U2 or what?

ThisGJord@aol.com
I have to say, this album ranks up there w/Murmur and LRP...definitely one of my favorite albums...I think they bounced back after the disappointing Monster...This is how REM should always be!

blur@sprintmail.com
While I agree NAIHF is, at best, a non-seminal return to form I hasten to mention that "Binky The Doormat", "Low Desert", and "Wake-Up Bomb" are the outstanding tracks on the album as they represent the most lyrically mature point REM have yet to hit. The other songs, like "E-Bow The Letter", are the sleep-inducing filler that feel more like teenage musing rather than good music.

davrslee@hotmail.com (David Lee)
OK, well first of all, I enjoyed reading what everyone had to say about the band, and I think mostly you all got it right. Here's my ranking of R.E.M.'s albums (like anyone cares):

1) Murmur: Wierd AND original, when I first heard this I realized I hadn't heard it before. Know what I mean?
2) Life's Rich Pageant: Less weird (and a bit less original) than #1, but packed with interesting, memorable songs.
3) Automatic For The People: See #2.
4) Chronic Town: Catchy! Weird! What the heck is the cool "Gardening At Night" about?
5) Reckoning: Try to get "Seven Chinese Brothers" out of your head.
6) Out Of Time: A little bit o' chaff on here, but pretty cool stuff otherwise.
7) Fables Of The Reconstruction: Weird, but not like much else that was out when I was 17. And "Driver 8" is easy to play, too.
8) Dead Letter Office: Fun, only. I wonder if the food at Walter's was any good...
9) Green: The rockers are way better than the slower ones.
10) Document: Wayyyyyyy uneven, but "King of Birds" is one of their coolest ever.
11) Adventures In Hi-Fi: Vomit.
12) Monster: See #11
>>>>Eponymous (how can you rank a compilation album?)

InMyEyes82@aol.com
Oh, another winner from R.E.M. Thank god they didnt make another Monster. This one is very well written, though perhaps a bit too long. Cut off "binky", "zither" and the embarrassing "departure" and you've got another classic album in the Automatic vein. As it is, it's a very strong album that you'll skip a few songs over.

8/10

richbunnell@home.com
I really like this one, especially since the rock on this album is REAL rock, not generic crap "rock" like on Monster. "Wake Up Bomb" isn't snail-paced at all - "Finest Worksong" is snail-paced, but Wake Up Bomb is just a mid-tempo rocker. All of the songs are interesting in some way, and aside from "E-Bow The Letter," none of them are experimental, really. The opening track would be better without the stupid Stipe "Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!" after each chorus, which adds nothing to the melody at all, and those stupid 90's R&B noises throughout the whole song. Love the piano, though. And man, "Leave" and "Bittersweet Me" are great!! 8/10

ZENWOK@aol.com (Lex)
This album kicks ass. Right now, I can only remember the tunes to the first few songs. I love the piano solo in How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us. Those dissonances that gradually build up are awesome. Also, Electrolite is probably their best album closer besides Falls To Climb and Oddfellows Local 151.

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
9/10: This is absolutely great, if you're in the right mood.

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
This is where it really seems to go downhill. It took balls to release "E-Bow The Letter" as the lead-off single, and it didn't pay. I actually think REM are no longer hugely popular in the mainstream for the same reason Bowie and Elton John aren't: because Michael Stipe came out of the ol' closet, and rock stars must be satisfyingly het to have mass appeal. Why else would Boy George, of all flamboyantly gay musicians, pretend to be straight? Money, honey. But I digress. The rock songs really suck on this one. There's no energy here. Bill Berry was never a good rock drummer, and you really feel it here. There are several really great slow tunes, though. Michael Stipe has a very clean and polished head.

Jcjh20@aol.com
I really like this album. Has some great rocking songs, like "Departure", "Binky...", "Undertow", "Bittersweet Me". And some of my favorite REM tracks ("Leave", "Ebow The Letter", "New Test Leper", "Be Mine"). "Zither", "Electrolite" and "How The West Was Won..." are also great songs that take a new approach in REM. Can do without "So Fast, So Numb" and "Low Desert" though. Sound like filler to me. And "Wake Up Bomb" is a mediocre rocker. Definatly deserves an 8 at least.

moolila@hotmail.com (ornit abiri)
my FAVE!!!!! can life get any fucking better then this AMAZING shit! brilliant!

Muggwort@aol.com
"E-bow the letter" is one of r.e.m's best. Too bad that it and the 5 other good songs are scattered threw filler. It's kind of like they are gold nuggets imbedded in shit, and your the one who has to dig them out.

6/10

Hellrzer13@aol.com
Not showing half of the pop crap as they normally show, this album is undoubtedly one of my favorites. Despite "Wake Up Bomb" this has to be some of the best songwriting since the great "Singers and Songwriters" period in the seventies. I have to say, I listened to "E-bow the Letter" about a hundred times a week because it really fired up the creative part in my brain. Everyone's scorching homophobic lashes towards Michael Stipe, an extremely brilliant songwriter, seriously dampened the impact towards other people (a.k.a. close-mindedness).

princess_vachtangov@yahoo.com
I think the lyrics on this album are really special. Especially the parts that go "I've played it out and to the hilt/you're coming on with something so fast, so numb/that you can't even feel" and "I am just a little acorn/well, acorns grow to mighty trees". To me, that somehow expresses the basic unattainable dignity of life, the imperfections of the world around us and the way that our own egoistic obsessions with ourselves blind us to the emotions and inner struggles of the people we love.

Especially considering the fact that Michael Stipe likes to hump other guys' bottoms.

Add your thoughts?

1996 Fan Club Single
Rating = 8


Once again, REM has released a Christmas record with no Christmas on it. What am I, John Quays? Ha ha ha! No, no I’m not John Quays.

Best,
John Quays

Featured are two spectacular covers. The first is a remarkable cover of the awe-inspiring Jay & the Americans track “Only in America,” featuring a wonderful uptempo beat, terrific clean guitar tone, admirable background ‘hooo’s and tremendous Caribbean percussion. If you are unfamiliar with the stupendous Jay & the Americans, please do yourself a favor and pick up the extraordinary greatest hits compilation released by the great Rhino Records, a swell label you can always count on for superb reissues.

The second wondrous cover is an astonishing rendition of the stupendous Gloria Gaynor’s awe-inspiring “I Will Survive”. But far from emulating Gaynor’s staggering disco original, the divine REM brilliantly refashions the sensational composition as a dynamite acoustic guitar/quiet organ/no drum meditation. Both enjoyable and excellent, this startling, unheard-of reworking of the peerless ‘70s classic is something else! The incredible REM’s fabulously grave take on the magnificent Gaynor’s phenomenal track renders her outstanding classic indistinguishable from a prime track by the fantastic Neil Diamond! And just wait until you hear the miraculous Michael Stipe admit “That’s all the words I know” after the marvelous first chorus!

In short, piece a shit.

Add your thoughts?

1997 Holiday Fan Club Single (with Pearl Jam)
Rating = 7


This holiday record rides high on “Live For Today,” an optimistic fuzzy guitar/keyboard/xylophone/poetry original that puts one in the mind of Yo La Tengo. Unfortunately, side B is by Pearl Jam.

Add your thoughts?

Up - Warner Bros. 1998.
Rating = 7


Admirable attempt to try something different following the departure of drummer William "Chuck" Berry, but it gets exTREmely tiRESome as it goes. See here, what they dooze is they dooze a slow, moody organ 'n' piano-driven mood vibe sex bachelor type underground music thing (but with Mr. Snipe still doing his "I'm a huge rock star" mixed-too-loud vocalisms on top). So if you dig that hip Spiritualized mood the kids dig, or if that final Spacemen 3 album was really your cup of T, or if you really dug those neat old-fashioned organs on Ween's The Mollusk but you don't give a crap whether the sound vibe is backed up by any solid melodies, then this might just be the R.E.M. record for you.

See, okay, it starts off REALLY, REALLY strong, with wondrously hypnotic fuzzy organtones and nice minimalist melodies that are easy to embrace, love and kiss like a puppy or handicapped person. But about halfway through, you can't help but notice that every song has started to sound identical -- and nearly riffless. You know that song "Bang And Blame"? Did you ever notice it has almost no melody at all? That's what a lot of this record is like. Really, really neat instrumentation and production, with no distinct melody backing it up. Minimalism is cool, but too often these guys make it sound more like "amateurism" and "laziness."

Having bitched and complained enough, let me now reverse myself and say that this is a lovely "bring down" relaxation record. Every song is slow, and the chimes and keyboards drift to and fro from speaker to speaker with a lovely lilt that could bring a grown man to his knees, possibly to kiss another man's buttock. So it IS good, from an "album" standpoint. There are some bitchin' tones to enjoy, and a few of the songs are catchy as shit (especially the sing-songy "Hope" and the gorgeous chorus to "You're In The Air"). But, especially if you listen to this one back-to-back with any of their old classic albums, it's disturbing exactly how much their songwriting has detoriated, to the point where there's almost nothing going on. In other words, this new stuff must totally suck Wink Martindale live.

Reader Comments

tabari@sasaki.com (Kevin Tabari)
"Sad Professor" is stunning. The album has a cohesiveness that they haven't achieved since Automatic for the People. It's subtle. It took a couple of listens for me to get used to it, but it feels great. It just seems much more sincere (lyrically and musically) than the last couple of albums. Let it stand alone. Don't compare it to Life's Rich Pageant--what could live up to that, anyway?

Itchload@aol.com
8

On first listen, this seemed really exciting, on repeat listens it wears a tad thinner but still remains engaging. The first track is the artiest thing R.E.M. have ever done. When a band closes in on its third decade it becomes harder and harder to remain important. I'll admit, the song writing isn't as good as was in the 80's but the instrumentation has never been better. So they've gotten a tad less accessable, maybe it's from touring with Sonic Youth all the time.

InMyEyes82@aol.com
9

Up is the result of a band trying really fucking hard to make a great record. Monster didn't feel like that, it felt like they were bored and said to themselves "Oh, lets make an album with cheesy guitars and vocals because Bill said he wanted the band to "rock", but which doesnt have much of any lyrical or musical importance."

Hi-Fi is a major step up from Monster, because the songs are great and they have poignant lyrical insight, but again, a band can only go so far with the "G-B-D-V" format. Up is mellow but cathartic. "Sad Professor", "Walk Unafraid", "Daysleeper" and "Suspicion" is some of the best shit this band has ever come up with.

tedaldi@acsu.buffalo.edu (Justin Tedaldi)
It's amazing how drummers are often taken for granted as songwriters, but apparently Bill ("Judas," not Chuck) Berry was the brains--anyerisms and all--behind R.E.M. And now those brains are sweeping up horse shit and lugging firewood from one barn to another. I for one cry foul at this! Now that Judas has left the band, Mark is right on the money when he says the songwriting and melodies have gone right down the toilet. Where R.E.M. were once rock's most original voices, they're now cribbing from softies like Brian Wilson and Leonard Cohen. Only the AFTP C-side "Daysleeper" comes close to emulating classic R.E.M., but it's bogged down by annoying synthesizer effects and self-serving I'm-so-emotional vocals. And yeah, I know the critics don't hate this CD. R.E.M. are the most critic-proof band in America, because anything they do is dubbed original. Well Buck, Mills and Stipe, you should congratulate yourself for coming up with 65 minutes of flaccid, toothless sonic dung. Though I never thought this day would come, the band is finally over. And if you're reading this, I bet you're thrilled Mark was generous enough to grade you in 10-minute denominations. I just hope one of you had enough sense to keep Bill's number on speed dial, because without him I can't picture you guys maintaining a fan base...or wiping your own asses.

Bert.Geelen@student.kuleuven.ac.be
Now this SUCKS. It's so crap, i couldn't even be bothered listening to the mp3 pirated version that was on a network here a few weeks back. If this sounds like spiritualized, it's spiritualized with the crap inserted rectally back into them and forcing them to make music that's hip cause it's got drum machines and so did big black and if it sounds like leonard cohen than that's in his "hey I'm monk and i don't make music anymore, but if I'm ever going to make music again, it'll have to be real crap to express my newfound divinity, you know, like that UP-record, that sucks and swallows, spits it out again and comes back for a second helping" days. And if it's anything like recurring or anything by Spacemen 3 it's only in the sense that they probbly wobbly used some strings to make this pile of dung, unfortunately they didn't use them strings to suffocate Michael "me, I'm deep, me" Stipe.

This once again proves that bald people should only ever be allowed to make music once the world's gone deaf.

I'm gonna listen to some Cher now, she's with the flow!

Long live tinky winky

Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!!!

InMyEyes82@aol.com
I think that guy was in.....ahem...an altered state when he wrote that.

Ignace.Mathei@student.kuleuven.ac.be
Bert Geelen is a **** tinky winky is NOT the coolest dipsy is eh-oh and r.e.m. is the best

richbunnell@home.com
A great album which, at least to me, rises to heights that the band hasn't reached since Pageant. Without Berry, the sound is pretty sparse, but that doesn't stop Stipe & the rest from making good songs anyway - "Daysleeper," "Walk Unafraid," and "At My Most Beautiful" all rule. Only a couple of weak songs (like "Suspicion," and "Lotus," which is awfully sluggish and ugly considering how much it rocks live) keep this from being entirely perfect. I can see why some people would hate it, though. 9/10

InMyEyes82@aol.com
I've been listening to this album alot lately. I loved it at first (see above comment by me), but I gotta admit, this album BORES THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF ME NOW. I'm sorry- I love the guys, I think they're one of the greatest bands ever, and theyre probably my favorite band. But, really. Listen to Reckoning all the way through. Notice how the songs are amazingly concise, poetic and ungodly catchy all at the same time? Then try to listen to this one. It's about as boring as watching paint dry. I still love "Daysleeper" and "Parakeet", but Prindle is right: They got too caught up in layering and layering that, rather like Madonna's new one (though this is eighty times better than that one), the songwriting suffers. Guys, I love you. Get some hooks next time. I don't have time to waste "coming down" or "relaxing" to music. Maybe I will when I'm fifty, but I'm sixteen and ready to rock. Thanks.

kduffy@imagina.com
how come airportman is so cool, but the rest of the songs are so much like gumdrops (interesting colored/ taste but the exact same alll the through. secretly boring)?? i'm disappointed. and WHAT is with "flim flam"?? (in lotus) what kind of lyric is THAT?? aargh!! i yearn for the past where rem made fun/depressing music, not depressing muzak!

dstreb@neo.rr.com (Daniel Streb)
Jeez, guys! Up's not that bad! With the whole synthesizer-experimental-90s thing goin' it sounds like no other R.E.M. album. With the departure of drummer Bill Berry, who came with most of R.E.M.'s song melodies, the band had to find compensations. "Airportman" and "Daysleeper" are two of the best songs they've ever done. None of the songs were hits, no "Losing My Religion"s on here. It didn't sell too well, either. And why? Because it is SO unhip to like ANYTHING by R.E.M. Who cares? This is easily their best album since Automatic for the People. Although Mark Prindle IS right about the lyrics. "I see today with a newsprint fray/My night is colored headache grey." is, well, interesting, but there's no way it can compare to such lyrics as, "I will try not to breathe I can hold my head still with my hands." etc. Where are they gonna go from here, though? Stipe can't do his, "I'm deep" persona for the rest of their career. Still, after New Adventures... and Monster, it's great to hear R.E.M. making good music again. 8 out of 10

Awake600@aol.com
In my opinion I think R.E.M. hit their peak with Up. I can't think of a single song on here after the first three tracks (which are still pretty good themselves) that aren't masterpieces. Faves are "Walk Unafraid", "At My Most Beautiful", "Why Not Smile", "Sad Professor", and "Parakeet". This is a clear, relentlessly experimental gem. Even over Murmur [which I put on right before listening to this one day -- damn, it's absolutely incredible how far they've come] and Reckoning. I'd rate 'em this way:

Chronic Town - 9/10
Murmur - 10/10
Reckoning - 10/10
Fables Of The Reconstruction - 6/10
Lifes Rich Pageant - 7/10
Dead Letter Office - 6/10
Document - 9/10
Green - 10/10
Out Of Time - 9/10
Automatic For The People - 8/10
Monster - 6/10
New Adventures In Hi Fi - 9/10
Up - 10/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Whereas I felt that New Adventures was slightly underrated, I think that people are dead on about Up - it's atrocious. The songs, while some of them seem fine when you're listening to them, leave no afterthought at all. The exception to this rule is, of course, the singles ("Daysleeper," "Lotus," "Suspicion," and "At My Most Beautiful"), all of which are relatively well-written and catchy tunes. But the rest of it drags - and badly, too. Especially that opening track - awful. A low five.

(several months later)

I'm a bastard. I said this deserved a five? It's at least above average - at least a seven. I was right that the singles were the best of the bunch, but there ARE other good tunes. "Sad Professor," "Why Not Smile," and "Parakeet" are all pretty good songs! It still doesn't get a really high score, because it's not that great early stuff, but it's defenitely better than I (and a lot of others) said it was. As it is, a seven.

"Airportman" is an awful attempt at a Laurie Anderson-style tune, though, and it pulls the album down a notch.

Stiple6107@aol.com
Sad professor is great...I like Lotus and daysleeper...but somewhere this album falls flat...secretly boring is the right term for it...I will give them credit doing as well as they did under the circumstances...7/10...

dolores@whaven.freeserve.co.uk (John Coan)
Up is their finest hour, their golden moment, the one where maturity comes up-front and doesn't begin to flirt with blandness, the one that sounds great at night, that shoves creativity and sweet melodies in yer face....why do you Americans get EVERYTHING so WRONG? Are you really so fucking STUPID? EVERY SINGLE FUCKING REVIEW I'VE READ ON THIS GODAWFUL WEBSITE IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Kinks - Village Green Preservation Society. A TEN? This is a pansies album, one for the kids, an album that sounds like yer eccentric uncle has just bought a four-track and an acousic guitar, and has recorded some little ditties. It's CRAP! Get with it!

Sonic Youth - Everything they have ever done is shit. Face facts, morons. I'd rather stand at a bus shelter listening to a lawnmower and old gossips....to listen to this self-indulgent crap is a test of tolerance.

Doors - kids stuff.

The Who - strictly a singles band. And how can you hold your head up high and praise a po-faced and dull album with titles like 'My Wife' ? And you like 'Going Mobile' eh? You sick, stupid fucks.....

The Clash - a bunch of posing, thick fuckers with two ideas at a stretch, their tiresome pseud-street-cred bores. Sounds like Grandad belching. GET WITH IT!

I'm going to bed. Disgusted by Yank eejits. You'd better get this sorted, Tex.....

richbunnell@home.com
I'm just curious as to what it is about subjective opinions that actually riles people up to the point where they post moronic, needlessly-bile-spewing comments like the one from Mr. Coan above. Are there seriously people who read this site and actually get this pissed off at the reviewers? Why? Seriously, how would this dude's life be any better if Village Green were given a low score? What is it about Prindle's low scoring of Ballbreaker that destroys the life of every AC/DC fan to the point where they want to bring a chainsaw to his testicles? Seriously, people, it's just music.

On-topic, my opinion of Up has not changed one bit in the past 22 months since its release. Bill Berry or not, I still think it's one of the most brilliant albums the band has put out.

Stumppdumb@aol.com
Geez calm the hell down...Like Rich Bunnell said, its only music. And everyone has their own opinions, so it is really moronic to get your blood pressure high over peoples opinions

Anyway i agree with InMyEyes82@aol.com's first review of UP. Its dumb that he changed his mind because he was right on the money with his first review. A brillant album

9/10

b990348@TASC.AC.UK (Wright Gavin)
8/10: Bit too long, but they've still got it.

Oh yeah, and I'm glad to see that someone else rates Trompe Le Monde, but why are there no reviews of The Smiths?!!

jason_a@earthlink.net (Jason Adams)
Music good for a couple listens, but ultimately hollow. Only "Diminished" is worth repeated listens. They're just dull here. I guess that what they meant when they said in interviews that this was a "good headphones album". Michael Stipe seems to have given up on his head entirely, inside and out.

billsangry@aol.com
I think Jason has the right idea. Instead of UP, the album should have been called GIVEN UP..

Jcjh20@aol.com
A good album. It really is. It took me half a year to really get into it, but it finally won me over. This album is a totally subtle approach, and the melodies get lost in-between the subtle experimentation, and the overall slowness of the record. And it just took me a while to appreciate the whole thing. Ive always at least liked it, but never enough to keep bringing back for more. Ive always loved "At My Most Beautiful" and "Daysleeper" though. Great great song, and the former could probably be put on Automatic For The People. But after awhile ive came to really like other songs on here like "The Apologist", "Sad Professer", and "You're In The Air" and grew to love songs like "Diminished", "Walk Unafriad" and "Im Not Over You". "Lotus" is a nice upbeat number too, and is refreshing to hear among all a bunch of dreamy, slowishy songs. "Why Not Smile" is also a nice, pretty sounding song as well. I really dont think there is a bad song on here, although "Parakeet" is probably my least favorite song on this album, but theres nothing brilliant on here either. Maybe in given time i will change my mind though. Id give it a 8 now.

Muggwort@aol.com
As much as I love them R.E.M have one huge flaw, the don't write albums they write songs. And they are great at it, they are so good at it even 60's fanatic George Stratosin said "I am deeply moved by a lot of R.E.M songs." R.E.M could have easily kept on crankin' out classics like "king of birds", "e-bow the letter" and "carnival of sorts" for the rest of their careers but no, they had to take a huge risk they had to. . .write an album. And that is what brings me to up. up I dare say is my absolute favorite R.E.M album, even thought I'm not sure if it's there best. when I got up I was a budding songwriter, up was a huge influence on my lyrics and my music. it has even has more significance to me then out of time so i have to give it the 10.

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
I should probably be talking only about the album Up here, but I just had a couple of things to say to Mr. John Coan up there. First of all, how can a subjective opinion, like one's view on music, be simply "wrong?" I might disagree with your opinion, find your argument one way or the other lacking, consider your tastes unsophisticated or banal, but your opinion isn't "wrong." You are not the arbiter of taste, Mr. Coan, in music or anything else. On a more personal note, the day I take rock and roll lessons from some pasty-faced limey is the day I buy a Phil Collins album. You're a dick, but that's just my subjective opinion.

Oh, about Up. Eh, it's okay. I don't own this one, but having listened to it through a few times, I don't think they'd "given up." "Reveal" is better, and hopefully the next one after that will be better still, and we can all look back on Up as a transitional album. It's miles away from their finest moment, but it isn't trash either. In fact, it has kind of a dreamy, ethereal (sp?) quality that is dandy when you're in the right mood. Personally, I don't hit that mood - you know, rainy day, nothin' on TV, don't feel like reading, metabolism of a sloth - often, but when I do, there are worse things to listen to than Up. Like John Coan ranting about music, for instance.

mjw368@nims.cpit.ac.nz (Michael Joseph Watson)
I think this is a great album. All very introspective and hyptnotizing. I don't beleive their song writing has tarnished on this album. It wasn't supposed to be melodic. I think they were trying something different other than writing their usual melody-driven songs. I've always liked R.E.M better when they perform introspective music than their usual in your face pop (out of time) or rock (monster).It has the same quality of automatic for the people (everybody hurts sux though) but less accessable and a lot more experimentation. It amazing these bunch of sissies are still making good albums after 20+ years.

pedroandino@msn.com
SHUT YO' FUCKIN' MOUTHS YA FUCKIN' 50 CENT COCKFUCKERS! GOD WHAT DID I TELL U ABOUT COCKSUCKINGLY BAD MUSIC????????????? SEE I TOLD YOU! U FUCKING SHEEP NEED TO DIE! EVEWHOSENZ ANAL LATRINE HILARY COCK GAY UNIT SIMPLE DICK ALL THESE COCKSUCKINGLY SHITTY DISGUSTING PIECES OF FECES WILL DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! toby cock shania titbrain celine 'I cannot shut up' dion I can go on and on! god DO I EVEN NEED TO GO ON????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WILL STICK TOBY AND HIS AMERICAN FLAG UP HIS ASS! I WILL SHOVE DOG SHIT AT THE MOUTHS OF RAPPERS! I WILL KILL YOU ALL AND LIKE ADAM SAYS NONE OF YER FUCKING COMEBACKS WILL SHOVE AT ME! anyway I stop now! up is so tran quil and serene and for me iwant to do an acoustic album with odd effects! anyway read this or suffer! (*runs away before any asshole kills me*)

(a few months later)

I'm sorry for the rant. I mean I just cannot grasp the thought of you cocksuckers dissing my band! you bert shut the fuck up faggot! go suck your dick to 50 cent cd's john coan, shut ya' faggot ass up! I stab ya' faggot ass if you fuck with sonic youth again! uk faggots suck cock! all ya' faggoty punk shit suck fucking cock! go suck ya' faggot dick, limey bitch! fuck the smiths, faggots! coan sucks cock! I rape ya' faggot dad! anyway for the record I soundscaned the songs and I really liked daysleeper is like spongebob squarepants! sounds like a sailor tune! at my most sweet or lovely is a pet sounds kinda song, brain wilson would be proud! thanks muggwort! at least you are not the only critics who suck cock! boy do I say cock and faggot a lot! prindle, I take over your site now! now where the fuck is queensryche!? hello? mindcrime?

ah@adamhammack.com
"up" your ass!

(that's the review.)

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ha ha ha no

i was only kidding. that's not the review.

i bet you thought it was though, huh? (in retrospect, the little space-wasting dots were probably unnecessary. i already had you fooled.)

this is rem after they met radiohead and stipe got a crush on phil selway's hot bald ass. and by that bit of seemingly homo-insensitive diatribe i mean to say that this is, (as i mentioned in my stellar and not at all inebriated "fables..." review), probably the most texturally focused rem album. it really kind of invokes the ideas of sleeping and dreaming, at least to me.

i quite enjoy almost every track on this album, and i blame all of you idiots who panned them for being so adventurous and un-hugemegaband-like for this group's gradual and ongoing slide into mediocrity. i bet "leaving new york" makes you long for the days of something as well thought out as "you're in the air".

or if it doesn't, then i don't like you very much.

i'll be the first to admit that this wasn't my most creative review to date.

this is my 7,000th review this evening, however. i'm exhausted. it's almost as if i've put out 14 albums and all of the sudden i can't come up with anything all that entertaining or innovative anymore! like a certain band i know!

that band is, of course, reo speedwagon.

markprindle.com will be the death of me.

pedroandino@msn.com
ok adam! I thought you are a dickwad but later sensed that you liked it. okay I know you hate linkin fart I hate them too but are you gonna diss my band? no! anyway 2 rants later daysleeper is like spongebob squarepants kinda melody but I really liked it. I still sleep in the day. fuck the morning! darkness forever. at my most beautiful ooh is so lovely! I still play this to my wife who I nicknamed tifa josie masters. I love you josie my sweet love eternal love will take me to your world and into my life. I am a changed man. I mean I love my wife and kira more than your carlinesque jokes. grow the fucking hell up now! I choose love instead of violence. like the greek god diyonisus. just to know this I will take my wife to be my rose in the heather. I take you to rivendell to eat some of our mayonaise. I will become a better man if you be my one and only woman. those things I just said are refrences to ballads I just liked. anyway I give this a ten. get some romance.

specializedvideos@comcast.net
On first listen I thought this album sucked. I loved "Hope", but the rest was so boring I couldn't even sleep to it. I than put it on about 6 months later because maybe I was wrong. I then found "Daysleeper" and thought there were at least two classics. I than played it again. It wasn't bad. The fourth listen found me loving this album. I was wrong. It is one you have to get used to and give it a chance, but this is really a great REM album. Every song besides "Lotus" is great. Too bad most don't want to spend time with it. It really pays off in the end.

Add your thoughts?

1998 Holiday Fanclub Video (with Radiohead)
Rating = 3


Released back in the pioneering days of VHS tapes, REM’s ’98 Christmas release features two live collaborations from the June 14 Tibetan Freedom Concert of that year. Unfortunately, both tracks are numb and boring, and Stipe is as hoarse as a horse of course of course and nobody can talk to a horse of course that is of course unless the horse is the famous Michael Stipe!

Go right to the source and ask the horse. He will give you the answer that you endorse. He’s always on a steady course. Talk to Michael Stipe!

People yakity-yak a streak and waste your time of day. But Michael Stipe will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course of course. And this one can’t sing ‘cause his voice is hoarse. You never heard of a talking horse? Well, listen to this:

“I’m Michael Stipe.”

In tonight’s episode, Mr. Stipe The Talking Horse invites Thom “Wilbur” Yorke to shittily sing the lady parts of “E-Bow The Letter” with REM, and then Wilbur invites Mr. Stipe to hoarsely sing along as his band Radiohead performs “Lucky.” Finally, a filly named Lucky trots over and Mr. Stipe lays her the dick.

Hey, stop wacken off! What do you think this is, fan fiction?

Well, it’s not. This is an online documentary about an actual historical event.

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1999 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Neil Young)
Rating = 8


You’d have to be a jive turkey not to acknowledge that Neil Young was the most talented member of The Stills-Young Band, so it should come as no surprise that when REM decided to release a Christmas single featuring two nine-minute live performances with Neil Young, they chose not to hire Stephen Stills to do the artwork.

October 18th, 1999 was a momentous day for music, for it was on that date that Athens, Philadelphia’s REM joined forces with Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Neil Young to create two of the most emotional tracks that either outfit would ever perform. Granted, both songs were already available on studio albums, but come on. Would it kill you to act like it’s a big deal? I’m just trying to pep up your life a little bit, like David Fricke does whenever he pretends a new Springsteen album isn’t a piece of shit.

At any rate, Neil Young plays lots of acoustic leads and solos atop an epic nine minutes of “Country Feedback” (which Stipe calls his personal favorite REM song!), and then The R.E.M. Band backs Young on a nine-minute version of his awesome On The Beach folk rocker “Ambulance Blues.” Do you need the single? Of course not. I think even Jesus Christ would agree with that assessment. But is it really, really good? Well, hell yeah; these are great songs played well. Read the Bible.

I’m so tired it’s rigoddamndiculous. Somebody make sleep less necessary. Invent an app or speed or something.

Add your thoughts?

2000 Holiday Fan Club Single
Rating = 5


Every artist covers The Beatles at some point in their career, but who the hell covers their 1967 Fan Club single “Christmas Time Is Here Again”!? Probably some asshole.

No wait! It’s Athens, Massachusetts’ REM! And it’s AWFUL! In fact, with its out of tune trumpet blaring, sloppy acoustic strumming, atonal group singing, and shaky tambourining, it’s downright hilariously bad! Good for you REM, and the way you’ve put a smile on America’s face with your many hits.

The single also contains two black person instrumentals: groovy short blues-jazz “Hastings and Main” with its hipster piano and walking bass; and Billy Preston-style soul shot “Take Seven” with its out of place cornball synth. Please note that when I say “black person instrumentals,” I mean “REM is a band composed of four black people”.

After a decade and a half of high-priced Manhattan living, I’m moving to Astoria, Queens next weekend. My past year has been a challenging whirlwind of pain and hopelessness, but between the apartment sale and the new girlfriend, things have been going quite well for the past four months. All that’s missing now is a full-time job. If you have one, can I have it?

Add your thoughts?

Reveal - Warner Bros. 2001.
Rating = 6


Yeah, one listen and it "Reveal"s itself to be a piece of SHIT!

Nah just kidding. To be honest, there's nothing patently offensive about the album. It's not like a bunch of rewrites of "The Wake Up Bomb" or something. It's just not very eventful. It sounds great, that's for sure -- every song is a beautiful and lush wash of various keyboards, pianos and all sorts of different guitars through all sorts of different effects. But that doesn't obscure the reality (well, my reality) that the record contains the least number of actual "melodies" of any REM album yet made. It's all very slow and atmospheric (like Radiohead or recent Flaming Lips or even Brian Wilson, whose piano songwriting style seems to be emulated in some of these songs), but that's not enough to hide the fact that the melodies are either full of cliched audience-manipulation devices ("as millions of artists have demonstrated before us, if we put this chord after this chord, the song will sound really sad! But then if we switch to THESE chords in the chorus, it will make the listeners feel like they really ARE in love and this is a beautiful, intense moment! I know because they did the same thing on Party Of Five a few weeks ago and it was awesome!" -- lots of popular bands are guilty of this, of course, but there was a time not too long ago when REM were creative enough songwriters to not have to resort to such tactics) or obvious ripoffs of earlier REM compositions (as pretty as "Imitation of Life" is, those guitar chords in the verse are awfully reminiscent of "Driver 8," aren't they? And does that vocal melody in "Summer Turns To High" sound familiar? That would be because Michael uses the same vocal melody in one of the Dead Letter Office tunes - "Bandwagon," I think?).

I haven't read any reviews of this album (it's not that I actively avoid reading reviews - I don't. I just don't care enough to think about it these days), so I'm not sure whether Reveal is considered a masterpiece or a shitterwork. I was hoping to love it because the guy who recorded it for me is very fond of it. But it "just doesn't do anything for me," as Rich Bunnell likes to say. There are still some songs that I honestly think are creative, beautiful and up to the normal REM level of decency -- "The Lifting," "Chorus And The Ring" and "Beachball" come to mind. But the majority of the album just sounds like a bunch of slow, mellow atmosphere - songs for teenagers to play during pivotal moments (heart-to-heart conversations with girls, first kisses, etc) so that those moments will seem even more emotional and important. Background music, in other words. Heck, I certainly used background music when I was a teenager (granted, I was the retard who chose Yes' "Turn Of The Century" for an important night with my girlfriend, completely forgetting that it gets really REALLY LOUD as it goes) - why shouldn't today's youth have the same benefit? But as far as looking for something to listen to, unless you really dig easy listening, I'm not sure that this one is the way to go. Again, they did a fantastic job with the production but, especially compared to all pre-Monster REM, it just doesn't seem to have a whole lot of memorable songs on it.

Reader Comments

richbunnell@home.com
I guess that I should begin this comment with the disclaimer that I've pretty much trapped myself in the Spiral Of Unceasing Fandom(TM) when it comes to R.E.M., so I'm bound to love (or at least like) anything that these guys release, and this album is no exception. Even with that in mind, do you seriously consider this album to be the weakest one they've released yet? I mean, geeze, Monster was full of a bunch of half-baked grunge posing and you even admitted yourself that most of the songs on the album were weak, but then you went and gave it a 7 just because of that lame over-amplified echoey guitar that's plastered all over the album. That's not faaaaaaaaaaiiiiiir.

I guess that I can see your point that a lot of the melodies are just the typical contrived "emotional" stuff you'd hear playing in the background during bad sitcoms, but I don't see how the songs that you picked out as "different" are any different from the others in that respect. If I have any problem with the album, it's that in places where they could've put original melodies they instead resorted to typical R.E.M.-isms, particularly Stipe's overused "Watch. Me. Sing. The. Lyr. Ics. In. Frag. Ments." vocal style that's used way too much on here for my personal comfort. Also, Mike Mills' backing vocals are almost nowhere to be heard; he only gets dragged out to sing on the chorus to "Imitation Of Life"(which is really friggin' catchy, but I agree - it sounds like the chord sequence from "Driver 8" filtered through "World Leader Pretend"s dreamy atmosphere - try to sing the lyrics to "IoL" over the first verse to "Driver," the lyrics fit perfectly, it's hilarious).

I still give the album a 9, though, because I seriously love most of the songs. "The Lifting" is a really fantastic opener, probably trying to make up for alienating all of the fans with "Airportman" last time around. I also really love the guitar sound on "All The Way To Reno." Anyway, I won't boringly go through all of the songs, but I'll say that this is just yet another great album and worthy of at least a couple more dots on your fascist scale. (Don't act like it's not true!!!) And quit name-dropping me, unless my name is followed by "is your leader and you must send all of your money to him."

jcjh20@aol.com
Yeah, im in the same Spiral Of Unceasing Fandom(TM) when it comes to REM as well, although i was a bit disappointed with Up when i first heard it, but it has grown on me now and i really like that album. But anyway, i think this album is better than Up. Little more peppy, the melodys stick out a bit more, and theres more guitar on the album (not that i have any problem with their not being that much guitar on Up, i just like how they used more guitar this time around). It IS hilarious how "Imitation Of Life" is so similar to "Driver 8", but yeah the song is awfully catchy and i like it a lot. "Beachball" is a nice song with some horns thrown in for good measure, "She just wants to be" and "Chorus in the ring" are a few of my faves too. I can understand how this album might bore some people, but in my opinion, the melodys are more existant, and theres a little more energy shown on these songs then their previous album. i agree with Rich's 9/10 rating.

BuddhaCat1@aol.com
You know, Rich Bunnell is such a wonderful name. I've been drinking, and I composed this little bit of posey for Mr. Bunnell and his moniker:

I love a guy who's name is Rich
Even though he ain't got a stich
He's fuzzy like a little bunny
And when he writes he's oh so funny
I wished that I was named Bunnell
And all of you can go to hell

Whoah, wait, I'm sobering up now. Reveal is garbage. Michael Stipe needs to have a rubber band placed around his balls until they whither and fall off. I was on the Spiral until this album (luckily I read the lyrics before I listened to the album, cause the music is - well, read on), but I hate this album so much that I've begun to hate everything they've ever done (they used to be my favorite band). I especially hate up, which I used to grit my teeth and try to like, because it prefigures this albums complete...irrelevance. Stipple's lyrics are worthy of a self-help seminar given by a cult (with cookies and koolaid afterwards). This is not the same man who wrote "Life and How to Live It." I didn't know he was so damn french either till I listened to "Beachball." I don't want to have sex with him anymore. I had some funny shit ready to say, but it's been lost in alcohol-fueled bitterness. Actually, it wasn't funny at all. I have no sense of humour. Poor Bastard Stipe isn't depressed anymore. Take his license away! But the music is really good. Oops, after that last shot I don't care about this review anymore. Anyway, as a parting thought, if you bonked Mic on his shiny bald pate and let Thom (fucking spell it Tom, you psychotic deranged git) York sing the vocals, this album would be really good, cause it sounds A LOT LIKE OK COMPUTER. By the way, judging by Amnesiac, Thom York should be doing as much work as he can, cause he's going to hang himself soon.

smcquill@home.com (Sean McQuillan)
Even Monster crushes this one like a grape as far as melodies and songs! MONSTER?!? Yes (bows head in shame), even Monster. 4/10

And I LOVE UP, even AIRPORTMAN. Eleven albums, then "a turd in the punchbowl." I really like a few of the songs, like I've Been High, Disappear, and Imitation Of Life, but half of them are pure crap when every album before had three songs of crap at the most, usually only one or two, if any.

johncoan@hotmail.com
....and here, they lose it big time and suck corporate cock with a bunch of pissy generic melodies and overproduced schlocky guitars. Sad, really, cos R.E.M. were one of the very few bands left that you'd look forward to hearing new albums by. Listening to 'All The Way to Reno' is like eating a cake that someone left out in the rain (yes, I know it's not original)....the BITE that should be there, isn't, it's gooey and sticky.

This happens to most bands after almost 20 years, tho'.....exceptions? well, The Fall still rock in a totally original and freakishly satisfying way.....and Billy Joel will once again surprise us all. And we'll hear this R.E.M. album a hundred times over in the next few months wherever we go, and we'll begin to hate it, if we didn't have the brains to throw up upon hearing 'Imitation of Life' for the first time anyway. They're a spent force, a sham, a commercial pop band and should be quickly put down.

robchaundy@yahoo.com (Robert Chaundy)
Haven't heard this, apart from Imitation of Life, which is shockingly REMish in a not-very-positive kind of way. The game's up, boys.

Kool-Aid, though. That is one DISGUSTING drink. How? Why? A chemical nightmare!

Persing.Phillip@PBGC.GOV
hmmm, I really didn't know what to think when I first heard this record. I gave it so many listens during the first two weeks after its release, trying to figure out where it ranks on my cerebral quality scale of R.E.M. albums.

I've decided that it's fairly high up there. It didn't immediately capture me (I don't think R.E.M. intended it to anyway) as basically everything from the I.R.S. years did, but I enjoy it every bit as much as Murmur or Fables, just in a different way. R.E.M. is finding themselves in a different era, without the songwriting talent of Bill Berry that they once had, so of course they're going to sound different; their last two records have evidenced that completely. But although the production, tempo, arrangements, and many instruments have changed, I really still find in Reveal songs crafted by some artists who are seriously passionate about music, and relatively unconcerned with the mainstream scene. Stipe's vocal abilities have been honed really well since the early days; I particularly enjoyed his voice in "Beat A Drum" and "Chorus and the Ring." "The Lifting" provides a very creative opening (you could never predict those first five seconds of the track), "All the Way to Reno" and "She Just Wants to Be" are structurally and instrumentally amazing, and the lyrics to "I'll Take the Rain" are personally touching. It seems that I'm only finding positive things to say here, even though the album is lacking some aspects I'd normally look for with R.E.M (i.e. prevalence of Buck's guitar, Mills' backup vocals)...I won't, however, allow my personal preference to interfere with the fact that R.E.M. masterfully created the record they set out to make. It's beautiful, well written, wonderfully recorded, inspired music. 9/10.

mjw368@nims.cpit.ac.nz (Michael Joseph Watson)
I think Reveal does kind of stink too. Theres is'nt really anything that bad about the music. It's just really unlistenable. The music sounds pretty but the songs are directionless and drag on too much making it hard to keep your attention. Michael stipe's vocals are really wanky and whiney and he needs to stop giving Tom York blow jobs. I loved Peter Buck's reserved guitar style on the IRS albums but on this album he's a bit of a diddle and fiddles with his diddle way too much. Still quite tastefull most times and some Ok songs like 'beat a drum', and 'chorus and the ring'. It just lacks creative melody and its a bit annoying. They are releasing a new album soon. I hope it's not too much like this. Make sure you review it.

Add your thoughts?

Not Bad For No Tour EP - Download 2001
Rating = 7


This promotional EP, which contains a radio edit of “All the Way to Reno,” a disappointing ‘unplugged’ rendition of “The One I Love” featuring piano and lazy alternate vocal melody, and live versions of Reveal tracks “All the Way to Reno,” “She Just Wants to Be” and “Beat A Drum” as well as “So. Central Rain” with a snazzy organ doubling the classic guitar hook, is a promotional EP containing a live version of “So. Central Rain” with a snazzy organ doubling the classic guitar hook, as well as Reveal tracks “All the Way to Reno, “She Just Wants to Be” and “Beat A Drum,” a disappointing ‘unplugged’ rendition of “The One I Love” featuring piano and lazy alternate vocal melody, and a radio edit of “All the Way to Reno.” Now let’s have some jokes.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Ray Dio!
Ray Dio who?
Ray Dio (radio) edit of “All the Way to Reno,” a disappointing ‘unplugged’ rendition of “The One I Love” featuring piano and lazy alternate vocal melody, and live versions of Reveal tracks “All the Way to Reno,” “She Just Wants to Be” and “Beat A Drum” as well as “So. Central Rain” with a snazzy organ doubling the classic guitar hook, silly!

Q: How many versions of “All the Way to Reno” does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two! A live one to hold the light bulb, and a radio edit (along with a disappointing ‘unplugged’ rendition of “The One I Love” featuring piano and lazy alternate vocal melody, and live versions of Reveal tracks “She Just Wants to Be” and “Beat A Drum” as well as “So. Central Rain” with a snazzy organ doubling the classic guitar hook) to turn the ladder!

Q: What do you get when you cross the Not Bad For No Tour EP with a dirty naked fat man?
A: A mud-caked radio edit of “All the Way to Reno,” a disappointing ‘uncircumcised’ rendition of “The One I Love” featuring penis and lazy alternate vocal melody, and overweight versions of Reveal tracks “All the Way to Reno,” “She Just Wants to Be” and “Beat A Drum” as well as “So. Central Rain” with a sexual organ doubling the stench-ridden flabby girth!

DIRTY LIMERICK:
I walked “All the Way to Reno”
With “The One I Love” crying for Beano
“So. Central Rain” scum
Made me shout, “Beat A Drum!”
But “She Just Wants to Be” on my peeno!

What’s black and white and red all over?
The human race! (except chinks)

Add your thoughts?

2001 Holiday Fan Club CD ROM
Rating = 4


One month after the horrifying terror attacks of September 11, 2001, REM performed a live version of “Let Me In” that differed dramatically from the Monster version. Rather than a blistering bag of shiny distorted noise, Stipe suddenly found himself accompanied by naturalistic acoustic strumming, thumpity bass, organ, vibes and shuffly drums. This drastic relocation of the track’s spiritual center clarified the fact that it really wasn’t a very good song in the first place.

During this same period of national mourning, REM performed a live version of “Find the River” that replaced the stupid Hooters blowy keyboard with a pleasant hand organ, as well as awkwardly pumping Mike Mills’ background vocals louder in the mix than Stipe’s lead. To this day, nobody is sure what they thought they were accomplishing.

Thanks solely to REM and their shitty Fan Club single, December 25, 2001 was the worst Christmas ever.

In fact, I wrote a little song about it:

STUPID R.E.M. SINGLE WAS WORSE THAN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER GOING DOWN AND KILLING ALL THOSE PEOPLE
By Lee Greenwood

Ohhhhhhhh,
Once upon a time in the land of buildings
Stupid ol’ Athens people FUCK YOU!!!!
(*propaganda solo*)

Add your thoughts?

r.e.m.IX - Warner Bros. 2002
Rating = 1


r.e.m.arkably bad. Some whiz kid got the bright idea to give the bland Reveal album to the least talented group of people in America (remixers) and let them replace all the music with electronic squiggles and clunky beats. None of the songs sound remotely like the already weak originals, instead just plopping Stipe's weary vocals atop bland synthesizers and fake drums. Lest that not sound putrid enough, the remixers chose to work with only half of the alotted songs -- meaning we have to sit through two terrible versions of "The Lifting" and a torturous FOUR renditions of "I've Been High." If you thought Around The Sun was the nadir of REM dullness, go download this travesty for free online somewhere in Hell.

Everyone involved with the creation of this dried pile of vomit should be taken out and shot, then brought back to life, tied to posts and covered with fire ants. Then their eyes should be pinned open, sugar sprinkled onto their eyeballs, and hungry rats thrown onto their faces. Then their genitals should be dipped in honey and placed inside hornets' nests. Then giant knitting needles should be pushed into each of their ears until they connect in the middle of the brain. Then each of their teeth should be removed using nothing but a string and a door. Then their lower jaws should be placed in a blender set on 'liquify.' Then their hands should be frozen between two blocks of ice for an hour and a half before being plunged into a pot of boiling oil and having all the flesh scraped off with a wire brush. Then their feet should be superglued together and they should be thrown out of an airplane into the middle of the ocean. Then they should be informed that they did a poor job with this record.

Drummerman Fred Votel sent me a 1989 radio interview with the Cows, and two of the exchanges struck me as so entertaining that I demand you enjoy them now:

DJ: "Tell me about the New York City trip. You went to play at the New Music Seminar? Is that what it was? Or to play some shows around the time of that?"
Shannon Selberg: "Yeah, but we didn't know it was gonna be the New Music Seminar."
DJ: (bemused) "What did you think it was gonna be!?"
Shannon Selberg: "I don't know. We just thought it was gonna be like a bar mitzvah or something."

Kevin Rutmanis: "Yeah, it goes good out east, and we're gonna go out west for the first time in November."
DJ: "When's the big European tour coming up?"
Kevin Rutmanis: "As soon as Europe floats over to the United States, I suppose!"

Add your thoughts?

2002 Holiday Fan Club CD ROM
Rating = 7


Oh oh oh! Samtsirhc Yrrem! To celebrate the recent death of George Harrison, REM devoted their ’02 Fan Club single to covering Beatles wanna-bes Badfinger, Big Star and Martin Luther King, Jr. And a hell of a job they did too! The shining harmonies of “No Matter What” are as “Fab” as ever, the gorgeous acoustic “Jesus Christ” will make your ears “Ring-o” with delight, and the Lennon-esque peace protest of “Michael Stipe reading from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.” will have you shouting “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”

Still, although REM does a fine job with the wanna-be material, let's face it -- there’s no substitute for The Actual Beatles. Why settle for the dead boys of Big Star when you can tear up to “Julia”? Why waste time on the multiple suicides of Badfinger when you can smoke dope to “Back in the USSR”? Why listen to Ol’ Assassinatedy yammer on about universal love when you can listen to Ol’ Other Assassinatedy yammer on about universal love? Theoretically, these are questions I should be asking REM, not you.

You're probably wondering why I’m bothering to review all these Christmas singles when I don’t really have anything to say about them. The answer is simple: OCD.

That’s right: Ol’ Crazy Doughnuts. How can I resist their allure!?

PLEASE NOTE: Apparently all these CD ROM and DVD releases have visual components as well, but I haven't seen them so fuck the visuals. The visuals suck. Fuck those limey cunts over there in the visual field.

Add your thoughts?

The Best Of R.E.M.: In Time 1988-2003 - Warner Bros. 2003
Rating = 8


This was actually released in two different forms - a single-disc set and double-disc set. Although both releases would get an 8 in my book, I'm gonna go "all out" for the "gold" and review the double-disc set -- running the very risk of DOUBLING my slipped DISC! OW!

This double-disc set claims to present REM's greatest hits from their major label era. But there are two problems with this: (A) they left off like five billion songs that are just as popular and well-known as the ones they included, and (B) when you throw crap from different albums altogether like this, it's depressingly clear exactly how much the band has been repeating themselves in recent years. So let's start with point A and work our way down through point D.

FUCK! All I ever do is set myself up for FAILURE! There IS no point D!!!! I'm not even sure I ever came up with a point C!!!

Point C is that when songs are written and recorded, sometimes they hop out of the speaker and poke you in the eye. And Point D is that one time the band had four people and now they only have three so by necessity they are 25% less REM and should change their name to REI, which is vaguely a 25% discount off of the previous brand name.

And now, as previously promised -- POINT A!!!!! POINT A!!!! POINT AT MY BUNION AND GIGGLE!!!

And that's my review of the new REM studio LP More Slow Songs That Don't Do Anything. Did you know that there are enough "o"s in the word Footloose to form the word "poooop"? You would think that alone would be enough to make more towns outlaw dancing.

But enough joculation. The world is sad enough without more jokes. Point A. What's missing? Well, I'll tell you - and you're going to be "shocked and awed" by it, so much so that you probably won't want to buy this supposed "Greatest Hits" collection. However, the government has raised tariffs on quotation marks, so I'm going to place all of the song titles inside one handy-dandy pair of quotation marks for easy access. Here's what's NOT included: "Get Up, Radio Song, Near Wild Heaven, Shiny Happy People, Bang And Blame, Crush With Eyeliner, Strange Currencies, Tongue, Find The River, Wake-Up Bomb, Bittersweet Me, How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us, I'll Take The Rain, Lotus, Suspicion." And look - those songs ALONE qualify for an entire "Greatest Hits" disc of their own, at least if you're going by how many times in a row they got played on the radio all the damn time.

So what's included in their place? Well - again, I'm reviewing the DOUBLE-disc set here. The single-disc is worthless, quite frankly. But the double-disc includes a full disc (disc #2) of "Rarities and B-Sides." This mostly means alternate versions of hits not included on disc one -- acoustic "Pop Song '89," live renditions of "Turn You Inside Out" and "Country Feedback," godawful Monster-style version of "Drive," "Star Me Kitten" with vocals by William S. Burroughs, re-recording of "Why Not Smile," demos of "The Lifting" and "Beat A Drum," 2001 three-member version of Indie Rock classic "The One I Love" -- but also refers to a few true rarities, like the haunting as hello "Fretless," which I've owned ever since it came out, but that's because I'm cool.

Point B: Too many of the late-period mellow songs are completely interchangeable, with nothing but maybe a catchy chorus to distinguish themselves from each other. The "Nightswimming" and "Everybody Hurts" motifs have been repeated far too many times as well (which may be why they chose not to include "Strange Currencies" and "Tongue"). Say, you know what song rules, but isn't on here? "You're In The Air." The chorus to that song is so beautiful. I'm also a little surprised that "Sausalito Summernight" isn't on here, although that's more understandable because it's by a completely different band and REM never performed it as far as I know. Great song though -- Check it out here.

There are also four new songs, or two at least. Faster, nice. Good, boding well for future. All in all, the double-CD set features six songs from Automatic For The People, four each from Reveal and Green, three each from New Adventures In Hi-Fi and Up, two from Out Of Time and only ONE SINGLE SONG from Monster!!!! Guess we see where THEIR allegiance lies! Then there's that one Document track and nine non-LP songs, for a total of 33 songs, which is appropriate because compact discs spin at 33 1/3 revolutions per Monkee.

Reader Comments

sickboy83@wooow.it
This double disk is really good, I pretty much agree with your review... did anyone notice that Bad Day IS It's The End Of The World (As We Know It)? Try to sing along with the chorus using the End of the world lyrics! Lack of creativity or what?

d_whitman@earthlink.net (David Whitman)
bad day dates back to the life's rich pageant sessions in 86. they re-recorded it for the best of collection, re-worked lyrics too.

martin-rearl@supanet.com (Martin Earl)
This is the second time in REM's career that I've been totally disillusioned with what they are playing at (the first occation being the very disappointing Monster).They've had a very difficult ride since then due to Berry's illness and departure and they and we have had to accept that this band is now REM in name only. They have had to find themselves again, which they had begun well with Up and Reveal( both far superior to Monster and New Adventures). Whats really upset me is the members of REM claiming that they all agreed that the songs on the best of 'picked themselves' as the best of the period. It is quite clear that Warners were running the show in releasing this and that the members of REM followed the corporate trail by including two 'new' tracks so it would sell! I could name you fifty tracks that are better than half of 'best of'. How else do you explain the inclusion of 'Animal', a track so average it would barely qualify as a 'Monster' outtake! Hopefully REM will break out of their identity crisis and pretty fast. I love this band but their next album will be crucial to their own future and to my faith in them. They have to make the music THEY want to make and be damned with recording contracts or sales figures. They must be true to themselves and retain their personal integrity. I am obviously concerned but still have faith. REM are, without question, the greatest band of the last 25 years(my personal all-time favourite) and in the possible twilight of their career they owe it to themselves and all fans not to go out with a cancerous artistic sell-out Oh, and by the way, Lifes Rich Pageant is, I agree, REM's best album just ahead of AFTP. Only Monster is truly poor(by their standards).

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2003 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Wilco)
Rating = 7


Ho ho ho! Merry Christgau!

Nah, just pullin’ your rack there. Truth is this single was recorded live in Denver, CO on September 14th, 2003, and features Wilco-enhanced long versions of “Country Feedback” (didn’t we just hear this with Neil Young a coupla years earlier?) and “It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” The latter is a rollicking and celebratory good time with piano and excellent group harmonies, but how many G.D. versions of “C.F.” do we need? Plus, aside from some guitar wankin', I don’t much hear the Wilco guys at all. What are they, just jerkin' their jugs up there? Come on, dipshits. Get your hands off your melons and play some rock and roll.

Nah, just yankin' your hooters there. Truth is that the real problem is the recording. Personally I’da gone with an SM57/V30 combination, maybe an AKG dynamic on the snare, 2021s on the cymbals, PRO25AX on the kick and MD441’s on the toms. Toss a few Sennheiser 421's in front of Buck’s cabinet, then augment Mills’ set-up with a pair of Royer 121’s (or Carillon Axis 70 ribbons, if your tits are in the red) and you bet your sweet knockers that’s a great sound.

As for Stipe, pretty much anything goes. 609, 906, sm57, Audix i5, 421, sm7, RE20 – that man’s voice will hit you square on the sweater apples no matter what you use.

Alternately you could just use Pro Tools and pound your breasts til you squirt milk all over the screen, I don’t give a boob.

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Vancouver Rehearsal Tapes EP - iTunes 2003
Rating = 8


May 12, 2003 seems like a decade ago. But lo, ‘twas but a mere seven years and change. Ahhh, how the time doth pass. And we, once young – now old and slow. Loved and lost. Bald and unemployed. What is life? George Harrison said that. Then Mark David Chapman busted out of jail and gave him cancer.

But these questions we never pondered on May 12, 2003. No, we were young, green -- with eyes full of breeze and hearts full of gusto. The future felt as if it would never end. If we’d only imagined the tears and desperation that were of due course, would we not have turned around and marched right back through those grammar school doors chanting, “Hell no, we won’t grow!”? My words ring true.

Alack, on May 12, 2003, we were naïve enough to enjoy REM preparing for their Greatest Hits tour by rehearsing “Maps & Legends,” “Tongue,” “Little America,” “So. Central Rain” and “Imitation of Life.” The vocals were a bit quiet, but the songs were strong and well performed. As they played, we traded fairy tales and happy jacks in the courtyard. I pushed a ball with a hoop. Others giggled and performed interpretive dance. We were young. We were alive. The world was new and brash. We’d not yet experienced the sobering terrors of 2009 and most of 2010. Cookies were served every day and a young Bob Hope had us laughing all night. Such an innocent time. NEVER TO BE HAD AGAIN.

But we’ll always have our memories of that warm Vancouver day. Listening to REM play swing jazz to the flappers, and watching Daisy run people over in Gatsby’s car.

WAIT A MINUTE, THAT WAS A FICTIONAL BOOK! WHAT WERE WE DOING IN A FICTIONAL BOOK!?!?

Oh, what am I saying. It was simply a storybook time, filled with danger and romance. But we were real. We were as real as two people could be.

Best,
Uncle Wiggily

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Around The Sun - Warner Bros. 2004
Rating = 4


According to Yahoo! News, John Edwards is considering a 2008 run for president. Luckily, when I was in the shitroom dumping a shit into the shitbowl just now, I thought up an unforgivably mean-spirited "joke" about it. Rather than chastise myself internally, I thought I'd spread this "joke" on the Internet so everybody in the world, including Mr. Edwards himself, can read and "enjoy" this "hilarious" "joke" at their lionel leisure. Here it is:

I just came up with a fantastic campaign slogan for John Edwards' 2008 presidential run: "Vote for me and there will only be ONE boob in the White House!"

Now then, how's about a album?

"Around The Sun is the sleeper of the year!" - Some Guy Who's Confused About The Actual Definition Of The Word 'Sleeper.'

This album is made up of almost nothing but very slow, relaxed ballads played with strummed acoustic guitars, pianos, and synth drones/washes, with electric guitar generally introduced only for solos. Most of the ballads seem to be aiming for a dark and misery-ridden mood, but their limp and instantly forgettable melodies -- mostly based on two boring minor chords going back and forth, followed by a simplistic, predictable chorus -- fail to create any actual feeling in me aside from complete indifference. It is appreciated and refreshing that they try to keep the arrangements interesting by introducing and layering different elements, sounds and instruments into the mix as each song progresses, but far too many of these extravagant productions are built upon foundations of boring, hookless shit-air!

God, I remember when I first learned how to play the shit-air. I was blasting out Ramones and AC/DC riffs for weeks before it turned all white and crusty and fell apart. Unfortunately, any love for such hard-ass-boogie bands as these were lost in transition when REM drank four tons of liquid opium and lay down to record the least energetic album of their career. There are a few decent tracks, I guess. "Boy In The Well" and the title track are honestly pretty, melancholy ballads of which REM should be proud; "Aftermath" is actually a peppy uptempo song (!) with a lovely keyboard tone and happy little melody -- not to mention some gorgeous Mike Mills harmony vocals in the chorus; and my FAVORITE on here is also the strangest and most creative tune available, proving that Mike, Mike and Mike (Peter) are still occasionally able to whip a surpriser out of their six sleeves and the sleeve of their drum machine -- "High Speed Train." Never in the annals of Michael Stipe's distended anals have they come up with such a strange, odd and completely UNNATURAL group of chord changes. Add to that a rhythmic off-key bell-hit noise, flamenco guitar solo and Zombies-esque organ groove, and you've got the single sole solitary one moment on this CD in which it sounds like REM bothered putting any effort at all into their songwriting.

Unfortunately, most of the songs range from the merely drab ("I Wanted To Be Wrong," "The Worst Joke Ever" - two songs without a single hook between them!) to the vomit-lickingly horrifying ("Make It All Okay" is wimp-folk so pussyish that even James Taylor would take a piss on it, "The Ascent Of Man" features without exception the MOST ANNOYING STIPE VOCAL in the history of the band -- 'YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!,' and I generally enjoy rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe That Calls Itself Quest hip-hop fame, but he sounds like a real dope trying to "cut some rhymes" over the empty, uneventful "The Outsiders").

I was hoping to love this album just because everybody else hates it so much. I thought that would make me "cool" and I could be a real iconoclast with my freewheeling musical tastes with which nobody could compare or fathom of it me. Unfortunately, it's the worst REM release of all time.

Until their NEXT one, of course!

Reader Comments

arielaria@hotmail.com
Given that review, this feels like I am about to tease that two(or three) headed dog in Harry Potter!

Seen as it took me three years to recognise Chorus and the Ring as a real beauty in the supermarket full of mingers that is Reveal, (I know it was technically brilliant, but it was also, monotonous, repetitive and boring) Around the Sun is the walk from the checkout with a basket full of goodies, having paid in cash; plenty of wonga still in my wallet and my credit card unswiped! What a relief, that I can instantly (after two listens) pick out songs, remember the track order and play it on random and recognise the intros! Back to the old times, of loving what I hear and loving the arrangement of the tracks on the album. I don't care if they've changed their perspective on music and effing mumbling, seems I have to. This is an excellent album. To be honest, I wasn't too sure about 'worst joke ever' or 'high speed train'. The former has grown on me, the latter made peace with me when played live. All the tracks, I've heard live, play well live, too! It interchanges now on the CD with Life's Rich Pageant and New Adventures.

remlover72@yahoo.com (Brett P. Atlanta, GA)
Hey,

When I first heard the record, I have to agree with you, it is full of ballads etc. and slow....that is not what they set out to do, but that is what they did. However, I have grown to love this record...even ascent of man grew on me. I love songs like final straw, the outsiders, boy in the well.....to me, wanderlust is so very stupid, but the boys are fine....at least its up tempo. This recor took a good listening to 5 times and then I started to connect. Now, it is one of my favorite r.e.m. records, as it doesn't sound like the stuff they are known for...I love the broad spectrum of music that r.e.m. creates over 25 years. They are the only band I never get tired of....ever, and my all time favorite to boot. Lots of people love the outsiders and leaving new york, etc. I agreed at first about yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah but now it is one of my favorites, kind of like i'm sorry from So. central rain.&nb! sp; Give it a few more listens, drink some beer, and get back to me......and thanks for your review.

vincentredman@hotmail.com
Just my 2-cents' worth. Let's hope the new REM album, if there IS a new REM album, totally kicks ass and rocks 100%!

R.E.M. ALBUM RATINGS

Percentage Album Title Rating
100% Murmur 12/12
100% Document 11/11
97% iTunes Originals 29/30
92% Lifes Rich Pageant 11/12
92% Automatic for the People 11/12
90% Reckoning 9/10
89% In Time: The Best of R.E.M. Deluxe (2CD) 16/18
87% Dead Letter Office 13/15
83% Monster 10/12
80% R.E.M. Singles Collected 16/20
79% New Adventures in Hi-Fi 11/14
75% Eponymous 9/12
73% Out Of Time 8/11
64% Green 7/11
60% Chronic Town 3/5
55% Fables of the Reconstruction 6/11
47% In The Attic: Alternative Recordings 7/15
36% Up 5/14
31% Around The Sun 4/13
25% Reveal 3/12
20% REM.Ixers 2/10

killthebodyandtheheadwilldie@hotmail.com
For those who still care, Mike Mills says the new R.E.M. album will be a return to 'rock'. Its going to be recorded in Bryan Adams studio in Vancouver with Pat McCarthy producing once again, so they're fucked from the start. Their early IRS albums, especially Fables, Murmur and Pageant remain their best ever albums, and some of the best albums I've personally ever heard. And R.E.M. fans shoud check out Peter Buck's side-project Tuatara, its pretty good.

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iTunes Originals - iTunes 2003
Rating = 7


iTunes Originals is a ‘digital download’ series that Santa Monica DJ Chris Douridas produces exclusively for Apple’s iTunes Store. Each entry (there are already over 50) focuses on one artist or band, telling his/her/their story through interview segments, LP tracks and brand new recordings of old favorites. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), most of the entries focus on terrible people with godawful discographies (Alanis Morissette, Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Staind, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Black Eyed Peas, Goo Goo Dolls, Rob Thomas, Weezer, Jack Johnson – and that’s just the tip of the shitberg!), but every once in a while Douridas will show an ounce of taste and hone in on a worthwhile artist like The Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey or – as in this case – Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine.

This entry lightly glazes over REM’s rise to stardom through eight LP tracks, seven re-recordings, and 20 minutes of talk - much of which is quite interesting if you’re a fan. Revelations include:

- The band pulled their name out of a dictionary the night before their first show.
- They chose Don Gehman to produce Lifes Rich Pageant because Fables of the Reconstruction had been so muffled and moody. Gehman proceeded to challenge Stipe’s lyricism to such a degree that the latter began to overanalyze everything he wrote.
- REM never made money until the ‘90s.
- “Stand,” “Shiny Happy People,” “Get Up” and “Pop Song ‘89” were specifically designed to sound like bubblegum music. One of Peter Buck’s favorite bands to this day is The Monkees.
- Stipe was astonished when “Losing My Religion” became a smash hit, mainly because the lead instrument is a mandolin and the song has no chorus!
- Although Monster was intended to be – and promoted as – REM’s big “rock record,” Stipe now admits that it’s actually more of a sonic experiment.
- The lyrics to “E-Bow the Letter” were never intended to be a song. It was a letter that Stipe had written!
- Although Stipe refers to Up as “an unmitigated disaster on so many fronts,” Buck thinks it’s a cool record because it’s really nutty, and Mills is very proud of it.
- Stipe thinks “I’ve Been High” should’ve been a huge hit. I politely but firmly disagree.

In an interesting turn of events, the band’s latest release – and thus, the culminating focus of this recording – was the awful Around the Sun. On the bad side, this means you have to sit through four boring songs from that record, but on the up side it’s hilarious (in retrospect) to hear them discuss the album as if it’s not a complete piece of shit but rather the latest, strongest step in their development. Highlights of this section include:

- Stipe discussing the idea of an artist traveling a full circle from amateurish naivete to skilled craftsmanship and back to a naivete that allows for true artistry – and concluding that he has finally reached true artistry with Around The Sun
- Stipe gawking incredulously at the fact that two of his songs came out autobiographical – something he never does!
- Buck stating that he really likes “I Wanted to Be Wrong” because it was so easy to write. Why, it just FLOWED out of him!
- Stipe expressing sheer amazement at the fact that he sang “I Wanted to Be Wrong” with a Texas accent -- something he hasn’t had since leaving the state as a child!
- Mills sharing the exciting news that the absolute train wreck “The Outsiders” was written on a piano. A PIANO!!!!!

The re-recorded oldies have a certain lifelessness to them, mostly due to sterile Justus-style production. Still, it’s pretty cool that they finally laid down a studio version of energetic pre-Chronic Town rock’n’roller “Permanent Vacation” – not the greatest song ever written, sure, but until now you could only hear it on old live bootlegs!

In conclusion, I moved to Astoria a few days ago. My new apartment is tiny, but filled to bustin’ with albums, CDs, DVDs, books and Henry the Dog! It’s also just three blocks from my new girlfriend. Remember when my wife left me back in May ‘10? Ahhh, those were good times.

Damn good times.

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2004 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
Rating = 5


On September 15, 2004, REM blew the minds of London’s intelligentsia with live performances of “I Wanted To Be Wrong” and “She Just Wants To Be,” two middling songs with similar titles. The first has a draggy verse and lovely chorus, the second a cool dark verse and bland cliched chorus. This all got me to thinking, “What if ALL our favorite songs had variations on ‘Want To Be’ in the title?” I think the Billboard chart would look something like this…..

BILLBOARD CHART
1. Ramones – “I Want To Be Your Boyfriend”
2. Ramones – “Now I Want To Be Sniffing Some Glue”
3. Ramones – “I Don’t Want To Be Going Down To The Basement”
4. Ramones – “I Don’t Want To Be Walking Around With You”
5. Ramones – “I Don’t Want To Be Learned/I Don’t Want To Be Tamed”
6. Ramones – “Now I Want To Be A Good Boy”
7. Ramones – “Do You Want To Be Dancing?”
8. Ramones – “I Want To Be Well”
9. Ramones – “I Just Want To Be Having Something To Do”
10. Ramones – “I Wanted To Be Having Everything”
11. Ramones – “I Don’t Want To Be Having You”
12. Ramones – “I Want To Be Sedated”
13. Ramones – “I Want To Be Having You Around”
14. Ramones – “We Want To Have The Airwaves”
15. Ramones – “I Want To Be Living”
16. Ramones – “I Don’t Want To Be Growing Up”
17. Rebecca Black – “Friday”

And it would stop there because we don’t like any other songs.

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2005 Holiday Fan Club DVD
Rating = 7


I have something important to say so I’d appreciate it if you’d shut your ass and listen to my text. Here it goes:

Every time you make a decision in life, you will necessarily invoke the full spectrum of opinions about it. The more people that learn of your decision, the more will feel the need to tell you how closely it matches their personal concepts of artistry or morality -- pro or con, informed or ignorant. The end result is that some observers will fanatically support your decision, some will support it in a more rational fashion, some won’t be sure whether or not to support it, some won’t care, some will be against you, and some will be REALLY against you. Nobody likes to be hated, but it is inevitable. We could have the greatest President in history, and legions of people would still despise him. This stunning level of disagreement among members of the same species – on everything from religion to best Aerosmith album* -- has always existed and always will. So if somebody trashes you for a decision you’ve made, understand that it’s just the natural order of things. Trust in yourself and try not to let the ‘playa hatas’ wear you down. Then later when they’re not looking, hit them with a shovel and bury them in the desert. If the cops see you, say “Hey, human nature” and they’ll just give you a ticket.

And that’s why REM performed a sloppily harmonized version of “Turn You Inside Out” and the slow but sorta pretty non-LP track “The Great Beyond” in front of a Belgium audience on July 3rd, 2005 when they should’ve been home getting ready for Independence Day. God bless America!

*If your choice is Pump, you are literally a gay person.

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2006 Holiday Fan Club CD-single (with Tin Cup Prophette and The Observatory)
Rating = 4


There’s something strange going on tonight in this crazy, crazy world. For some reason, on December 12th, 2006, REM played at least two godawful versions of classic IRS material as well as allowing two lesser artists to perform screwball covers of their work. The result is as poor as a poor, poor baby.

It’s been a while since I was a member of REM, but I could’ve sworn that back in my day we tuned our guitars to each other. Also, regardless of how it sounds on this release, I don’t recall Pete’s fretboard being bent at a 45-degree angle. But you know memories; they fade like dust on the prairie of life -- full of pain, struggle and strife. At least, I assume that’s why Michael screws up the very first line of “So. Central Rain.”

But never mind the bollocksing fact that REM shouldn’t have allowed these awful performances to reach human ears; who’s the dope smokin’ moron who booked Bill Doss’s post-Olivia Tremor Control project to perform “These Days” as a cluttered shitty mess with tuneless violin, goofy saxophone, and all the instruments out of tune with each other? I would have disagreed with this decision had I been informed of it in advance.

The single’s only gravy sauce (saving grace) is “Tongue” performed by Tin Cup Prophette, an Athens ladybird who sings and plays organ over a pair of strange plucked violin motifs, converting their unfamiliar ugliness to beauty on wheels. Speaking of ugliness, have you ever read the lyrics to “Tongue”? Yeesh! The narrator is a homely girl with low self-esteem who keeps letting some creep screw her even though he treats her like garbage. You go girl!

My recent Facebook status updates are so important to the fate of this nation that I must re-post them here. DON’T TELL THE COMMUNISTS!

Mark Prindle just realized that if each of his 1734 Facebook friends were to donate a mere 100,000 dollars to his "Give Mark Prindle Some Money" charity, he would never have to work again! Unfortunately, people just seem to be more selfish these days.

Mark Prindle just watched "Arang," an innovative Asian horror film about a vengeful female ghost with long dark hair covering her face. There has never, ever, ever, EVER, ever ever, NEVER ever, ever ever ever ever ever-ever EVER been anything like it.

"I have a dream. A dream of the blue turtles. I love that one reggae song." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mark Prindle is delighted by the wondrous Spring morn we're having in NYC today. Particularly the lovely 37 degrees and heartwarming rainstorms.

Mark Prindle just watched "Out Of The Dark," a slasher about a clown who murders workers at a sex phone service. Ingmar Bergman did a beautiful job with it.

Mark Prindle was never a fan, but nevertheless sends out his condolences to the entire Dogg family.

Mark Prindle would like to wish a very happy birthday to Mike Love, the genius behind The Beach Boys. I can't even name another member of that band, something Williams I think.

Mark Prindle reminds you, "Don't forget to Spring back and Fall forward this weekend!"

Mark Prindle just watched "Fatal Pulse," a 1988 slasher whose VHS cover boasts "Full-Length Feature Film." What can I say; I was sucked in by its hyperbole.

Mark Prindle would like to wish a Happy Broads Day to all you broads.

TGIM! Am I right? Who's with me?

Mark Prindle and Henry The Dog will, if all goes well, be moving into a teeny-tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens by the end of March. Don't visit though, because there isn't room for a second person in there.

Mark Prindle would like to thank the Facebook community for its support during this difficult past year. Without your help, I don't know how I would have survived the trauma of losing my copy of Blackfoot's "Tomcattin'."

Mark Prindle just watched "Mirror Mirror," a horror film about a mirror that kills people. Tragically, it only has three sequels.

"Hay come on, I'm on a drug too. It's called 'Emilio Estevez' and it's... I don't know, it's okay I guess."

Mark Prindle was impressed when his girlfriend got a Scrabble with "valises" last night. I'd have blown it and put down "evil ass."

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Live - Warner Bros. 2007
Rating = 6

That a band with this impressive a back catalog can't manage more than a 6/10 for their long-awaited first-ever live album is absolutely pathetic (or "Ab Pat," as the British say all the time, during tea). It's also indicative of how oblivious they are that their songwriting, already in minor decline since Monster, has taken a horrifying nosedive since Bill Berry's departure. Their new songs are, to put it bluntly, boring as FUCKING SHIT!!!!

And by "put it bluntly," I of course mean "curse."

But you know me - I've always felt it was a great idea to record a live CD while you're touring for YOUR WORST ALBUM OF ALL TIME. How else could we get such a lopsided musical selection as this:

Number Of Tracks From Each Full-Length REM Studio Release That Appear On Live:
Murmur - 0
Reckoning - 1
Fables Of The Reconstruction - 0
Lifes Rich Pageant - 1
Document - 1
Green - 1
Out Of Time - 1
Automatic For The People - 3
Monster - 2
Adventures In Hi-Fi - 1
Up - 1
Reveal - 1
Around The Sun - SIX!!!! THEY PLAY SIX SONGS FROM ONE OF THE MOST BORING ALBUMS EVER RELEASED BY A MAJOR ARTIST!!!

But hey they're right, nobody likes Murmur. Sure, they were happy to make room in the set list for one of the new songs on Best Of REM, that song from Man On The Moon, and a jaw-removingly bad new 'rocker' called "I'm Gonna DJ," but God Forbid they perform even one track from the debut album that has been recognized as a masterpiece by media as varied as Rolling Stone, VH1 and Pitchfork. Granted I only gave it an 8, but you know I can't be trusted with an opinion.

Here are the two main problems with Live:

(1) The worst set list in the world. Three of the Around The Sun tracks and "I'm Gonna DJ" are, objectively speaking, gigantic pieces of frozen vomit placed on a turntable to slowly melt and bubble down the side into a funnel leading directly into your mouth/ear. And are "So Fast, So Numb," "Walk Unafraid" and "Imitation Of Life" seriously the best songs they could have picked from their three previous albums? I mean, if you're just picking ONE SONG from each of those records? I realize that "Imitation Of Life" was a pretty big hit (even though it sounds just like "Driver 8"), but what's with those two other picks?! For that matter, couldn't they have just skipped their last five shitty albums altogether?

(2) Michael Stipe's decision to obnoxiously, powerlessly, pointlessly and feyly shout certain lyrics at the top of his prissy, ball-less lungs. Examples: "FEEEEEEEL!" "COOOOOOOL!" "ARE YOU HAVING FUUUUUUUN?" He also half-asses "Losing My Religion," which I can certainly understand him being sick of singing, but knowing that this particular night was being recorded for a live album, couldn't he have bitten a bullet for the team and tried to sound a little less bored?

If I sound overly bitter in this review, it's because I AM. REM used to be one of the most intelligent and melodic bands in the country, and it is confusing, disappointing and honestly almost revolting to listen to this 2006 live show and realize what they've deteriorated into. A seven-minute audience singalong of "Everybody Hurts"? Treating "Losing My Religion" like a throwaway b-side while investing full emotional interest into insipid, predictable James Taylor impressions like "The Ascent Of Man," "I Wanted To Be Wrong" and "Final Straw"? I mean, it takes a REALLY shitty set list to make "I Took Your Name" sound like a highlight, but indeed it is easily one of the eight least banal songs performed on this cold Austin night, in Dublin.

On the positive side, "Don't Go Back To Rockville"! "Drive"! "Cuyahoga"! "The One I Love"! "Orange Crush"! The fact that they didn't play even MORE songs from Around The Sun!

And sweet mother and mary joseph noah jesus ezekiel, if the humiliating ego-driven rap/glam abortion "I'm Gonna DJ" is representative of their latest batch of compositions, somebody unplug the respirator.

That was a metaphor. They're not literally on a respirator. That sucking sound is their music.

That was also a metaphor. Their music doesn't make a sucking sound. It just stinks.

Another metaphor. Audio signals contain no aroma.

Which reminds me of a little joke:

Man A: I think I'll finish this review with a metaphor.
Man B: What's a metaphor?
Man A: To indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, silly! Examples include meta-reasoning, meta-knowledge, meta-theory, etc.
Man B: (*punches Man A in the face as hard as he can*)

Reader Comments

byronmoore@hotmail.com
ha. i agree with every word you say here. time is a mother. back in the mid-80s rem shows were exciting! 84 and 85 particularly. by 86 there was an extra guitar player. lazy? or essential? the former i'm afraid. back then you couldn't understand the words and you didn't care. the band had some mystery. by the time of alb #5 the drums got big and the voice got clear and the shows got smarmy and soon stipey was seen at hollywood parties. what a letdown. then the cocaine and wealth set in and its been crappo ever since. god they make the stones look cool for aging rockers cuz the stones at least put a live alb out every tour. rem needed to put this live alb out like 19 years ago when they mattered. no songs from Fables? buncha ponces.

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2007 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
Rating = 3


I’ve decided to write this review in special Invisible Ink. To view, just spray battery acid into each of your eyes.

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HA HA! NOW YOU’RE BLIND! FUCK YOU!!!!

All joking aside, have somebody read this next part to you because you’re blind now.

Hey stupid blind asshole, this single includes a cover of Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” that features gorgeous Byrds-style group harmonies that will tickle your ears with the beauty that most of experience by looking at things with our healthy, non-blind eyes. Unfortunately the chorus is la-di-da early Beatles ehh pbblll and side two’s “Magnetic North” appears to be an Around the Sun OUTTAKE. If you’re having trouble closing your fizzy, bleeding eyes, spend four minutes with this bland borefest of banality and you’ll be out like a light.

Particularly if the battery acid has eaten through your skull and entered your brain.

HA HA! NOW YOU’RE DEAD! FUCK YOU!!!!

Have somebody read that to you, in your coffin.

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Accelerate - Warner Brothers 2008
Rating = 8

MUCH better! REM may never return to their pre-Monster days of genius songwriting, but Accelerate demonstrates that if they at least put some goddamned EFFORT into it, they can give us a good solid rock album instead of putting us to sleep with their lazybones James Taylor crap.

The guitars are fuzzily distorted, the tempos are mostly mid- and uptempo, and the mixes are full of lovely Mike Mills backup vocals and barely-audible secondary melodic elements. Even Michael Stipe sounds interested in reclaiming the band's former glory, singing melodically and energetically while avoiding the smugness that has infected some of his recent work. Peter Bu(ttfu)ck even whips out some wicked arpeggio riffs like it's 1986 again!

I have to imagine that the main argument against this release will be that it doesn't really break any new ground, feeling instead like an intentional retread of successful past releases. And it's true that most of these tracks do recall specific past REM moments:

- Lifes Rich Pageant - speedy arpeggiated "Living Well Is The Best Revenge"; quirky crash-bap-jangle-rocker "Horse To Water"
- Document - dark driving rocker "Accelerate"
- Green - protest-folky "Until The Day Is Done"
- Automatic For The People - heartfelt but predictable REM-hit-by-the-numbers "Supernatural Superserious"
- Monster - simplistic, playful midtempo two-chord guitar blast "Man-Sized Wreath"
- Adventures In Hi-Fi - brooding arpeggio/e-bow epic "Sing For The Submarine"
- Up - weirdly-toned electronics/acoustic confection "Houston"
- Live - "I'm Gonna DJ" (HA! A JOKE ON MY PART! IT ACTUALLY WAS ON LIVE!)
- A Late '60s Monkees Album - sociopolitical psychdreampop "Mr. Richards"
- In A Garbage Can Behind The Studio - awkward piano ballad/powerpop combination "Hollow Man"

However, and here's the important thing, WHO FUCKING CARES??? Have you heard how boring their last two albums were!? Be glad they've finally remembered what they were good at! It's not a flawless work of genius -- "Supernatural Superserious" and "Hollow Man" represent audience-pandering at its worst, and "I'm Gonna DJ" is a dopey Blur rip-off -- but the other eight songs are easily among the most energetic, hooky and ear-rewarding REM compositions since at least Automatic For The People.

The warm orange fuzz envelope and Dolenz-worthy vocal melody of "Mr. Richards," the eerie darkness of "Accelerate" and "Sing For The Submarine," the excited energy of "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" and "Horse To Water," the haunting acoustic melancholy of "Until The Day Is Done" and "Houston" = these are GOOD, MEMORABLE R.E.M. SONGS worthy of actually getting stuck in your head! Even after multiple listens, I don't think I could hum a single song from Reveal or Around The Sun, but these new songs get stuck in my head constantly.

And the lyrics are interesting and topical too! Among other things, Michael addresses George Bush ("The future is ours and you don't even rate a footnote"), the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina ("If the storm doesn't kill me, the government will"), media-driven Patriotism ("I'd have thought by now we would be ready to proceed/But a tearful hymn to tug the heart and a man-sized wreath") and the Iraq War ("The battle's been lost, the war is not won/An addled Republic, a bitter refund/The business first flat earthers licking their wounds/The verdict is dire, the country's in ruins").

Thank you REM for your revived interest in meeting the requirements of my personal musical tastes. In the future, please do not put "I'm Gonna DJ" on any more albums.

Oh, and here's something you don't know every day: "Binky The Doormat" is a Shakes The Clown reference! States Tom Kenny's vindictive coke-snorting evil clown Binky upon feeling that he is being walked all over, "That should be my name. Not Binky the clown -- Binky the doormat!"

I realize you knew this in 1996 but I didn't see Shakes The Clown until the other day.

On a related note, you know that old Clash song "Charlie Don't Surf"? Well -- and this is gonna blow your mind, but -- apparently it's a ref (*airbag shoots out of monitor, squishing typist's head like a marshmallow*)

Reader Comments

spydabass@gmail.com
I was very worried that R.E.M. would end up fading into the ether and finish their career with a really boring album.

But thank the Lord, this is no longer the case! This is a fun album, even if all the songs aren't super-great. Peter Buck rips out some cool distorted guitar that doesn't sound like an attempt to be cool (like "Monster") and Stipe sings pretty damn well. It's pleasant to hear. I'll admit that "Supernatural Superserious" is kinda R.E.M.-by-the-book, but I heard it on the radio the other week and it sounded great. A refreshing slice of old-school alt-rock.

It's no great leap forward, but at their age I don't expect that. If R.E.M. were to break up tomorrow, this would be a pretty honorable way to bow out.

hughteg@gmail.com (Hugh Eldred-Grigg)
Just read your amusing REM review. The bizarre thing is, I only figured out where 'Charlie Can't Surf' comes from yesterday, despite having watched Apocalypse Now about a zillion times

xnvol2006@aol.com
I'm REALLY glad you picked this one up to review it. I was about to email you the tracks myself to see if they would help restore your faith in the band the way these songs have restored my faith in R.E.M.

It's not flawless, true, but it's so brief and vibrant, I forgive "Accelerate" for it's clunky moments. Peter Buck hasn't sounded this good since "New Adventures In Hi-Fi", if not maybe since "Document". I'm on my tenth listen in a week's time and I'm not even close to tired of any of the eleven songs found on this awesome cd!

billy.barron@tx.rr.com
Definitely better than their recent efforts, but this sounds like the songs that barely missed the cut of their other albums. Given this, I'd rather just listen to the original albums. Still 6/10.

fastfrank62@comcast.net
When I first heard about the new REM release, I thought, great!!...another CD to hate by these guys. If UP(yours) or Reveal(ing) our new crappy direction or the ever lovable Around the Sun(maid raisins look like my balls) were not enough to loath anymore, I will now have a new set of tunes to focus hatred upon. Being the hate junkie that I am, I purchased the new CD the day of it's release, my hand trembling as I handed the 20 dollar bill to the freak behind the counter, anticipating the hate-fest that will soon wash over me. Arriving home, I headed to the kitchen to get a steak knife to use to peel off the Fort Knox like cellophane that entombs my new hate slave. The crispy crunchy sound of the cellophane was all it took to put me over the top. Lets Get Our Hate-On!

This CD was actually a pleasant surprise from start to finish. I love it!............I was so disappointed.

atemlos99@hotmail.com
Ok, song review here. And, be forewarned, I am not a REM fan. Please disregard if that is going to bother you.

So, I'm driving in this morning, and the little folks at 89.3 The Current play some song that sounds kind of catchy, yet kind of weird. Your typical college radio type stuff, right? All other stations were on commercials so I just let it play. Sometimes you find a good tune on this obscure playlist they tend to have.

Anyways, so I'm listening, and it occurs to me. If you are going to play "Sweet Jane" (Lou Reed/Velvet Underground), why not just play it? I mean, the Cowboy Junkies did, quite successfully. Why the urge to engage your intellectual fantasies and rewrite all these silly lyrics in an attempt to seem edumacated and erudite, as if you sit around smoking expensive cigars in a velvet jacket? Why not just say "this is our cover of Sweet Jane". I mean, Christ. It's like 3 chords and you just sort of jumble them up. Nothing very complicated.

So, I'm kind of laughing at the utter resemblance of this song to said VU track, and they get to some lame middle 8 type of part. Now granted, this sounds different. But, it has the musical appeal of the last sh!t I took. I mean, jumble up another 4-5 chords, write some sappy lyrics about your favorite subject - WHICH, disturbingly enough, in their case, seems to be teenage date rape. I will quote:

"If you call out 'safe' then I'll stop right away, if the premise buckles and the ropes start to shake The details mark but the story's the same, you don't have to explain, you don't have to explain humiliation of your teenage nation"

Yep - scary stuff. Note to REM: Please keep your forced teenage sodomy fantasies to yourself.

Then you get to the end of the song, and it's some kind of phased in coda, which oddly enough totally rips off a completely lame song, ELO's "Do ya do ya want my love". Seriously.

Anyways, this track is really, really bad. And I would venture to guess so is the band itself. I know they probably still sell a ton of records, but man. It's painful stuff. I think Keith Richards once said, I've only written two songs in my life, and everything else I just ripped off. Well, at least he admits it. And, in a sense, if you are solely going to rip people off, at least pick someone good. It worked for the Black Crowes, and it has worked for Oasis. But, man, don't rip off ELO. And don't talk about raping little boys. Please.

edm1213@msn.com
ok. so i havent cared about anything REM has done since Monster, because from '92 to '94 as an early teen just gettin into music i did get some decent pop enjoyment out of the "Losing My Religions" "Drives" "Man on the Moons" and about half of the neat guitar sounding Monster tracks like "I Dont Sleep I Dream" "Bang and Blame" "Star 69" "You" "Circus Envy" and "I Took Your Name". So i liked half the tracks on that album and some of Out of Time and Automatic. My interest in their 80s era begins and ends with the best-of compliations.

Maybe this album is better than what they've done since, but all i need to know is this.

The last song is called "I'm Gonna DJ"

Really? Michael Stipe is 'gonna DJ'? Um, yeah. OK. And. So?

I still dont even know what that song sounds like.

Mainly cause that title put me off from even listening to it in-store.

That's my brilliant comment. I'm goin now. I'm gonna DJ.

Add your thoughts?

2008 Holiday Fan Club DVD
Rating = 7


When REM came “rockin’” back to life with 2008’s Accelerate, they knew it was time to give their long-suffering fans the Xmas single they’d been waiting for and deserved! Then they said ‘fuck it’ and put out some more live shit.

Still, at least two of the songs are fast ones – “Living Well is the Best Revenge” from Torino and “Just A Touch” from Madrid. The third inclusion is another acoustic version of “Let Me In,” this time live in Columbia. Come on guys, even if it’s about your butt buddy Kurt Cobain, the song sucks pud.

I’d like to congratulate myself on using the phrase “your butt buddy Kurt Cobain” in a piece of writing that will some day be heralded as “The Correct Bible.”

GENESIS

1. They sucked. 2. Peter Gabriel dressed like the San Diego Chicken, and Phil Collins – oh god, Phil Collins. 3. And don’t forgot the bearded dumbass!

EXODUS

1. “Open Season” kicked some major-league ass, but I used to own Impact is Imminent and it had too many slow parts. 2. The singer sounded like Bon Scott though, which was pretty boner.

LEVITICUS

1. Christian metal band from Sweden. 2. Never heard ‘em. 3. Now’s no time to start.

NUMBERS

1. Both a late seventies NY pop band and a current SF indie rock band. 2. I stomped on both bands’ records until they were just tiny pieces all over the floor. 3. Jesus swept.

Add your thoughts?

Live At The Olympia In Dublin - Warner Brothers 2009
Rating = 9

Did somebody say "REM Live At The Olympia In Dublin"? Well, it just so happens that tonight I dropped a major "BM" Live At The Lit Lounge In Manhattan! Yes, it was my first live performance in 15 years, thanks to a kind opening invitation by Neutron Drivers drummer Michael DiTullio. Jim Laakso agreed to drum, my wife agreed to help out with a few songs, and zing-wham! Eventually it was over.

SET LIST

Leaves Of Ass by Walt Shitman
Jogging Is The Bestest
Xylodark
My Songs Would Be Significantly Less Sucky If I Bothered To Hire A Bass Player
Get Your Knitting Needle Out Of My Ass!
Joe The Sucky McDonald's Guy
Theme From "The Kiwi Song"
It Means I Love You
Having Sex With A Girl
I Hate When Old Records Go "Kihh!"
Slightly Warm Medina
Postmodern Fish: Alternative To What?
Lorp And The Pain
Disco Jaws

ALSO ON SET LIST BUT LEFT UNPLAYED DUE TO TIME CONSTRAINTS

Have Yourself A Larry Hagman Christmas
Weekends Are Bonus
Cute Things Are Inherently Better Than Ugly Things
2Diggaz

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS

- Jim Laakso playing the entire set (a) standing up, (b) holding the sticks by the wrong end, and (c) using only a floor tom and snare
- Me trying desperately and failing miserably to convince my 21-year-old piece of shit Squier Stratocaster to stay in tune for more than 30 seconds at a time
- A brand new yet strangely familiar Mark Prindle composition entitled "Driver 9" ("And the train conductor said, 'Take some time, Driver 9'")
- An impromptu keyboard performance of "The Little Drummer Boy" -- quickly snuffed out by an audience member's shout of "Too soon!"
- A bunch of godawful hammer-ons and tuneless shitnoise at the end of every song as I alternately (a) leaned my body as far backwards as possible, (b) did stupid Karate kicks, (c) held the guitar way up in the air, (d) placed it at my groin like a penis and thrust it forward sensuously, (e) rubbed it against the microphone stand, (f) laid it on the floor and waved my hands over it as if I'd set it on fire, and (g) made the most asinine 'God, I'm kickin' ass!' faces possible
- Me missing the entire first verse of "Jogging Is The Bestest" because my guitar suddenly went quiet and I couldn't figure out why
- Many, many wrong notes and chords due to (a) me not being able to hear the guitar in the monitor, (b) the guitar constantly going out of tune, and (c) me hiking the bass end way up and turning the treble all the way down in order to mask the fact that we had no bassist on hand (actually that's just another reason why I couldn't hear the guitar in the monitor, I guess)

STAGE PATTER HIGHLIGHTS

- (following a bit of crabcore headbanging) "That was for all the Attack Attack! fans out there."
- "This next song goes out to (*pointing at individual audience members*) you, you, you, you can have the first half, you, not you, oh god definitely not you...."
- "My guitar just won't stay in tune. Because all you people keep breathing on it! Can't you keep it in your lungs!? Jesus Christ."
- "I haven't played a live show in 15 years, Jim hasn't played one in 5 years, and we've never played together before tonight. Now here's a song Jim hasn't even heard!"
- (Jim Laakso, after telling his version of a Mark Prindle joke and receiving audience boos for his trouble) "Hey, it was a cover!"
- "Any of you fellas ever had your old lady catch you MESSIN' AROOOOUUUUUUND with a guy?"
- "This is a rap song I wrote back when I was black."
- (after a particularly awful performance) "Jim wrote that one."
- "Okay, I have to play this next one with my fingers, which I can't do. So please try not to laugh as loudly as you normally would."
- (at end of show) "Anyway, my name's Neutron Drivers, and Mark Prindle will be up next."

AUDIENCE INTERACTION HIGHLIGHTS

Me: "Are you people ready to PARTY??????"
Audience: "Yeah!"
Me: "Well, that's unfortunate."

Me: "Knock knock!"
Audience: "Who's there?"
Me: "You!"
Audience member: "Why?"
My wife: "That's what you should be asking right about now!"

Me: "Knock knock!"
Audience member: "YOUR MOM!"

Audience: (*claps and cheers at end of a song*)
Me: "Hey, FUCK YOU!"
Audience: (silence)
Me: "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were being sarcastic."

My wife: "I do advertising for a living, and this next song is a jingle that I wrote for The Kiwi Board."
Audience member: "What's The Kiwi Board?"

Me: "Here's a joke for you! Knock knock."
Audience: "Who's there?"
Me: "Bigsh."
The soundman: "Bigsh who?"
Me: "No, it's only about a ten and a half."
Audience member: "I don't get it!"
Me: "Big SHOE. Like 'Big shoe?' 'No, it's only about a ten and a half!"
Audience: (silence)
Me: "Look, I never said it was good."

Me: "I was actually warned not to say this joke because it might be construed as offensive but come on, you know me! So here it is: How can you tell if a dog's been rummaging through your garbage?"
Audience: "How?"
Me: "There's urine all over the black guy!"
Audience: (dead silence)
Me: "You get it? He's homeless and living in your trash!"
Audience: (dead silence)
Me: "Come on people, learn to see the humor in people being destitute and dying."

Obviously REM could never hope to put on such an excellent showcase of melodic pop chestnuttery, but this live album is nevertheless fantastic. The gist of the quib is that they played a ton of old songs that they hadn't played in years -- along with most of Accelerate before it was recorded. Here, check out these stats:

Number Of Tracks From Each REM Album That Appear On Live At The Olympia In Dublin:
Chronic Town EP - 4
Murmur - 2
Reckoning - 6
Fables Of The Reconstruction - 5
Lifes Rich Pageant - 2
Document - 2
Eponymous - 1 ("Romance")
Green - 0
Out Of Time - 0
Automatic For The People - 1
Monster - 1
New Adventures In Hi-Fi - 2
Up - 0
Reveal - 1
Around The Sun - 1
Accelerate - 8.5
Previously Unreleased - 2.5

Dude, that's TWENTY-TWO songs off their IRS records! And you know what they played off Automatic For The People and Monster? "Drive" and "Circus Envy"!!! And all these old non-hits sound so so good. SO GOOD!!! (except the ones from Reveal and Around The Sun, which simply reiterate how slow and lifeless those records were). Have you ever noticed how fast and energetic most of their early material is? It really shows through here because (a) Michael sings instead of mumbling and (b) these live recordings have a much stronger kick to them than the damply-produced studio releases. Also they don't play mopey shit like "Camera," which certainly helps.

If you're looking for a Greatest Hits package, go buy a Greatest Hits package because they purposely dug WAAAAY into their back catalog for these shows ("Kohoutek"!? "Second Guessing"!? FOUR/FIFTHS of Chronic Town!?). In fact, the only singles they bothered playing are "Drive," "Driver 8," "Electrodrive" and "So. Central Rain (I'm Driving)," so stick that up your ass and drink it. As for the 2.5 previously unreleased tracks, those would be a terrible sub-Monster tuff rock bore called "Staring Down The Barrel Of The Narrow Distance," a slow, sad and overlong dirge called "On The Fly," and an early version of "Supernatural Superserious" back when the chorus was just an "Auctioneer" retread.

An equally delightful surprise is the humble and honest-to-gosh charismatic stage patter of Mr. Stipe and his fellow Remmers. Here are a few examples:

(following "Letter Never Sent")
Lady In Audience: "We love your 'Oh's, Michael!"
Michael Stipe: "What?"
Lady: "We love your 'Oh's!"
Stipe: "You love my clothes? Is that what you said? Thank you."
Lady: "Oh oh oh oh! Oh oh oh oh!"
Stipe: "Oh, that part!"
Peter Buck: "They love your 'Oh's."
Mike Mills: "Do you wanna hear it again?"
Stipe: "Yeah, do you wanna hear it again?"
(*band begins playing that part of "Letter Never Sent" again*)
Stipe: "No, I don't wanna do it again -- oh! Oh! Oh!"
(*band stops*)
Stipe: "Actually that wasn't repeat vocal and chorus; that was just go 'oo' and 'ah' and let Mike and Bill do everything in the song! I've moved on."

(before "Man-Sized Wreath")
Stipe: "This next song will not be on the next record."
Mills: "Really?"
Stipe: "No!"
Buck: "I think it's a little early to make that call."
Stipe: "Alright, you're right. It might make it."
Audience Member: "B-side!"
Buck: "There are no B-sides anymore; it's all MP3s!"

(before "So. Central Rain")
Stipe: "This one's easy. Well, it's easy for me. I even know the words!"

(after "Sitting Still")
Stipe: "This is why the Internet sucks... It says here, 'Note: These lyrics are approximations. Stipe himself has no idea what he says.' Thank you, Search Engine!"

(after "These Days")
Stipe: "Thank you all so very much for participating in what shall be known as an experiment in terror! Actual... actual, umm... actual fear."

(before "1,000,000")
Stipe: "Lots of death in this one too. I don't know where I was in the early '80s, but here we go!"

(before the slow, dull "I've Been High")
Audience member: "Peter Buck rocks!"
Buck: "And now to prove it, listen to this song."

(before "Kohoutek")
Buck (to Stipe): "You should definitely apologize before we play this one. It could be a mess!"
Stipe: "This is absolutely terrifying for us. We hope you enjoy it."

(after "West Of The Fields")
Stipe: "The lyrics -- I mean, they are what they are. I wrote 'em, and I don't even know what they are. But the lyrics according to the Internet are 'The animals. How strange. Try, try to stick it in.'"
Buck: "I'm glad I didn't know that!"
Stipe: "I guarantee you in all my drug-addled early 20s, I never wrote that line! Never!"

Accelerate is a terrific album, and Live At The Olympia In Dublin is a heart-squeezingly beautiful and exciting reminder that the band who fell asleep and shat out Reveal and Around The Sun can still remember and rekindle the flames of Fables Of The Reconstruction, Reckoning and all those other great folk-rock albums of yesteryear. If you agree with me about Accelerate, you will go absolutely rockballs apeshit when you listen to this 39-song live masterwork. And if not -- hey, they still play 22 songs from their IRS albums!

Reader Comments

Zac Horn
As much as people complain about REM post Bill Berry, I honestly think Live at the Olympia makes up for a lot of it. The CD set is without a doubt my favourite thing they've done since Bill left. It's the type of release that I would have no problem giving to people as an introduction to REM (something i couldn't say for any of the Post Bill studio albums, comps, or Live discs, no matter how much i enjoy them by myself). A lot of what makes the band special is captured on those 2 discs (3 if you include the documentary).
Accelerate was good, this was much better.
Re. overdubs in comparison to the Itunes EP. i'm not sure how many overdubs took place on Olympia and how much of it was simply better mixing. If mixed low enough, bad harmonies can all but disappear. To pretentiously paraphrase Pere Ubu's Dave Thomas: it's not about notes it's about geography and where things fit in with the terrain of the song. Of course that said, i haven't actually heard the EP in question, but i do have plenty of REM bootlegs and live b-sides, and they generally sound pretty good.

Add your thoughts?

iTunes Live From London EP - iTunes 2008
Rating = 6

This one really makes me wonder (a) why on Earth they released such a sloppy and incomplete live record, and (b) how many hundreds of hours they must've spent on studio overdubs to make Live At The Olympia In Dublin sound so good. Recorded in March 2008 (after the Dublin shows), this performance is marred by the kinds of mistakes you'd expect from an unknown local band, not a professional jet setting phenomenon like REM. But first, a joke.

Man: Where'd you put my sock?
Woman: Don't you remember? Last night I was complaining about my period and you yelled at me to "Put a sock in it!"
Man: Eww.
Woman: Now it's soaked with 55 gallons of menstrual blood. Do you want some breakfast?

Ha ha! A joke is never complete until it's been dragged on far past its punchline. Here's another example, then we'll get back to the stupid album or whatever.

John Travolta: Hey, where'd all my cocaine go?
Tom Cruise: Don't you remember? Last night I asked if I could have some and you said, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!"
John Travolta: All my movies stink.
Tom Cruise: Who cares? We're Scientologists.

Ha ha! See that? The punchline -- which wasn't even funny in the first place -- took place about 45 minutes ago! In fact, I didn't even bother typing it in! This is called "postmodern" (or "today's") humor, and is practiced by the world's smartest and most creative young comedians like Dane Cook and Larry The Cable Guy. Which reminds me of a hilarious joke:

Old Woman: Oh, I just love your act! I'm especially fond of your iconic bathing suit photo.
Larry The Cable Guy: Do you have me confused with somebody else? I'm Larry The Cable Guy.
Old Woman: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were 'Larry The Betty Grable Guy.'
Larry The Cable Guy: No, Larry The Cable Guy. Because my 'cable' -- or 'penis' -- is 45 miles long.
Old Woman: Just like Betty Grable! Here, step into this bathing suit.
Larry The Cable Guy: No. (*backfists old lady in the face as hard as he can, seven times in a row*)

Ha ha! Good old Wilson Phillips and his jokes.

Here are just a few of the many errors one might find on REM's iTunes Live From London release:

1. "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" - The second guitarist is so loud in the mix that his three-chord rhythm riff completely changes the mood and melody of the song (for the worse).

5. "Fall On Me" - The rhythm guitar is so abominably out of tune with itself that I honestly have to wonder whether anybody at iTunes actually listened to this CD before releasing it.

9. "Man On The Moon" - This is the most disappointing track because its messy and off-key harmony vocals make it unquestionably clear that every single backup vocal on Live At The Olympia In Dublin was overdubbed in the studio. I suspected this anyway (listen to the version of "Wolves, Lower" on that CD -- it sounds exactly like the decades-old studio recording!), but it's still disappointing to have my suspicions confirmed.

3 and 4. I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating: "Hollow Man" and "Supernatural Superserious" are the weakest songs on Accelerate (or tied with "I'm Gonna DJ" anyway). Accelerate is the most melodic, consistent and intelligent album they've released since at least Automatic For The People, but you'd certainly never know it by the lame-o singles.

You don't need this EP. "Auctioneer," "West Of The Fields," "Horse To Water" and "Man-Sized Wreath" sound great, but they're on Live At The Olympia In Dublin anyway. Plus there's no stage patter at all, and five of the nine tracks are from the same studio album. So let's conclude with a joke:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
iTunes Live In Lon
iTunes Live In Lon who?
iTunes Live in Lon Chaney's A Phantom Of The Opera!
What the hell does that mean!?
I don't know; it's just what Mom named me.

Speaking of which, I thought of a fantastic tagline for that film. See if you like this:

Lon Chaney's A Phantom Of The Opera -- Silent But Deadly!

It astounds me that nobody at Universal thought to use that in 1925. Did it take the Holocaust for people to start appreciating a good toot joke?

If so, it was all worth it.

Best,
An Old Jewish Man

Add your thoughts?

2009 Holiday Fan Club CD-single
Rating = 5


Who the hell let Mike Mills have total control over the annual Holiday Single!? I mean, that guy – he… he… Ahhh, to HELL with him!!!

Best,
Steve Moplikjunhytredswaz-Smith
President
Mike Mills Fan Club

P.S. And why did he sing “Santa Baby” like a transsexual!? Ahhh, it BLEW!!!!

P.P.S. Bill Berry came out of retirement just to play on a b-side called “Crazy Like A Fox”!? I mean sure, if it were the theme of the Jack Warden television series that’d be one thing, but it’s just some old Lenny Kaye garage nugget! And yes, it’s a fucking great song, but come on it’s called “Crazy Like A Fox”! You know what, Bill? You DESERVE an aneurysm!!!

Best,
Dave Johnsonstein-Berg
Treasurer
“Bill’s Berries” Glee Club

P.P.P.S. Sorry I put my first two post-scripts before my signature. I can see how that might have been confusing.

P.P.P.P.S. Also sorry I didn’t actually write a letter, but just a series of post-scripts.

Add your thoughts?

2010 Holiday Fan Club Download
Rating = 7


The always wonderful Michael “Mike” Mills returns with retired drummer extraordinaire William “Bill” Berry for another wild and woolly escapade through the attics and crawlspaces of our Yuletide memories. Fire up the eggnog, because this sparkling holiday rendition of Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will have you caroling with glee as you trim the tree! Mr. Mills is a virtual girl group in and of himself, and Mr. Berry’s peppy rhythm would turn the head of even disgraced convict Phil Spector. Yes, Mills and Berry have truly roasted this chestnut on an open fire. Bravo, gentlemen!

Best,
Smokin’ Joe Tarleton
Deputy Sports Editor
Mike Mills Is A Dick -- And Don’t Even Get Me Started On Fucken Bill Berry, That Guy Can Suck My Left Nut magazine

P.S. The b-side is just an ethereal instrumental collage of two melodies from Collapse Into Now. Talk about a “lazy lazy world… lazy lazy time!”

Worst,
Bill Fagit
President
Sewage Dump Panties
"If you need panties, you're in luck because we make them."

P.S. That note was for my buddy Paul “P.S.” Stevens. If you’re not him, don’t read it.

Reader Comments

Anthony Hansen
I can't believe you just spent nearly a month writing about all those goddamned R.E.M. holiday releases. I feel more sympathetic about people with OCD right now than I ever have in my life.

And there I was, thinking it was all about murdering people.

Add your thoughts?

Collapse Into Now - Warner Bros. 2011
Rating = 7


This album sounds exactly like REM. When you think in your head “REM,” what you’re thinking about is this album. It’s full to bustin’ with acoustic guitars and mandolins, along with a few uptempo electric rockers and some friendly midtempo things. Essentially, it’s a cross between Out of Time and Automatic for the People with the grim folkier elements of Accelerate thrown in. However, as evidenced by “Walk It Back,” a puke-infested vomit-drenched barf-splattered upchuck-wafting pile of slow, dull as dirt Around The Sun James Taylor garbage-licking shitbirds, a retro REM isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On first listen, I was appalled by what seemed a terribly contrived adherence to their successful early ‘90s formula. But once I accepted the fact that they weren’t trying to reinvent their wheel (they tried in the ‘00s and lost all their fans!), I realized that they’ve created a pretty solid little REM album here. Stipe seems a bit lazier than usual, too often relying on one-note non-melodies, but Mills’ back-up vocals are among the most beautiful of his career. Furthermore, though the music offers few surprises, Buck’s acoustic arpeggios and chiming high-end distortion are always a joy to hear inside one’s ear.

“Discoverer” kicks things off with sort of an Irish/Scottish take on the mannered ringing rock of “Finest Worksong,” and we are then plunged into a world of dark melancholy folk and midtempo pop rock. The weaker tracks are disappointing mostly by dint of their obviousness: peppy rockers “All The Best” and “Mine Smell Like Honey” have plenty of energy but little innovation; dismal “Houston” follow-up “Oh My Heart” is the least compelling of the Grimm folk tunes; and lengthy album-closer “Blue” manages to combine elements of three different Out Of Time tracks without being a third as good as any of them. And then of course there’s “Walk It Back,” a stench-riddled ingrown toenail of a boring adult contemporary greasy used speculum covered in testicle sweat.

On the other hand, the album’s standout tracks aren’t so much unobvious as they are particularly well-arranged variations on the traditional REM sound. For example, the minor-key folk pieces “Uberlin” and “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” are elevated to greatness not by their basic melodies, but by Mike Mills’ stunning harmony and backing vocals. The same can be said for the astonishing “It Happened Today,” which layers four gorgeous voices in an extended wordless coda of unrestrained optimism. Furthermore, the sparkledust lullaby “Every Day Is Yours To Win” would be just another “Everybody Hurts”/”Strange Currencies” variation if not for the absolutely beautiful instrumental tones, the otherwise standard ‘60s garage nugget “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” is rendered fun as hell thanks to Lenny Kaye’s guitar riff and Peaches’ guest vocals; and speedy little bassball “That Someone is You” just sounds like a pleasantly punchy leftover from Accelerate.

So no, it’s not the most ground-breaking REM album ever, nor one of the best. However, one listen to the fecal-caked urine-soaked sub-Reveal toilet seat smothered in ticks and bedbugs “Walk It Back” serves as sober reminder that at this point in REM’s career, “good” is good enough. And now for some dirty limericks!

There once was a fellow named Stipe
Who used his fame soapbox to gripe
He so hated Bush
That he’d push and he’d push
‘Til his prick ripped apart your ass pipe!

There once was a guy named Mike Mills
Who took care of REM’s bills
He spends every day
Figuring out how to pay
For the prostitutes Stipe rapes and kills

There once was a guy named Pete Buck
Whose favorite pet was a duck
He taught it to speak
Through its cute little beak
But Stipe shut it up with a fuck

There once was a man named Bill Berry
Who knew from day one to be wary
Of the fleshy pink stinger
Of his own lead singer
A murderous duck-fucking fairy

Oh, I’m sorry; did I say “dirty” limericks? I of course meant “insanely homophobic” limericks! God hates fags.

Best,
The Phelps Limerick Company

Reader Comments

Ben Burch
Yep, I kind of expected this to be kind of a dissapointment after "Accelerate," but it's still a good album. I don't really understand your beef with "Walk it Back," since I found it to be a pretty good song. I also loved "Mine Smells Like Honey," "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I," "AAAA" whatever it's called, "Discoverer" and "All the Best." However, I thought "Every Day is Yours to Win" was too repetitive, "Oh My Heart" too sappy and "Blue" just all around pathetic. The other songs I didn't mention were ok. A 7.5/10.

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