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  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    REM

    1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th

    Murmer 9 ( 1983 )
    Radio Free Europe / Pilgrimage / Laughing / Talk About The Passion / Moral Kiosk / Perfect Circle / Catapult / Sitting Still / 9-9 / Shaking Through / We Walk / West Of The Fields

    Around the same time as REM emerged, seemingly fully formed to shake up the U.S. alternative scene, in England The Smiths were doing the same for that particular countries alternative indie scene. Neither group made crossroads in each others territories until much later. Both served a similar purpose however, if only in being influential in shaping the direction of alternative music to an extent, in their respective countries. REM meant nothing at all in the UK in 1983, and 'Murmer' made minimal impact, although in the U.S. it charted within the Billboard top 50, and REM never looked back. I said they arrived fully formed? Well, they practised an awful lot. They played a bunch of concerts. They released an EP! But, this was, after all - their first album long statement. And, right from the off - it sounds distinctive. The vocals and lyrics are certainly distinctive. The jangle of the guitar may well remind you of certain Sixties groups, but few other acts were ploughing that particular field in 1983, when everything was shiny and new. REM sounded timeless right from the start.

    'Radio Free Europe' has delightfully happy jangling guitars and wonderfully soaring, if largely indecipherable Michael Stipe lyrics! 'Pilgrimage' opens with vocals quiet and echoing off in the distance before strong melodic guitar lines enter and the vocals begin to affect the hairs on your spine once the chorus begins. 'Laughing' is even better! A funky bass line! A happy, jaunty guitar. More totally incomprehensible lyrics!! But, even though you can't make out much of what the lyrics actually are, the sound of the vocals and the little harmonies are just gorgeous. 'Talk About The Passion' continues a super strong start to the record (!) with a distinctive guitar introduction, more accomplished playing within this particular style - more fantastic sounding, timeless voices. The chorus, when it enters, is just...... well, it's pretty darn great, very brief actually - very affecting. 'Moral Kiosk' is the first song that's less than stellar although the sound of the previous songs is generally preserved, so it's not a total disaster. The lyrics here are actually far less interesting, maybe because you can actually hear them! I love groups that make best use of their limitations, so to speak. If Michael wasn't super confident as a lyric writer - they overcame it through the 'mumbling' style of singing he employs through certain songs here. And, harmonies! Harmonies always help out a lead singer.

    'Perfect Circle' is totally gorgeous, and I apologise right now for not bringing any in depth detail into this review, any exact explaining of why 'Perfect Circle' is so great. You know, i'm sorry. Maybe it's the sound of Michael Stipes voice. Maybe it's the gorgeous Piano/Keyboard melody. Maybe something to do with the changes, the chords? Whatever, to coin a phrase - standing as sure showed us high in the room... What??? That's what it SOUNDS like! You can't make out much of what he's singing, and no - I don't actually want to know. It would spoil the mystery, the beauty. You can add all sorts of meaning of your own to the song this way round. 'Catapult' opens with more Jangling guitars, more happy melodies amid a simple, very clear sound. You can hear everything that's going on musically. A very clean, suitable production that sounds natural and fairly distinctive, at least for the era. 'Sitting Still' varies the guitar sound in places, just enough variety to not feel you've heard the song before. Even when you actually have. That makes no sense I realise, but it's some trick they pulled off here! '9-9' is all jerky and slightly distorted in places - seemingly throwaway but it adds to the album as a whole work. 'Shaking Through' is slightly forgettable but 'We Walk' is another happy song, jaunty in its melodic content but slower this time. The vocals sound clear but the lyrics here, unlike those on 'Moral Kiosk' are nothing at all to be ashamed about. That sounds bad on 'Moral Kiosk' doesn't it? It wasn't meant to. I just prefer 'We Walk' - that's all, and that's allowed, you know?! 'West Of The Fields' opens with a 'brace' of guitars, a stomping kind of rhythm - slightly on the edge all the way through. It has a distinctive structure and sound, the vocals in the chorus are rushed, but enjoyably so and fitting the music. 'West Of The Fields' isn't a song that screams out to you as being anything you can actually grab hold of and proclaim to be a masterpiece work of art. Many of the songs here individually can't have that claimed for them, actually. But - the whole is more than the sum of it's parts. They found a sound, of their own, and worked with it.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    Hmmmmm . . . I'm not sure I fully "get" this album. It's funny, because R.E.M. are one of my favorite bands, and this is often considered their best! But I just find it a bit overrated. I guess I can understand that 'Murmur' didn't really sound like anything else in 1983, and for developing a new sound with this album I commend the band. But in hindsight, I just find a majority of these songs to be, ehh, alright, but not THAT special. Yeah, the overall murky atmosphere is cool, but as individual songs, many of the melodies aren't all that memorable or catchy. "Pilgrimage," "Laughing" and "Catapult" seem to be fan favorites, but they do very little for me personally, for some strange reason. I even find "Perfect Circle" a little boring. On the other hand, I think "Radio Free Europe," "Talk About the Passion" and the Brit-poppy "We Walk" are all very affecting; so, it has its highlights. I also love a couple of those weird, experimental songs, namely "Moral Kiosk" (even though Adrian harped on it) and "9-9." I guess this album is partially redeemed if you take it as a whole, and understand it as one cohesive statement, and NOT necessarily a collection of great pop hooks (which it definitely is not). It's still gloomy and trippy in a strictly intriguing way (not necessarily an enjoyable way), and I suppose it's worthy of an 8 at best. I like the follow-up a lot better, though.

    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    Sure, this album is way influential, and it didn't sound like anything else out at the time, but to me, 70% of the songs don't work. But the songs that DO work are excellent. Best songs: "Radio Free Europe","Pilgrimage","Laughing", "Talk About the Passion", "Moral Kiosk".

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    On first listen this sounds quite dull. However give it time and you will appreciate its brilliance. Apart from a few exceptions I love all the songs and I easily consider this to be the band's best album. How John Schlegel could consider Reckoning to be the superior album is beyond belief. By the way its Murmur not Murmer! 9/10

    Craig Kenny craigkenny@ntlworld.com
    Sorry Adrian, though I agree with most of your observations, Shaking Through is the absolute highlight of this album. 'What if this one small voice, dosen't count in the world?'...has to be one of the most beautiful opening lines ever, and it stands alone, even if little else in the song makes sense (geisha girls?). the mumbled middle 8 section is the kind of emotional points where language breaks down. It reminds me somehow of the bit in Madam George where Van goes on about 'laughing music, dancing music all around the room' it's still my favourite REM song, even more than Fall on Me perhaps.

    Spartacus spartacus6775@yahoo.com
    this album to me was very influential, and despite what most of u have said, many of the songs were very catchy. how can u say with a straight face that "Sitting Still" is not catchy?! that song is definitely the highlight of that album. i cant ask for a more perfect ending to the album. 'We Walk' and 'West of the Fields' just totally did it for me.

    sara temps saratemps@ntlworld.com
    Your review was mainly incomprehensible but somewhat summed up what makes this album timeless: no review can fully encapsulate the beauty and sheer joy of it. "Moral Kiosk" is the best song here from its jagged guitar line to the shouts of "Inside!" accompanied with Stipe's warbling. "Sitting Still" is the sound of childhood summers--frenetic but somehow lazy (now I'm sounding incomprehensible!)-- while "Shaking Through" is a reflection of those memories. The only weak points are "We Walk" (this album's "Stand", very shiny and happy but with little substance)and "Radio Free Europe" (a disappointment if you've heard the Hib Tone version on Eponymous). This is REM's best album of the Eighties and just falling short of their best 5/5

    Phantom Gtowner phantomgtowner@hotmail.com
    What "Murmur" lacks in melody it more than makes up for in unique guitar lines and quirky chord and tempo changes. Unlike some fans, I think they got better after this but despite a muddy production, which might have been intentional, this is one good listen. As the CD progresses the songs seem to get better too. Favorite tracks are “Talk About The Passion”, “Shaking Through” and “We Walk” but several others are growing on me. Stick with it, because it takes a while to sink in. A success? Definitely. A Masterpiece? Maybe.


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    Reckoning 8 ( 1984 )
    Harborcoat / Seven Chinese Brothers / So Central Rain (I'm sorry) / Pretty Persuasion / Time After Time / Second Guessing / Letter Never Sent / Camera / Don't Go Back To Rockville / Little America

    REM make no great leap forwards for their second long player, rather edge forwards from the place they'd reached with 'Murmer'. Now, this would be all fine and dandy if 'Reckoning' was as strong a set of songs as 'Murmer' had been, but sadly it isn't. The 'edging forwards' I speak of manifests itself in a slightly clearer sound, slightly more confident performing and slightly more discernable Michael Stipe lyrics, although that last one is up for debate. It's still pretty damn tricky to make out much of what he's singing here! Maybe i'm wrong, maybe we simply have a case of a follow-up not being quite as good as the album it's following. It happens all the time, and it's certainly nothing to get too worked up about, especially when what's here is still pretty fine on the whole. 'Harborcoat' sets the tone for the entire record. Is this phase two of 'Radio Free Europe'? The same slightly anxious sounding rhythm propels this song forwards. Not much of a song until the chorus is reached, but when the chorus IS reached, this suddenly becomes a decent song. 'Seven Chinese Brothers' sounds like it's been beamed straight across from 'Murmer' although it's still initially difficult to get hold of. Repeated listening pays off, that little repeating guitar figure added to mysterious Stipe lyrics holds the song together. 'So Central Rain' opens with a ringing, distinctive guitar pattern after which Michael says sorry rather a lot. Still, a fine song this, especially the instrumental breaks where the drums start to beat out loud and clear, and rather funky they sound too. 'Pretty Persuasion' sounds astonishingly clear, an echo or ambience on the instrumentation, particularly the vocals which sound wonderful here. 'Time After Time' is a little weird with an eastern flavour, but it's not unattractive or anything. More interesting drum work here, incidentally.

    'Second Guessing' is a ROCK song, fast and with a steady beat you can dance to! It's rather fun, you know? 'Letter Never Sent' is sub-standard 'Murmer', Michael mumbles a lot perhaps because the lyrics aren't terribly interesting. The tune isn't either, come to think of it. 'Camera' is very slow and dreary, 'Don't Go Back To Rockville' a little country tune with swoon-some, life affirming harmonies and joyous melodies. Best song on the album, for me. 'Little America' closes the whole 'Reckoning' show with fast, anxious rhythms and a vocal where if you concentrate you can actually make out most of what the words are! It sounds strange coming after 'Rockville', almost like a different band, but it's an ok song if judged by itself. Maybe that's it? 'Reckoning' lacks the cohesion and overall atmosphere of 'Murmer'. Maybe I'm labouring the point, because 'Reckoning' is still a fine album, with a bunch of hugely enjoyable songs on it.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    I think this is something of a step up from the debut. It doesn't have quite the overall cohesion of 'Murmur', but the melodies are more fully realized and engaging in my opinion. Almost everything on here is so unbelievably catchy that I'm still blown away every time I listen to the album, even though I've heard it about 100 times now. The upbeat tunes like "Harborcoat" and "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" may be what work best of all here, if not the groovy "So. Central Rain." But 'Reckoning' also has a little more stylistic variety than the debut, as demonstrated in some ambitious ballads, like the exotic "Time After Time," and the absolutely astounding "Seven Chinese Brothers." Unfortunately, the album is hampered somewhat by poor production. Also, "Pretty Persuasion" is a knuckle-headed rocker, and "Camera" a bit plodding and dull, making for some noticeable filler material. But everything else on here is either unforgettably catchy ("Rockville") or rocking and enjoyable when you're listening to it, if not all that memorable ("Letter Never Sent"). This is definitely my favorite record from R.E.M.'s early, pretentiously indie, can't-understand-Michael-Stipe period -- it gets a 9 from me.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Your right Adrian, this is definitely no match for Murmur. Starts off very well with the underrated 'Harborcoat' followed by the fine 'So. Central Rain' and '7 Chinese Bros', which is also very good. However after 'Pretty Persuasion' things take a turn for the worse. I really don't care for 'Time after Time' while 'Letter Never Sent' and "2nd Guessing' are just filler. The last few tracks do show an improvement. 'Camera' seems to get a bad deal of most people however its fine by me. I just love Stipe's heartbreakingly sincere vocals though to be fair it is a bit overlong (much like this review!) I've always found something not quite right about the much lauded Don't Go Back to Rockville' but its still ok. 'Little America' is just good. Anyway good album just don't expect another Murmur. 7.5/10


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    Fables Of The Reconstruction 8 ( 1985 )
    Feeling Gravitys Pull / Maps and Legends / Driver 8 / Life and How to Live It / Old Man Kensey / Can't Get There from Here / Green Grow the Rushes / Kohoutek / Auctioneer (Another Engine) / Good Advices / Wendell Gee

    Recorded with legendary English Folk/Rock producer Joe Boyd, the sessions for REM's third album were full of tension. The writing process was difficult, if still prolific - but what I want to know is why Joe Boyd? If REM were impressed with the sound of those classic sixties and seventies Folk Rock outings from the likes of Nick Drake, Sandy Denny or Fairport Convention, then they should have paid closer attention! John Wood engineered all of those artists classic works, he was the man responsible for the sound and ambience of those records. Joe Boyd was the kind of guy to take an act under his wing and nurture them, provide support. He was a great organiser, but it was John Wood who captured the vocals of Nick Drake so well, for example. John Wood took no part in the recording process for 'Fables Of The Reconstruction', thus a great opportunity was lost. Joe Boyd wasn't with the group for long enough 'to take them under his wing', even if REM had needed such a attitude. REM have always been a pretty self-contained unit. Anyway, what's the record like? It's good, but with reservations. Although there are a clutch of songs here that surely rank amongst the groups finest work, other songs sound rushed through. It's not 'a beautifully recorded' album either, although the sound is refreshingly live sounding. The most notable aspect that leaps out at you is just how obscure and dark much of the material sounds. Either intentionally or not, one thing Joe Boyd and company did manage to do was create one hell of an atmospheric record!

    'Feeling Gravitys Pull' is suitably obscure poetics, 'Maps And Legends' similary so. Guitars are to the fore, although not ROCK guitar, rather delicate, hard to grasp sounding guitar. 'Maps And Legends' is quite beautiful, actually. 'Driver 8' is a song that could have sat quite happily on either on the first two REM albums. It's a beauty of a song! The music here is wonderfully performed, by the way - especially the instrumental breaks. 'Life And How To Live It' isn't as great a song as 'Driver 8' but benefits from 'tension filled' energy, which is how the song comes across to me. It's a rush, ultimately. 'Old Man Kensey' is rather dreary, although the vocal parts are nice. 'Can't Get There From Here' is a slightly more straightforward sounding song and a hint towards future REM. 'Green Grow The Rushes Grow' is absolutely heartbreakingly gorgeous, and I could go on, but I won't. Every song here is at least interesting, although some of the closing songs start to irritate simply due to the lack of sonic variety, although the songs provide enough variety within themselves, 'Wendell Gee' featuring little country picking, for example. The atmosphere, dark and uneasy - isn't quite maintained from beginning to end..... but, but. This is another beautiful REM album, although I say that with certain reservations. It isn't a 'confident' sounding REM, there truly is something disquieting about the whole experience.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Another step backwards. With the exception of Driver 8 the songs on Fables really aren't up to much. Actually that's being a little harsh. 'Maps and Legends', 'Green Grow the Rushes' and 'Can't Get There' are all quite good tracks. But the problem is there nothing more than that and on a good REM album they would be little more than pleasant filler. Stipe and Co. have been quite critical of Fables and with good reason as its just not up to the standard of the previous two albums. Thankfully though it would prove to be just a misstep and things would get much better on the next album. Well in my view at least!

    dennis somersaltmedia@yahoo.com
    I think Fables is a beautiful record. The album would have been better if it wasn't so compressed (ie Flat sounding). There's nothing leaping out of the mix and grabbing you around the throat, (like Astronomy Domine by P.Floyd which Boyd also produced for example, but again, REM & Floyd are apples & oranges). Even Boyd's been quoted saying he wishes he could have brought 'more out of the mix'. I read the band was democratic to the point of even having the vocal mix at the same level as the guitar, despite it making for some great swirling songs, (on Kouteck (sp) for example) overall the album could have benefited from a little more dynamic in the production. Overall, Maps & Legends, Driver 8, and Wendell Gee are masterpiece songs, and despite my beef with the compression (flatness) of the record, I prefer it to Life's Rich Pageant and Reckoning.

    Jim Johnston georgejohnston@hotmail.com
    I agree with your rating of 8/10. It is a good album, however, it does take a bit of listening to get into. Stipes lyrics paint great pictures, especially on Driver 8. However, my favourite song on the album is Kohoutek. I have no idea of the lyrics! But Stipes vocals are fantastic, even thought you can't make out a word he's singing, and the music is beautiful. A REM classic, that gets very little, if any, attention nowadays.

    kevin cramsey kccramsey@verizon.net
    Yes, this is an interesting album. I hated it when it came out. Took years for me to really like it, and now, all these years later, I like it even more. It is a very sonic experience and mant to be listened to as such. "Green Grow the Rushes" is a true electric folk-rock classic.

    Kevin Mannion Ireland
    This is one of the most underrated albums by ANY band. Just beautiful music, and one of R.E.M.'s best. 'Kohoutek' and 'Good Advices' are forgotten (by most) R.E.M. classics.

    GAZZA Edinburgh
    My 1st experience of REM came via this album and although ive heard all the bands output since something keeps drawing me back to "fables" . All these years on it sounds like a homesick bands homage to their youth in georgia USA . Ive always loved "feeling gravitys pull" , its structure is just so different for the group , and so mysterious . "maps and legends" "driver 8" "green grow the rushes" "good advices" and "wendell gee" are all beauts in my opinion . Right up with the best songs theyve recorded. Now the reason this isnt hailed as a start to finish classic by the group was down to joe boyds dreadful production , one that im not sure all the blame is deserving of boyd just that he made the whole thing sound muted and one dimensional . But in all honesty a homesick band desperate to get back to the states from what had been a miserable experience in london were probably just as much to blame . Its a real shame and probably wouldnt have happened later in ! the groups career , but there you have it - one of the best set of songs from the group has its potential ruined by weak sonics . But still it manages to win through and stay in the memory , and that says a lot about its inherent quality .


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    Lifes Rich Pageant 7 ( 1986 )
    Begin the Begin / These Days / Fall on Me / Cuyahoga / Hyena / Underneath the Bunker / Flowers of Guatemala / I Believe / What If We Give It Away? / Just a Touch / Swan Swan H. / Superman

    REM turn into a ROCK guitar group, which makes for a change from the murky 'Fables Of The Reconstruction', I suppose. 'Lifes Rich Pageant' marks the second phase of REM music making, and as such should be treated as the first step towards greater things, rather than the masterpiece it is sometimes acclaimed to be. Micheal Stipe sounds clear and forceful, the rhythm section are noticeable with a strong drum sound. The guitar is harder hitting than earlier REM and much more pleasing to a rock fan, I suppose. REM sound refreshed, sound clear and full of beans. What they don't sound like is a group with an entire albums worth of great songs, which is what you require to score something like a '10'. Still, a '9' would do, you know? Well, 'Underneath The Bunker' is a weird eastern sounding, mostly instrumental piece. Filler, certainly. 'The Flowers Of Guatemala' and 'What If We Give It Away' are hardly world beaters. Solid songs, certainly. The latter is catchy, but I don't see these songs being superior to anything REM had done before simply because the sound was clearer and the guitar a little rockier. Well, these aren't the most striking songs on this album, in any event. I am of course picking on the weaker moments! 'Just A Touch' is an almost Punk thrash - lots of whoops from Stipe, storming Rock n Roll piano. It doesn't have much of a tune, though. Still, there are some great songs elsewhere on the record that justify the entry fee, at least.

    'Begin The Begin' has feedback, great guitar work and is a thrill from beginning to end. 'These Days' sees Bill Berry get to grips with his drum kit, so to speak! Another guitar workout, energy, a little exhilarating. 'Fall On Me' is a sure sign of genuis, one of the finest songs REM had ( and have ) ever written. It sticks out like a sore thumb on this particular album, being so much better than anything else, but that's just one of those things. 'Cuyahoga' and 'Hyena' are both good quality pieces, the former with a touch of REM beauty and timelessness, the latter benefitting from the clearer production values of 'Lifes Rich Pageant'. 'Just A Touch' and 'Swan Swan H' do little for me personally, although the closing 'Superman' sung by Mike Mills is hilariously joyful - very catchy, sing-a-long stuff! Hmmmm!! A radio-friendly REM? Well, it happened of course. As for 'Lifes Rich Pageant' I don't feel like saying sorry or anything, but this album as a whole just doesn't seem all that special to me. The material is weaker than previous REM material, bar the odd standout. Well, 'Fall On Me', most obviously. It's not a bad album really, of course. 'Fall On Me', 'Begin The Begin' and 'Cuyahoga' earn this some level of reasonable grade, anyway.

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    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    Man, this is R.E.M.'s best album if you ask me! It's not perfect, but what album is? 'Abbey Road' maybe? 'Life's Rich Pageant' is better than most albums I've heard in my entire life, and one of my all time faves. It's the band's first record to feature full-scale production, and it sounds leaps and bounds better than anything they had recorded before it -- for one thing, Michael Stipe's vocals are finally starting to make sense! From beginning to end, 'LRP' just pulverizes its listener with crunchy, blistering rock n' roll. The guitars rupture your eardrums, the drums pummel your stomach. "Begin the Begin" and "These Days" are some of R.E.M.'s strongest, most enthralling rockers to date. But the harder songs are only half the fun -- "Fall on Me," "Cuyahoga," "The Flowers of Guatemala" and "Swan Swan H" are all cutting and absolutely gorgeous ballads, each in their own different ways. Just follow the complex arrangement of the endlessly melodic "Cuyahoga," as it steadily builds up until the final exhilarating chorus; brilliant, I tells ya'. Love that Civil War folk flavor and those mythical lyrics of "Swan Swan H" too -- definitely a highlight. I know a few of the rockers aren't quite up to the standard of the rest, but this album still gels perfectly. "Underneath the Bunker" isn't unlistenable, albeit obvious filler material. But 'LRP' is a bloody 10!! Buy it today.

    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    To me, this is R.E.M.'s BEST 80's record. The only song I don't really like, though, is "Underneath the bunker". "Fall on Me" and "Swan Swan H" are classics.

    Eric de Jonge edejonge@tiscali.nl
    Can't add very much to the comments of John Schlegel. It is absolute madness to rate Life's Rich Pageant and Document lower than for example Reveal. Fall On Me is arguably one of the best pop/rock songs ever (but we can go on like this about every song on this album). Listen to the layers that are ingeneously put together and then re-rate this album!

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Come off it. This is easily one of REM’s best albums. You are making a great mistake in rating tripe like Up and Reveal higher than this. Sort it out! Btw I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my ignorant comments concerning the Warner period albums. I was being a bit too harsh on AFTP just because it is so overrated. However I'm still right about Green and Out of Time. They are both awful!

    Mike mike@biomedscience.co.uk
    Funny one this - I like your reviews and generally you get it spot on. But..not with this album. I was handed this in a pile of stuff "to broaden my musical education" when I was a lot younger. This album changed my life, I formed a band and devoured everything I could about REM. Listened to it straight through 4 times the first day. Thought there were 2 guitarists that first time, didn've have bugger all info in the sleeve notes. It hit the spot exactly -like you know you've come home. Bearing in mind I bought Bryan Adams the week before this was handed to me. Anyway it changed everything. Begging you man - change your rating, easily REM's best outing, it was all downhill from here...

    Gazza Edinburgh
    Its the sound of a band finding its feet and finding a way forward . Despite the previous albums quality theirs no doubt it was atrociously produced and hampered the groups chances of expanding their audience. Therfor playing and production are beefed up and muscular enough for mainstream radio , while the eco rage and political hopelessness are firmly established in stipes lyrics . An experienced producer (john cougar mellencamps) did the trick in that Peter buck revells in someone finally giving him the tools to rock out a bit as much as he can fall back on his folk plucking, and stipe actually has to pronounce the lyrics and has his voice pushed for the 1st time . I suspect this was a record company choice rather than the bands but it paid all kinds of dividends. The results are a refreshingly durable record that has aged well over the years comprising of all the trademark REM features rock,folk,garagey pop and oddities like "underneath the bunker" which sh! owed the guys had heard a tom waits record or 2 . The album is consistent in quality and in particular "fall on me" "cuyahoga" and "i believe" show the bands developing sound. Document was a much more forceful angrier record but this was the 1st step toward the big arenas of the "green" tour .


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    Document( 1987 )
    Finest Worksong / Welcome To The Occupation / Exhuming McCarthy / Disturbance At The Heron House / Strange / It's The End Of The World As We Know It / The One I Love / Fireplace / Lightnin Hopkins / King Of Birds / Oddfellows Local 151 /

    God, take a year off you guys, or something! Is what I would have said to the group were I around at the time. The Smiths split up because Morrissey wouldn't take a year off. That was the basic reason. A last album was squeezed out, and that was that. REM didn't split - they moved to a major label instead. 'Document' is another step towards a mainstream sound begun on 'Lifes Rich Pageant'. But, I don't understand. When 'Green' arrived ( the major label debut ) and especially when 'Out Of Time' arrived, REM sounded nothing like this. 'Green' can now be seen as a transitional effort, a hint to the future. But, i'm getting ahead of myself. In some ways 'Document' builds upon 'Lifes Rich Pageant' I suppose. The production and playing are a further notch forwards, just a touch. No spectacular leap. Just hit singles! 'Finest Worksong', 'The One I Love' and 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It'. Are any of those my favourites on this album, then? Er, no. 'Welcome To The Occupation' is my favourite. Peter Buck does one of his delicate repeating guitar things, Michael does one of his obscure poetic things. REM do collectively one of their artistic wonderful things and there you have it. Real, spine chilling stuff. As for the three 'hits', 'The One I Love' is pretty loud and fun, 'Finest Worksong' one of those songs that sounds GREAT! whilst you're actually listening to it, but ultimately is completely impossible to remember. 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It ( And I Feel Fine )' is one of the most irritating songs ever written, but it's ok if you happen to be in the mood for it. Never listen to it when you're feeling low. You'll likely kill someone.

    'Exhuming McCarthy' is rock based. Um... that's about all I can think to say about it, musically. The guitars go here and there, the sound is turned up loud. It's about two minutes too long and lacks exciting musical ideas. 'Disturbance At The Heron House' is decent, interesting guitar sounds, fascinating weird lyrics. 'Strange' opens with an actual riff, a monster of a ROCK riff. Drums pound, great sounding drums. This is good stuff. 'The One I Love' and 'It's The End Of The World' follow, 'Fireplace' follows that and Micheal has little to say this time round. "Crazy, crazy, times.....' - well, yeah, I guess they were. REM by numbers for me, though. 'Lightnin Hopkins' could be covered by Korn. Actually, i'd quite like that! I doubt Korn would include the little harmony vocals, but something astonishing happens to the bass here, and it's easy to imagine the lyrics and rhythms being spat out by a nu-metal guy. So, hats off to REM for this! 'King Of Birds' doesn't sound quite right to my ears. The choice of instrumentation mixed in with 'standard' rock guitar through this mid-tempo song isn't quite right. The little marching type drums rhythms aren't quite right. I can't exactly put my finger on it. Let's just say it's not great, and be done with it. 'OddFellows Local 151' is a rather inconsequential closer to the album. A few semi-funk rhythms as REM further pursue a calling as a heavy rock group. Something they patently aren't. But, ah well! Sorry for being so harsh on this album, it's really not bad or anything, and I really do love 'Welcome To The Occupation'. For me though, as a way of explanation, this record lacks an easy flow, lacks any kind of special atmosphere. It almost sounds like a 'b-side' to 'Lifes Rich Pageant' in places.

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    Oleg Sobolev dima@aspol.ru
    Man, you are really crazy. This album deserves a 10 - no less! All songs are great and catchy - they are pop masterpieces! "It's The End Of The World..." isn't irritating at all! It's one of the best songs EVER, did you hear it - ever! I can't believe it.. a six and a half... A 10! A 10! A 10!

    Guy Peters GPETERS@vdab.be
    Indeed overrated. And I agree about "It's The End Of The World" Interesting lyrics, annoying music I'd give it more than 6.5 (maybe 7.5), but basically agree with everything you sayabout it. Fables... was much better.

    John Schlegel john_schlegel@hotmail.com
    Um, we don't see eye-to-eye on this one either, Adrian. This is my second favorite R.E.M. album. I don't know what it is; I guess I just love that late '80s period when their early, jangly college radio sound had been refined just enough into relatively accessible, but fresh-sounding mainstream rock -- you have to admit that this was about the best music on the radio when it came out, at any rate. Aside from that, this is the only other R.E.M. album besides 'LRP' whose consistency totally impresses me. Every one of these songs is well-written in my opinion, showcasing an engaging hook. Well, I personally don't think "Lightnin' Hopkins" is that great, but that's it; I pretty much love everything else! "The One I Love" and "ITEOTWAWKI(AIFF)" are timeless rock songs -- the latter is very catchy in a speedy, anthemic sort of way! The smoothly rocking "Disturbance at the Heron House" has a gorgeous guitar melody courtesy of Mr. Buck. I also think "King of Birds" adequately picks up where "Swan Swan H" left off -- not as ominous this time, but a more relaxed folk ballad mixed with nice electric rock touches, and captivating all the same. "Strange" is a cover from the post punk band Wire's hailed debut album, and it makes for a high quality rocker; the trudging "Finest Worksong" echoes and builds up in a way that gets the album off to a wonderful, nervous beginning. Overall, the album sounds very focused to me -- 'Document' works exceptionally as a hard, but melodically, rocking modern rock production with some well-placed experimentation. My only real qualm is that it isn't enough of a progression from 'LRP' to warrant another full 10 rating. The album basically sounds like its predecessor, except with fewer ballads, more innovative, darker dirges (the menacingly dissonant closer "Oddfellows Local 151"), and more overtly political lyrics (the perky, horn-enhanced "Exhuming McCarthy"). This is a 9 1/2, dude! Turn the damn six right-side-up!

    Jaro Terno infidelity@jippii.fi
    Document is by far my favourite R.E.M album, just before Automatic for the People. It's a 10, 10 ,10 ! Six and half points is a crime! It has greats songs and yes, it has hits too, one being the great R.E.M classic, the One I Love.

    Severed_Alliance jbayview4@aol.com
    Most of your reviews You've written regarding my favourite artists/bands I'd agree with. However IMO you've got this one wrong. I think that 'Document' is one of REM'S top 3 albums and only 'Murmur', 'AFTP' and to a lesser extent 'New Adventures...' and 'Fables' match up for me! I think you well overrate 'Out Of Time' (only about 4 tracks on that are gems the rest average)

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    6.5 is a bit low but not too far wrong. This is defintely not the band's finest hour as some have suggested. The first seven tracks are all pretty good but after 'The One I Love' a huge decline sets in. 'King of Birds' is ok I guess but the other 3 songs are very weak with the band sounding badly short of ideas. I actually think the singles are the best thing going for this. Though can understand why you might find 'It's the End of the World' annoying. Anyway to cut to the chase I'd give this 7/10.

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    This was the point where REM began a 10 year reign at the top of the alternative rock scene in the USA with an eye firmly on the stadiums of the future . Its a great album , who the hell else would cover wire or namecheck lightning hopkins on the same record ? The hits are here , "occupation" is wondrous , politics are brought into play and the closing 2 tracks are as psychedelic and unsettling . They found the right engineer in scott litt and just produced their own stuff from here - the way forward you feel . REM come across at this point as a bunch of nice hardworking guys who deserved their sucess totally - as much as i like fables and some of the earlier stuff this is the 1st perfect album they did .

    kevin cramsey kccramsey@verizon.net
    All you guys who love "Document" so much were obviously still wearing knickers when "Murmur" came out or you would realize that albums like this -- and several later on, even before they really lost it -- are grossly inferior to the first three. This phase, where REM decided to be a rock band, is OK; still lots of good stuff. Later, when they tried to be a grunge band -- that was the end for me. The last couple of years have been very sad, indeed, especially because they (at least the three of them) seem to be the last to know.


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    Green( 1988 )
    Pop Song 89 / Get Up / You Are The Everything / Stand / World Leader Pretend / The Wrong Child / Orange Crush / Turn You Inside Out / Hairshirt / I Remember California / Untitled

    Some Jerk : But it's not green, it's orange! And what's with this major label shit? God, have R.E.M. lost it.

    Sensible Person : I don't know why it was titled 'green', something to do with nature, I expect. Apparently orange is one of Michael Stipe's favourite colors. That's why it's orange. Major label shit? This sounds exactly like a natural progression from 'Life's Rich Pageant' and 'Document' - and maybe the move to a major actually helped them out a bit, this is one fine sounding record, production wise.

    Some Jerk : Fine? Where have the melodies gone? This is all dull shit.

    Sensible Person : Whatever, there's no point discussing this further.

    And, so on....

    For the record, I like 'Green' a lot myself, see it as a clear progression from either 'Document' or 'Life's Rich Pageant' and yeah, the increased recording budget does help. 'You Are The Everything' is a clear signpost towards 'Out Of Time', and I like albums that sit inbetween two era's, so to speak. 'Green' contains commercial alternative rock numbers, aka 'Document' but also contains songs that could have fit on the following album, 'Out Of Time'. Things were indeed changing, but it was about time they did, as far as i'm concerned. REM took 'green' very seriously, your first record for a major focuses your mind sometimes. They went off and toured for a couple of years, and vastly increased their fan-base. That may be half of the reason the old original fans felt less welcoming towards REM from this point forward. REM go global, and this time, there's no ignoring it. And yes, their sound changed. Whether you prefer the first three albums proper, whether you prefer 'Life's Rich Pageant' and 'Document' - REM changed. They should be allowed to change. And, well. I like 'Green' because 'Stand' is lots of fun, 'Orange Crush' slightly irritating, but it does pleasantly remind me of Midnight Oil 'Beds Are Burning'. 'World Leader Pretend' is a genuinely fantastic song, considered, intelligent lyrically and richly produced without ever being over-produced. 'Green' isn't perfect, the second side isn't as good as the first, although the closing 'I Remember California' is a weird, dark, dirge that rewards repeated listening. 'Green' is no masterwork. It has flaws, but it also has a few genuinely good, even great REM songs.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    What are you on man? No way is this better than Lifes Rich Pageant or Document. Orange Crush, World Leader Pretend and Pop Song 89 are the only good songs. The rest is mostly unlistenable crap with atrocious lyrics. Stand, The Wrong Child and Hairshirt are particularly awful. 5/10

    Spartacus spartacus6775@yahoo.com
    First off id like to say that Marks a frikin idiot. Green is one of my favorite REM albums by far. how can you go wrong with songs like 'I Remember California' or 'The Wrong Child'? to me, 'The Wrong Child' is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, period. the lyrics are incredible, and the instruments, like the mandolin, just add to its greatness. id give it an 8 at least!

    Scott Webb scottwebbok@aol.com
    "The Wrong Child" was R.E.M.'s attempt at making music more like 10,000 Maniacs. Michael Stipe repeatedly stated during that time period that he believed 10kM were the best band in the U.S. even R.E.M. was wearing that label from Rolling Stone. I have always felt that 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M. compliment each other perfectly in their musical arrangements and lyric content, and I enjoy alternating albums or tracks from both bands while listening. They both also pleasantly remind me of Dukakis-era liberal politics.

    Dan dperris@laingorourke.com
    Over the years REM have been a little up and down, but GREEN is one of my favourites. After hearing songs like Hairshirt and You are the everything I realised that the Smiths were not the be all and end all! However, Murmur is there most timeless record for me.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    In light of how poor REM have become its interesting to listen back to a record like this . The band themselves are not too keen on this record but im rather fond of it excluding orange crush and stand (although the wah wah solo on the latter is hilarious) the rest of the record is outstanding "you are the everything and "the wrong child" are beautiful "i remember california" and "turn you inside out" are dark,moody uncoiling rock of the highest order . Green suffers a bit in comparison with the commercial peak that was to come but it was certainly a strong album and adrians rating is correct.


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    Out Of Time( 1991 )
    Radio Song / Losing My Religion / Low / Near Wild Heaven / Endgame / Shiny Happy People / Belong / Half A World Away / Texarkana / Country Feedback / Me In Honey

    What were they thinking? I'm mean, funk? Rap? Guest spots, a commercial edge?? Fortunately for us, it all turned out alright, although some older fans expressed doubts and found the magic of the groups early work had gone. Maybe it had? Maybe it had been replaced by something else? This is a dramatic leap from 'Green' or 'Document' as far as confident writing and performing is concerned. There is nothing half-hearted about this, but equally some songs still come across as delicate moments of suitable beauty. Right, so, with that out of the way, let's get going. 'Radio Song' features none other than KRS-1 on guest funky soul rap vocals. The song opens with a quiet beautiful guitar jangle, the beats kick in. Sorry, what was that? Beats?? Yes, sir. The guitar carries on, the bass comes in - the harmonies. And then we have 'Losing My Religion' famous for being both a stupendous song and for the video in which Michael Stip seems to lose control of his arms. 'Low' is very stark, quiet and slow, very 'Low' I guess! But, following two up-tempo tunes it works well, and the building up of instrumentation through the various sections both impressive and frustrating - it keeps you on the edge. 'Near Wild Heaven' has plenty of happy guitar, melodic bass and Mike Mills of all people on vocals! Maybe because now Michael is adding harmony, maybe because Peter Buck does good Beach Boys 'ba ba ba' parts, but for whatever reason, the harmonies here are absolutely beautiful, making 'Near Wild Heaven' a real summer sensation. Outtasight!! 'Endgame' has no lead vocals but does have strings and vocal parts - a beautiful musical mix actually, and wonderful percussion if you listen closely.

    'Shiny Happy People' arrives, and it's both shiny and happy I guess, but gets old for me a lot quicker than other songs here. It may just be overexposure, because if you do happen to catch the song on the radio after months and months of not hearing it played - chances are you'll smile. Another great vocal performance, incidently - this time featuring Kate Pierson of the B52's helping out the guys. 'Belong' opens with a little groove and handclaps. The guitar comes in, and spoken vocals through the verses. The chorus is deliriously joyous - no actual lyrics, just Micheal 'wailing' beautifully, in harmony with Peter and Mike. Mandolin and organ are to the fore on the slower 'Half A World Away' which sports a vocal full of such feeling it brings a tear to the eye. 'Texarkana' is the second Mike Mills sung track on the album, pretty fine, but no 'Near Wild Heaven'. 'Country Feedback' is absolutely beautiful, full of moaning vocals, string parts, organ and vibes. The vocals and whole song actually sound like someone's world is about to end. So, does 'Me In Honey' make a suitable closer? Yeah!!! Kate Pierson back on vocals - very shiny and happy. The guitar goes round, and round. It doesn't do much else. Well, through the chorus the guitar changes a little to allow for a little shaking rhythm announced by Bill Berry's drum roll. Another vocal tour-de-force on an album full of them, a perfect song to follow the desolate 'Country Feedback'. So, 'Out Of Time' - an important album? Yeah, it was for REM, this was finally their big worldwide commercial breakthrough. A good album? Yes. The question doesn't really even need to be asked.

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    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Can't believe you like this. As far as i'm concerned the whole album is worthless except Losing My Religion. Used to quite like Mills's songs but now find them very annoying. 4/10

    chris kilby23@hotmail.com
    This is maybe my favourite album of all times. I think I could listen to 'Country Feedback' until the end of my days and never get tired of it.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Sorry I was being a little harsh. As Chris observes, Country Feedback is also a fine song. Still don't care for the rest though. I may well be a frikin idiot but I can still recognise generic music when I hear it.

    Joe Aston j_j_de_Haas@hotmail.com
    Has anyone else ever noticed the striking similarity between Country Feedback and Radiohead's Karma Police? Oh the days when Radiohead was ripping of R.E.M. and not the other way around... As for OFP, I think it's a striking collection of roadsongs, it gives you the feel of driving across the Southern US in a beautiful black Caddy Deville or Dodge Charger, especially on songs like Texarkana. One of the best albums of the 90's, and completely kicking the near-simultaneously released Nevermind's overhyped ass

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    radio song and shiny happy people bug the hell out of me but the rest of the album is excellent . It really stood out as a step forward at its time of release.Like green it was another upwards climb commercially too. the brooding low, the baroque charms of endgame and half the world away and i really love the 2 mike mills songs too , all obvious highlights . This record was omnipresent in student dorms circa 1991/1992 i can assure you of that !

    kevin cramsey kccramsey@verizon.net
    Everything comes together on this one. Even "Low," the weakest track, has its place. There is so much confidence on this album. They knew they were in their prime and they went for it, hit single and all !


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    Automatic For The People( 1992 )
    Drive / Try Not To Breathe / The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight / Everybody Hurts / New Orleans Instrumental No 1 / Sweetness Follows / Monty Got A Raw Deal / Ignoreland / Star Me Kitten / Man On The Moon / Nightswimming / Find The River

    Maybe you've got the television on in the back-ground. Maybe you've just got an imagination and sometimes hear music in your head that's seemingly come from nowhere, and you can't place. Perhaps this music, real or imagined can pop into your ears and brain whilst listening to a completely different record, and it startles you. Perhaps some avant-garde Jazz piano part will come floating by when you're listening to 'Guinevere' by Crosby Stills and Nash. A gorgeous song, for sure, but suddenly this Jazz piano part comes floating by, just for a few seconds, and you're thinking to yourself, 'wow - if only they'd put something like that in there!' There are stories of unreleased albums so perfect in the imagination of their composers.... they just couldn't be recorded or captured anything other than imperfectly. On the other hand, there are also a few songs where it's impossible even to imagine an extra part, or anything being done different than it already is. 'Automatic For The People' even with the strings sections and everything else being 'correct' isn't a perfect record. And, no. I'm not going to be picking on the little instrumental, as it serves a purpose here. I can't say anything from this entire record is bad, as equally I can't imagine much of this material being performed in any other way in terms of adding or subtracting parts. So, why doesn't this float my boat, light my fire, have me jumping through hoops? Or why doesn't it have me break down in tears of joy at emotions raised, hopes lost, memories gained? This album is almost entirely a perfect exercise in A-Z, an equation. But, it's a beautiful equation!

    'Try Not To Breathe' is one of the songs here where everything is right, you can't imagine this particular song with a different section, tempo, different instrumentation or approach. Not only that, but the lyric really does place all sorts of images in your mind, being slightly ( not totally ) vague in it's poetry. And, the harmonies are beautiful! Harmonies aren't something that can be explained, they just go straight for your heart and soul. 'Try Not To Breathe' follows 'Drive' which has some nice mandolin, etc and is rather funny when Stipe sings 'Hey kids, Rock N Roll' over the top of a song that's far removed from being Rock N Roll! 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight' is a pop song that borrows a vocal hook from 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight', hence the songs title. It owes little else to 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and is a perfectly fine REM pop song. 'Everybody Hurts' doesn't make me weep, or draw solace, or even think that Michael Stipe shares the hurt of the 'everybody' he is so generalising about. It's a beautiful sounding song, and beautifully played but this singles video made the song what it's now perceived to be, this great provider of comfort to the listener - it's a song that needed to be popular in order to work! But, when Michael sings 'You're not alone' it simply doesn't reach me, or ring as true. Maybe it's just me, but I can't place myself in the song. I can't imagine anything, draw any pictures from this other than pictures of stationary cars, funnily enough. Still, the string section is tastefully done, and suitably soaring. I actually prefer the nice 'New Orleans Instrumental No 1' to 'Everybody Hurts'. It's beautifully short and concise, and wonderfully evocative. 'Sweetness Follows' sounds lovely but lacks a beating heart. But, it sounds lovely! It's simply something to be admired and provide a pleasant listen rather than making you cry, or get excited, or really - feel anything at all.

    'Monty Got A Raw Deal' contains some great little guitar parts and develops very well over the course of just over three minutes. It's a perfectly structured song, everything sounding correct although not necessarily sounding exciting - it's just a good, solid song. 'Ignoreland' is the only guitar rock song on the entire album, but still doesn't sound out of place, which is a strange thing. The production over the course of this album is very rich, very detailed and all the songs arrangements and instrumentation are suitable, and 'correct'. 'Star Me Kitten' is one of my favourites on the album. A beautiful organ/keyboard part, wonderful minimal musical backing with just the right amount of guitar to make your spine chill. Stipe sounds in good voice here, funnily enough, he sounds more emotionally involved in this seemingly random set of words than he does in the more straightforward 'Everybody Hurts'. 'Man On The Moon', like 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' is a perfect REM pop song, and very happy sounding too. It's an uplifting song and a highlight here. 'Nightswimming' consists of Piano, Stipe, a few string parts, and nothing else. It's a nice song though, and the repeating Piano parts are very pretty. 'Find The River' is a song to float off to, a song to dream to, a song to fall asleep to - and I mean that in a good way! It's also a song to awake to - open your sleep filled eyes, look up at the window and see a day breaking in orange and yellow, wiping away the darkness.

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    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    8 1/2 ?! For me, this is one of the best albums of the 90's (Second only to Radiohead's O.K. COMPUTER) It has a great flow to it all throughout the album. A lot of the songs are very good, even the filler ("New Orleans Instrumental No. 1", and arguably "Star Me Kitten") is good! "Find the River" is one of the best album-ending songs ever. However, "Ignoreland" isn't that good, plus it gets annoying after a bit. Regardless of that, it still is a VERY good album. I give it at least 9 1/2.

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    A vastly overrated album by a band who was well past it's peak. It is an improvement on the previous Warner albums but is mediocre at best. 'Nightswimming' and 'Man on the Moon' are good songs but rest of the album is pretty much a big snooze. 6/10

    CaptainCrash j_j_de_Haas@hotmail.com
    what are you talking about?? This is by far the most beautiful pop/rock record since the beatles' Revolver!!! Where REM's brit equivalent Radiohead loses itself in high-pitched mumbling vocals and ugly semi-intellectual computer-music, REM made a record with the best lyrics ever sung brilliantly by Stipe, fab arpeggio'd (Rickenbacker, for the connaisseurs:))guitaring courtesy of Peter 'Airplane Hooligan' Buck and simple, yet memorable bass- and piano playing by Mr. Mikey Mills. 'Everybody Hurts' is perhaps too commercial, but has a fantastic organ part. For the rest: If OK Computer gets a 10, then surely this masterpiece deserves a 12/10

    Mark Evans markphilipevans@hotmail.com
    Ok I admit it, I am an idiot! maybe I'm mellowing in my old age but I now consider this to be one of the band's best albums. I still don’t much care for the Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite or ‘Everybody Hurts’ but have really grown to appreciate the rest. Well most of it anyway. Can’t believe that I overlooked songs like ’Sweetness Follows’ and ’Find The River’ for so long. The latter is just so beautiful and a great way to finish the album.

    john, county kildare john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    a beautifully, spectacularily, goodily, excellently, brilliantily, nicely done, piece of prime cut beef. 10/10. deelishiousness personifyeed. even the weird "filler" instrumental is the bees knees. r.e.m.'s "on the beach", and i just love it. actually no, did i say 10/10, 'cos i meant 11/10.

    Paul, slayskool@aol.com
    I have only once inmy life ever waited on line for a record store to start selling an album at midnight. "Automatic" was it. I listened to the CD ALL FRIGGING NIGHT and I wasn't even an REM fan. I had heard "Drive" and was hypnotized by it prior to the CD's release. This album is truly their magnum opus and everything went south from there. The pinnacle, the apex, the orgasm of "Automatic" is the ultimate exclamation point to a long career.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I agree pretty much with adrian on the rating however ignoreland and sidewinder dont really fit on the record IMO and the melodies are really jarring. Everbody hurts smacks of multimillionaire guilt . Of course everybody DOESNT hurt , some people are too numb to hurt . Just an annoying lighter waving moment -it doesnt really communicate anything about hurt. Gripes aside the rest of the record is spectacular , try not to breathe,drive,find the river,sweetness follows are all career highlights . Its very evocative of winter twilights and lonely early mornings. Personally i reckon the best songs from the next 3 albums would have made a classic followup to automatic - instead we got 3 disntinctly average ones . This does happen regularly in major acts careers though and i still believe REM are a special band but the magic started to fade here undeniably.


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    Monster 5 ( 1994 )
    What's The Frequency Kenneth? / Crush With Eyeliner / King Of Comedy / I Don't Sleep I Dream / Star 69 / Strange Currencies / Tongue / Bang And Blame / I Took Your Name / Let Me In / Circus Envy / You

    Step one, we can have lots of fun
    Some of the reasoning behind the live, thrown-away feel of this record is REM wanted to tour again following four years away from the live arena. They wisely felt that taking a bunch of ballads on the road ( a majority of the songs on 'Out Of Time' and 'Automatic For The People' ) might not make for a great Rock n Roll concert! So, they recorded 'Monster' and packed it full of loud guitar music. Sadly, the record comes across as rather mannered in places, too contrived and lacking in very many special songs. We do get a couple. 'I Don't Sleep I Dream' is a touch of class on an otherwise very ordinary album. Michael Stipe makes good use of his higher vocal register - as he does on another highlight 'Tongue' which may well have a fairly dull tune but the vocals are good and almost make up for it. 'Star 69' is short and sweet. Throwaway, but obviously so. It doesn't pretend to be anything it's not and is fairly enjoyable as a result.

    Step two, there’s so much we can do
    Not strictly true. Many of the songs feature the same guitar tone, repeated over and over. It gets extremely irritating. REM songs have a habit occasionally of going round and round compositionally. Peter Buck in particular makes a habit of this. Usually there are other things going on, not least decent lyrics and interesting harmonies and/or bass lines and other instrumentation. But, not here. Let's take opener 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?'. It goes round and round! But, after a minute, it's just repeated again, EXACTLY THE SAME AS IT'S JUST BEEN! No variation, no new lyrics, no story-telling. A nice little guitar solo comes in, admittedly, but after that - again! More of the bloody same!! 'Crush With Eyeliner' consists entirely of a phased, distorted guitar, low in the mix treated vocals and nothing else. If it was 60 seconds long, it'd be alright. After that stage, the song is just beaten into ground through repetition. 'King Of Comedy' seemingly is an attempt at REM proving exactly how much they could do. It's a funky U2 'Zooropa' era dance track and absolutely awful, quite possibly the worst thing REM have ever done.

    Step three, it’s just you and me
    'Let Me In' is actually pretty good. A very raw lo-fi guitar track with an astonishingly genuine and emotional Stipe vocal over the top of it. And, nothing else. The lyric is reputedly about Kurt Cobain.

    Step four, I can give you more
    Hmmm. Well, 'Strange Currencies' opens well before they do exactly that and 'give you more'. Of the same, of course. Why so many of the songs on 'Monster' seem to lose the will to live half way through, I'm not sure. 'I Took Your Name' is entirely forgettable and features more treated guitar. 'Circus Envy' would be quite good were it not so badly rendered on the record. The distortion and 'grunge' sound just doesn't suit REM, simple as that.

    Step five, don’t you know that the time is right
    To finish listening to the record and rarely play it again? Damn right! To be fair, there are enough good songs here to make a decent REM four track EP. 'I Don't Sleep I Dream' is probably my song of choice from this collection, but there is so little else truly memorable or worthwhile.

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    Spartacus spartacus6775@yahoo.com
    couldnt agree with you more. a few of these songs are worthy enough of being played continuously. this album just strayed a little too far from the normal REM style we all know and love

    The S.T. stephenrtaylor@ntlworld.com
    A change of direction for Stipe & co. perhaps, but it does the journey for me. Maybe not one for the people, but personally prefer it to 'Automatic . .'

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    its a decent album , no great shakes . agree with adrian this would have made a cracking mini album (back in the day when they did them) tongue,i dont sleep i dream,strange currencies frequency, let me in are all terrific songs as good as anything theyve done - just surrounded by material that isnt good enough. I dont think it was a mistake to change direction , it was a good idea to have songs that were suited to live performance.


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    New Adventures In Hi-Fi 9 ( 1996 )
    How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us / The Wake Up Bomb / New Test Leper / Undertow / E-Bow The Letter / Leave / Departure / Bittersweet Me / Be Mine / Binky The Doormat / Zither / So Fast, So Numb / Low Desert / Electrolite

    It sold half as many copies as 'Automatic' and not nearly as many as even 'Monster' which had received something of a mixed reception amongst both critics and fans. But, lets put this into perspective. In 1996, The Spice Girls sat at number one in the UK singles charts solidly for the entire time it took 'E-Bow The Letter' to rise and fall through the top 75. A load of now forgotten Britpop also-rans were all the rage - the likes of Kula Shaker, and Dodgy. It was a fun time for pop music. (?) This REM album isn't pop music, it's not even the pleasingly populist 'Automatic For The People'. This records frowning grey monochrome cover art was at odds with the general mood of the times. The fact many of the songs here were recorded live, or at sound-checks, added to a sense of confusion in the potential buyer. Many long-time REM fans even passed this by, put off by a sixty five minute length and the lack of a cohesive atmosphere. We get a sprawling journey through different styles of music. REM's Peter Buck himself referred to this as almost like a compilation tape of different bands. So, why the high rating, Mr Denning? Well. We get some of the finest songs REM have ever written. The different styles of songs actually help retain your interest across the albums 65 minute length. Led Zeppelin thought nothing of releasing the sprawling and diverse 'Physical Graffiti' in the mid seventies. And, that record was very well received by Led Zep fans, and praised for it's diversity. 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' deserves a similar level of respect.

    'How The West Was One And Where It Got Us' is typical in a sense of the difficulties in getting easily into this set of songs. Bass and Piano open the song, fairly starkly. Harmonies and keyboards come in. Stipe sounds especially mysterious, if utterly beautiful. It's a hypnotic song rather than a hook-filled song. It's all about the listeners expectations. In terms of structure, this sounds like little else REM had ever done. There is no chiming, jangle of Peter Bucks guitar to be heard. The descending Piano lines in the middle of the track sound like they've wandered in from an avant-garde Jazz session! But, the simple little repeating Piano lines through the verses of the song do stick in your mind and the whole piece has a strange kind of beauty surrounding it. 'The Wake Up Bomb' recalls the guitar feast of 'Monster' but done times ten. It sounds louder, more real and more furious. Michael Stipe spits out the lyrics with some venom and the chorus is exhilarating. It's the perfect opposite of the opening song, but flows from it very well due to this contrast. Another switch in sound occurs for the sweet guitars and lilting melodies of the frankly gorgeous 'New Test Leper'. 'Undertow' reveals its recorded live nature through being almost half-formed and sounding like it was made up on the spot. Stipe rescues this song, completely. Wonderful, soaring vocal parts amid the mess of the distorted guitars. And next? One of REM's least popular single releases! The fact that 'E Bow The Letter' not only features stunning cameo contributions from Stipe idol Patti Smith but also features a gorgeous melody and fantastically poetic and mysterious lyrics courtesy of Stipe, doesn't seem to matter to those that may have preferred another 'Shiny Happy People' to open the promotional campaign for 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi'. Still. It's their loss. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. The guitar sounds haunting, Patti Smith singing over the chorus parts ( well, I guess it's a chorus! ) utterly beautiful. This is ambitious, startling and unique. This isn't something easy for anybody to grab hold of, though partly due to that nature - I was captivated from the word go. This one song in fact, made me fall in love with REM all over again.

    Do we get anything easy to follow the beautifully haunting 'E-Bow The Letter'? Do we? Well, um, no. 'Leave' is seven minutes of ugliness, but again, startling in it's structure and not without melody either once the song really gets going. Once more, Michael Stipe is in fine voice for this piece. The guitar lines, going upwards, little repeating figures, keep you interested and keep the song rooted. 'Departure' has more 'friendly' guitar riffs and again, recalls the more commercial sounds of 'Monster'. It's done better - harmony parts, beautiful vocals, a torrent of words for the verses. 'Bittersweet Me' ditches the distorted guitars of the previous couple of songs and once more, provides diversity and contrast. It's a wonderful song with a strong melodic hook. Two five minute songs follow this - the delicate, then life-affirming 'Be Mine' contrasted by the booming drums and distorted guitars of the entertaining 'Binky The Doormat'. Following those two songs reaching over ten minutes in total, we of course get a sweet two minute long 'Automatic' styled instrumental! The thing is, the running order for this album is actually very astute. It's very hard to imagine these fourteen songs ordered any better than they have been. The ROCK! music returns for 'So Fast, So Numb'. 'Low Desert' follows, and is possibly the only song here that doesn't do anything for me. It seems more obvious that much else of what's here and the guitars fail to do much of interest. A follow-up single to 'E-Bow The Letter' closes the album. After the ugliness of 'Low Desert' it sounds life-affirming, joyous and superb - the lyrics charming, the harmonies very well done. It's a melody filled song with great lyrics actually and a fine way to go out. I really love the violin that comes in during the instrumental break. Attention to detail! Song-craft! A fine record, a fine album. A forgotten masterpiece? Well, I've not forgotten it.

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    Readers Comments

    POSTPOSITIVE@OPTUSNET.com.au
    New adventures my arse. Having persisted several times to let go and grip what a couple of reviewers see in HI FI, it's really self demeaningly beyond me. New Adventures, reeks of typical rem-sounds, except there is no inspired ideas or moments of musucianship, or anything resembling a drawcard. It's vacant, that would be fine were I a pretentious, misunderstood genius seeker, no, there is nothing misunderstood on this one, the album sucks. Document, which you bemoan is one of the most firecracker breakthrough albums of their list, and the utterly sublime Automatic dwarfs the quality of this piffle. Better than automatic... uhu, ok so, the majority isnt always right, but take this opinion abroad and watch what happens. Boy the public got this one right, for a change.

    McStipe thetwosteves@hotmail.com
    Stumbled across this site whilst lookinbg for something else but I;ll be returning. Just wanted to say I wholeheartedlt agree with your opinion on New adventures. I had a discussion with another ardent REM follower and I named this as my "desert island disc" and he nearly fell over in disgust. As Kurt said - You know you're right. And so do I.

    Jason Fielding jfielding@bolton-sfc.ac.uk
    By far the best album REM have realesed. Agree with all your comments apart from how you describe 'Leave' as ugly, simply on of the best album tracks of all time, still playing it now along with The Stone Roses 1st album.

    Andrew McQuillan amcquill@shaw.ca
    This is R.E.M.'s most underrated album, so a 9 is quite an excellent rating. My favourite tracks have to be E-Bow The Letter (Not an obvious choice for a single, but when listening to it, after awhile you realize it should be one. Which it was.), Leave (Very good, emotional songwriting, and the atmosphere of it is nicely enhanced by the alarm), and So Fast So Numb.

    Martin Earl martin-rearl@supanet.com
    'hi-fi is the second worst album of their career behind 'monster'. It is almost totally devoid of invention and how any true r.e.m. fan would rate this as their best effort is beyond me. 'automatic' and 'pageant' piss all over this tired and laboured offering. dont get me wrong- 'hi-fi' is a good album by anyone else's standards. but by r.e.m.'s standards it is very average. pageant 10/10 automatic 9+half/10 murmur 9/10 reveal 8+half/10 up 8+half/10 document 8+half/10 reckoning 8+half/10 green 8+half/10 out of time 8/10 fables 8/10 hi-fi 5/10 monster 4/10

    Jim Johnston
    A dreamy work of genius!! Yes, it takes it a bit to get into it. I loved in late 96 and 97 telling people who only listened to Brit-Pop that this album was 100 times better than Oasis, Blur etc!! I liked Brit Pop myself at the time, however this album was a completely different level. In my opinion, one of the 20 greatest albums ever. All 14 songs perfect, nothing I would ever skip by, on their 10th album, R.E.M. would hit a peak never to be matched again, I also love most of their other albums, but nothing could touch this. Better than Sergeant Peppers, Let It Bleed, OK Computer, Dark Side Of The Moon, yes, its THAT GOOD!! Utterly flawless.


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    Up 8 ( 1998 )
    Airportman / Lotus / Suspicion / Hope / At My Most Beautiful / The Apologist / Sad Professor / You're In The Air / Walk Unafraid / Why Not Smile / Daysleeper / Diminished / Parakeet / Falls To Climb

    Peter Buck and Mike Mills in particular had a desire to experiment with the usual REM sound and to move forward ( or sideways, whichever you prefer ) into a different direction musically. The departure of Bill Berry left them with no excuses not to proceed with the plan. Hence we get an REM record with lots of keyboards ( old vintage analogue keyboards, mostly ) and shifting electronic textures. We also get a few 'old-style' REM songs for the fans, for sales purposes. One of these is the REM by numbers, ripped off from 'Automatic For The People' melodies of the still managing to be fairly charming 'Daysleeper'. Second song 'Lotus' thumps out of the speakers, is one of the few guitar tracks here but comes across slightly clumsily. It sounds great listened to loud - the real test of a fine song is listening to something with the volume maybe a third of the way up, preferably on a cheap crappy hi-fi like mine! It doesn't sound like much of anything that way. The album ends badly with three sleepwalking ballads. 'Diminished' does contain a clear and powerful Michael Stipe vocal and intriguing fascinating lyrics. It's actually a pretty good song, just not an appropriate song given the records previous mix of songs. This is a ballad heavy album. The song order isn't great and we get at least two or three songs too many. So, why do I like this so much? Well, it sounds fresh. It doesn't sound like REM musically. It sounds different, very different but still sounds great in many places.

    The opening 'Airportman' is a nod lyrically in the direction of Michael Stipes new friends 'Radiohead'. 'he moves efficiently beyond security' is the only discernable lyric, the following lyrics reverting to mumbling of a 'Murmer' kind! Of course, the music is radically different to that particular record. The music here is all 'farting' analogue bass keyboard lines interspersed with beautifully minimalistic piano. It's a brilliant track, a wonderful sound - very haunting and beautiful. 'Suspicion' is beautiful beyond belief. The musical mix contain mellow keyboard lines and more lovely piano work. It's all mid-tempo but Michael Stipe sounds tender and emotional. 'Hope' is the most bizarre moment on the entire album. The melody is based upon Leonard Cohen's folk ballad, 'Suzanne'. It happens to be a classic song, one of my own personal favourites. REM do credit Cohen in the credits, so that's ok. The lyrics are newly penned Stipe lyrics riding along to the melody and rhythm of the 'Suzanne' tune. The music is so very silly and happy - all weird keyboards and ridiculous noises. It's very very stupid and daft, but stupendously happy and worthwhile. A highlight, definitely. Stipe worked for years to create the lyrics to 'At My Most Beautiful' to ensure they didn't contain any cliché. A love song designed to give huge Beach Boys fans Buck and Mills something to work around. So, we get Hal Blaine/Dennis Wilson esque drum work, more beautiful piano, Beach Boys harmony vocals. Of course, I'm biased. I'm a massive Beach Boys fan. How can I judge this? Well, they do that sound damn well. They've done this so well, it's beggars belief. It's a truly brilliant and affecting song, a moment of semi-genius. It's followed by the only slightly less brilliant 'The Apologist' with its 'I'm sorry, so sorry' vocal refrain.

    'Sad Professor' opens with acoustic guitar, more fine lyrics, more fine melodies. 'You're In The Air' has guitar, keyboards, everything. It's quiet though, a falsetto Stipe vocal for the chorus parts, truly beautiful. 'Walk Unafraid' is spiritual, it gives me strength. The lyrically imagery is wonderful. 'Why Not Smile' is a sad little song still containing beauty....this is a beautiful record. In fact, if it had ended with 'Why Not Smile' - ten songs, that's your lot, we may have had a classic on our hands. The songs that follow all comes across as redundant, songs repeating previous ideas. Still, even with those songs we get a fine record. It might not appeal to fans of 'Document' but it should appeal to fans of Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck.

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    Brian walkinjingle@hotmail.com
    Are we listening to the same song? You use the word "happy" twice describing the song "Hope" on this album. Perhaps the "Suzanne" thing puts you in a good mood, or the title deceives you. If you listen to Stipe's lyrics, though, they are anything but happpy. I love this song, but it makes me quite uncomfortable and sad. I'm not quite sure what's going on, but I get an overwhelming sense of impending doom, someone being terminally ill and wanting to "go out Friday", to leave this world, "climb the ladder". How could this song possibly be happy with lyrics like: "You want to trust the doctors / their procedure is the best / but the last try was a failure / and the intern was a mess. / And they did the same to Matthew / and he bled 'till Sunday night. / They're saying 'Don't be frightened / but you're weakened by the sight of it." and "You want to cross your DNA with something reptile" and the 3 times Stipe rep! eats, "don't be frightened", but it sounds like we should be frightened. Good song, lyrics, and groovy aural soundscape, but I totally disagree with your take on it.

    Gazza Edinburgh
    I agree with your review , Up is by far the best of the post bill berry REM albums but not without its problems . Firstly its too long , if theyd stopped at "daysleeper" UP would have been a strong REM album. However the closing 3 tracks are bland and dilute the effect of what went before . Also at least 2 of the other tracks could have been edited better . "airportman"s eno by numbers is not a great opening to the album either . But elsewhere its pretty great - "lotus" has ace harrisonesque guitars , "hope" is one of the heaviest things theyve done and comes on like suicide covering leonard cohen ,"at my most beautiful" is a beautiful beach boys tribute . Even outside that my favourite song is "youre in the air" where the electronics,strings and folky guitars come together perfectly - and stipes singing is excellent as it is throughout the album . UP is a good album but i get the feeling after berry left egos ran a bit rife and noone could decide what to lea! ve off . Still its better than both albums on either side of it and showed the band were correct to continue without berry - However its been downhill since , the last 3 albums having barely enough good material for one


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    Reveal( 2001 )
    The Lifting / I've Been High / All The Way To Reno / She Just Wants To Be / Disappear / Saturn Returnz / Beat A Drum / Imitation Of Life / Summer Turns To High / Chorus And The Ring / I'll Take The Rain / Beachball

    'Up' didn't sell well by REM standards. The record company ( and the band ) seem to be conscious of that fact here. The experimentation is gone, more usual REM song structures and sounds return. They do retain elements of the electronic nature of 'Up' but integrated 'better' into usual REM instrumentation. 'The Lifting' displays this well, guitars, bass and drums AND keyboard effects! It's a fine, optimistic opener as well, 'the sky is blue'. 'I've Been High' continues a strong start to the record and most resembles 'Up' in terms of sound. A haunting keyboard melody, daft little electronic percussion, shifting beats and one of the most beautiful Michael Stipe vocals ever laid down. 'All The Way To Reno' despite it's relatively interesting country tinged sound screams out 'single, this might be a hit' through it's every note. It seems calculated and doesn't come across and natural or flowing. 'Imitation Of Life' was the single, and a hit too! It's almost back to the sound of 'Out Of Time', very happy and enjoyable though what it amounts to I'm not exactly sure. It's certainly not the sound of a band pushing any limits or experimenting. Well, I say that. REM can now be classified as a 'veteran' group I suppose. People make excuses for groups like this sometimes, 'why should they push forwards, they've already proved themselves, etc'. Well, they did experiment on their previous record, 'UP', perhaps with mixed results, but I feel that process should have been built upon here. Certain songs come across almost like an admission of failure.

    Highlights include 'She Just Wants To Be' which sounds like it's been beamed straight from their 'Green' album and opens with nice acoustic guitar. 'Disappear', 'Saturn Return' and 'Beat A Drum' are fairly dreary though and create a lull in the centre of the record. But, following 'Imitation Of Life' comes the wonder and splendour of 'Summer Turns To High'! A slightly processed Stipe vocal, beautiful melodies and electronic experimentation that works. Whatever the instrumentation, its the melody that counts, and it's a fine, well thought out and emotionally affecting set of melodies. 'Chorus And The Ring' is guitar based, very hard to pin down - almost dirge like but rewards repeated listening. Another fine Stipe vocal, incidentally. 'I'll Take The Rain' is an uplifting spiritual song, the closing 'Beachball' an accomplished song and with a truly beautiful chorus. And, in conclusion - this record sold. It sold especially well upon initial release, though did ultimately tail off falling short of REM's biggest hit albums. But, why are we even talking about sales at all? REM are a band praised for the way they've handled their career and often held up as an example to younger groups as a blueprint for creating a long-lasting career in the fickle music business. It's just, the record company, the press, in recent years - all seem to have been focusing on REM sales figures. The background of such talk perhaps has influenced the overall nature of this record slightly to it's own detriment. Not that creating something popular is necessarily detrimental. We do get a healthy dose of fine songs here, and it's a good record. That really should be all that matters. <

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    David Johnstone
    I tend to agree with your general assessment about the relative merits of REM albums. Having said that I think you overate Out of Time, New Adventures and Up slightly and underrate this one slightly. My fave REM songs in their output are 'West of the Fields', 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' and 'I've Been High'. This to my ears is a contender for best REM album as the majority of tracks in Reveal are top notch REM, surprising me at least in the way they have grown on me with listening.

    kevin cramsey kccramsey@verizon.net
    Admittedly, I wasn't listening very closely to these guys anymore, but then "Imitation of Life" blasted me back into a past where REM could little wrong. I previewed the other tracks, but skipped over them halfway through. Not bad, just not very interesting. On their way to irrelevance, unfortunately. But, as Bruce Hornsby once said in an assessment of the Grateful Dead, to have 40-50 really good songs in your cannon in the course of a career is really quite an achievement.

    Gazza Edinburgh
    Overwritten , overproduced and in long spells turgid music . In my reckoning theres about 4 decent tracks on here .2 of them being the closing 2 songs . The opening track rides along on a lovely wave of mobyesque electronics in a really promising way , then the album descends swiftly into mediocrity . The problem is this album sounds pieced together rather than played , and by "saturn returns " ive actually got to concentrate hard to determine what song is playing as they all seem to blur into one another . Its a real shock when "imitation of lifes" summery chorus kicks in reminding us how good this band used to be . So many of the songs here sound like REM going through the motions , on autopilot and treading water . This ones for completists only.


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    Around The Sun 7 ( 2004 )
    Leaving New York / Electron Blue / The Outsiders / Make It All Okay / Final Straw / I Wanted To Be Wrong / Wanderlust / Boy In The Well / Aftermath / High Speed Train / The Worst Joke Ever / The Ascent Of Man / Around The Sun

    REM of course went from being underground cult to mainstream. Fans tend to make the cut-off point when REM left IRS to join Warners. So, 'Green' onwards marks the decline, with perhaps only the lauded 'Automatic For The People' escaping long-term fans wrath at modern REM music. Other fans will mark a cut-off point around the time drummer Bill Berry left. Indeed, Bill Berry had written some of the groups finest melodies. Yet, post Bill Berry albums? 'Up' and 'Reveal' were both fine records as far as this reviewer is concerned. Neither was perhaps the best record the group had ever made, but when you've been around as long as REM - such an expectation is perhaps unrealistic. And so it is with 'Around The Sun' an album that lyrically, artfully touches upon politics and other similar weighty themes. An album that musically takes a step back from the polished radio-friendly nostalgia of 'Reveal', to continue on from the analogue sounds and experimentation that marked their 'Up' recordings. Still, here's a thought. It's now twelve years since 'Automatic For The People'. If you played someone around in 1992, travelled back in time, and played them 'The Outsiders'? If you did that and said, 'this is how REM will sound in twelve years time'? I think the sound of such a song as 'The Outsiders' would make perfect sense to said 1992 person! Indeed, when the track drops out to allow the rap section, tastefully done, by the way, something very special happens. Mr Stipe hums along in the background, the music continues its sophisticated course. True, there isn't much Rock 'N' Roll on 'Around The Sun'. If you like your REM circa 'Lifes Rich Pageant' or 'Document', you're unlikely to fall in love with 'Around The Sun'. If you're an REM fan that's liked their continued journey through different gradually evolving musical forms, their continued search to find meaning in their music and themselves - then you may find something here.

    The opening brace of songs are catchy and melodic, 'Leaving New York' sounds like a classic REM single, the electronic 'Electron Blue' manages to lodge itself in your brain with its layering of simple melodies. After 'The Outsiders', 'Make It OK' is a slow song too far, so thanks to REM for 'Final Straw'. 'Final Straw' is a mix of jaunty, beautiful guitar strumming alongside electronic touches. It's a stunning song, a serious song. One of those songs that demands to be listened to properly. 'I Wanted To Be Wrong' is better still, synths evoking the strings from 'Automatic', a quiet and delicate moment of touching beauty. 'Wanderlust' picks up the tempo slightly, 'Boy In The Well' drops it down again. Indeed, the main problem with 'Around The Sun' is a lack of variety, too many slow to mid-tempo songs arrive one after the other. Beautiful songs, yet the album suffers as a result. REM don't appear to have learned the lesson of 'UP', which was another REM album that suffered from a surplus of redundant songs adding nothing to an album overall. The first half or so of 'Around The Sun' is just lovely, yet during the second half, a listeners attention wanders. The songs remain well-crafted songs throughout, yet you lose the desire to listen to them. So, despite undoubted highlights, which also include the title track actually, 'Around The Sun' fails to be the return to top form REM fans have hoped for.

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    Grahamham_is_nice@hotmail.com
    I like nearly all of what you have said about REM's Around the Sun, with a few exceptions, of course. I think they could have removed Electron Blue from the running order. It doesn't go anywhere. The melody on the chorus is good, but it's not maximised as much as it should be. Sort of the same story on the opening track. There is that nice bit of swelling synth/piano after each chorus, but it's a brief highlight. The Outsiders is better. Good, in fact. Q-tip sounds a little...tired? I don't know, but he doesn't sound quite right. It works well enough though. Nice echo on the guitars too, they make it sound like a hazy dream.

    I think Make It All Ok could have been on Automatic for the People. It’s my favourite track on the album simply because it sounds a little like REM. Well, WB era REM. They don't go over the top (like with At My Most Beautiful) so it ends up sounding quite charming. If this had been a strong album then they would have ended the set wit! h this track, but as it is they have to stick it on the first half which doesn’t give it the space that it needs to make an impression. Final Straw is little more than a Bob Dylan tribute, but without the lyrics. What I like about it is that REM don't try and hide the song in one of their trademark choruses or whatever so it doesn't sound nearly as exaggerated as I feared it might. All of the other tracks are rather dull, often using melodies, structures and sounds that are all too familiar to anyone who pays enough attention. Although that horn noise in the background of High Speed Train is too hilarious to have been used anywhere else. This isn't a dreadful album, but it's not the great comeback that some of us might have been hoping for after the directionless Up or the uneventful Reveal. This might be better than Monster, but other than that I would choose any other REM record over Around the Sun. It scores a disappointing 'Slobodan Milosevic'! on my novelty 20th Centaury dictators rating system.

    Will will_rhcpfreak@hotmail.com
    I got this album at Christmas in 2006 and I've only just listened a few times. The first listen was frustration but I started to enjoy it quite a bit. Some of the hooks are wonderful; this is not saying this is the greatest R.E.M. album, but there are some good moments. I would particularly like to mention 'The Outsiders', 'Boy In The Well', 'Electron Blue', 'Final Straw and 'Wanderlust'. Not bad, 3.5/5

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    For me this one fades badly in the 2nd half of the album where it becomes totally forgettable , in fact it was becoming dreary by track 5 . the homogenic production blands everything here out to the point of distraction . "ascent of man" finally arrives with a catchy counter melody but it ends up reminding me of some cheesy house tune instead and its way too little too late . Earlier on theres a couple of good songs "leaving new york "the outsiders" - but i think adrians correct theres so little variety , it all seems a little too laboured and bland , "wanderlust" tries for a big beatley moment and ends up sounding like an elliott smith b side . Its by no means a strong collection of songs but really its been a slow decline since "new adventures" for REM. Maybe bill berry knew when it was the right time to quit after all ...

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    Accelerate( 2008 )
    Living Well Is The Best Revenge / Man-Sized Wreath / Supernatural Superserious / Hollow Man / Houston / Accelerate / Until The Day Is Done / Mr Richards / Sing For The Submarine / Horse To Water / I'm Gonna DJ

    The first sounds you hear 'Accelerate' blast out are a rush of guitar and drums. You may find yourself slightly bemused that REM's new direction appears to be their old one; at thirty four minutes, 'Accelerate' is also welcoming free from the padding afflicting their recent works. According to Peter Buck, 'Up' was never finished, 'Reveal' was too slick and the band spent more than six months fiddling with, and consequently ruining, 'Around the Sun'. For me, it's a pity they've not pursued the analogue synth sounds they used to create the 'Up' LP. Recording in live studio takes, REM have returned therefore to snarling guitars, sweet backing vocals, depths and textures. They've not abandoned tunes - indeed, repeated listening reveals ( ha-ha! ) the melodies to be strong - neither overly upfront nor obvious. 'Hollow Man' and 'Supernatural Superserious' last a grand total of six minutes between them - this is pop, yeah, yeah! Lead single 'Supernatural Superserious' stylistically is classic REM, Mick Mills bass lines and backing vocals propelling the song to the heavens. 'Hollow Man' follows in a similar vein - brief and misleading 'ballad' intro, apart. Scarily, 'I'm Gonna DJ' is an out-take from 'Around The Sun' - with a thumping rhythm section and noisy guitars, 'I'm Gonna DJ' ends the album perfectly.

    A question to put to you all, now. REM have proved enough times in their past they are quite capable of being a great rock band. How come 'Monster' was so awful, then? 'Accelerate', quite in contrast, feels like REM very at home in their new noisy guitar setting. Stupendous bass lines pop up during the opening two songs, big credit to Mike Mills for his contributions to the album. We can't forget Peter Buck - his lead guitar lines are often distinctive and furious and we can sing them in our heads long after the songs have finished. 'Man Sized Wreath' sees Stipe get in on the action as more than a voice, I love the lyrics here, they actually manage to say something. 'Man Sized Wreath' also has a glorious moment - the guitars stop to pause allowing the vocals come in, 'get me sun.....' What else? Well, there's thirty five minutes in total. I reckon we've covered a lot of it. If you've been put off REM at any point in the last decade, you can come back now. They've made an album it's cool to admit to liking to.

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    GAZZA Scotland
    After hearing a short guitar based album was imminent from REM i couldnt wait to hear this . What they didnt tell us was that it would be over EQd into a preposterous radio mix by producer de jour jackshit lee . Rarely has an REM album sounded so bad. The overall sound of the album isnt even its biggest problem (and after the hideously overproduced "around the sun" i can understand the attempt for a rawer sound.) The 1st track here falls out the speakers like piles of dirty laundry from a cupboard and much of the material is simply unmemorable - loud overprocessed guitars attempt to cover up the fact that these guys have forgotten to write a set of consistent good songs . Of course being as talented as they are their are some good things here (superserious is fizzy bouncy pop, houston the only song here good enough to rival automatic for the peoples tracklist) but all the post bill berry albums had decent stuff but not enough to make even half a great album. Thankfully its finished in just over 30 mins but god this once great band sound desperate now , i hope they do the decent thing and take the stadium bucks this summer and retire with some sort of self respect left . Actually the much maligned monster album sounds pretty good these days , its best songs piss over this ,however it doesnt detract from the fact that rem are not a powerful rock act , theyre talents lie elsewhere - why they dont play to them is beyond me. This whole album and its promotion smacked of music journalists and a band not wanting to admit the truth, that this act is finished . "i need a new direction accelarate" urges stipe at one point here, well this sounds like a clapped out lada specially knocked together for the purpose.

    Martin sweetness2follow@yahoo.co.uk
    Really. REM should quit now. Its beyond a joke. Accelerate is a fun album, even good by the standards of others. But this is REM who once never did anything but remarkable. So whats the point of going through the motions. Bill Berry was obviously the only one with a brain. Up and Reveal were almost wothy efforts but this and ATS are not worthy of such a great band. And how you can give this a higher rating than LRP is beyond me. Due respect but God knows what your ears are hearing to come to that conclusion.

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    Live At The Olympia 9 ( 2009 )
    Living Well Is the Best Revenge / Second Guessing / Letter Never Sent / Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance / Disturbance at the Heron House / Mr. Richards / Houston / New Test Leper / Cuyahoga / Electrolite / Man-Sized Wreath / So. Central Rain / On the Fly / Maps and Legends / Sitting Still / Driver 8 / Horse to Water / I'm Gonna DJ / Circus Envy / These Days / Drive / Feeling Gravity's Pull / Until the Day Is Done / Accelerate / Auctioneer / Little America / 1,000,000 / Disguised / The Worst Joke Ever / Welcome to the Occupation / Carnival of Sorts / Harbor coat / Wolves, Lower / I've Been High / Kohoutek / West of the Fields / Pretty Persuasion / Romance / Gardening at Night

    An REM live album isn't really what the world has been waiting for, but a nice tracklisting taking in a variety of lesser known tunes makes it worthwile all the same. What's interesting is how the early material sits alongside the latter material - seamlessly, really. Just goes to show the natural evolution of REM. Well, apart from 'Up'/'Reveal' - material not really suited to live performance but a phase they probably had to go through as a band. No, 'Live At The Olympia' is a fine album and all lapsed fans should pick it up forthwith. Stipe tells entertaining little stories between songs, 'Man Sized Wreath' absolutely explodes from the speakers, etc, etc. These songs by the way were recorded at a specially recorded warm-up gig for a limited number of fans. Such a setting works and injects REM with confidence. They sound really powerful across both discs, a really great live act. Live albums should do that, shouldn't they? Be more than a memento or an alternative greatest hits? In such a respect, REM have succeeded. This is a live LP with more than one purpose, you feel.

    I love the fact REM recreate their early sound with numbers such as 'Gardening At Night' yet these tracks fit side-by-side with more recent material fairly easily, whilst remaining distinctive. Just a different side of the same painting, thirty-nine different sides, to be precise. 'Electrolite' and 'New Test Leper', the latter announced by Stipe as a very special song, shine really highly but then, I always did like the often unfairly maligned 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' album. That's the thing with this album though, literally something for almost anyone who has ever held a candle to these REM guys, apart from those perhaps that only have a 'Greatest Hits' LP. One thing's for sure though, I will never ever doubt these guys prowess as a live unit. In short, there's a superb chemistry between the performers, and between the performers and the audience.

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    Collapse Into Now 8 ( 2011 )
    Discoverer / All the Best / Überlin / Oh My Heart / It Happened Today / Every Day Is Yours to Win / Mine Smell Like Honey / Walk It Back / Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter / That Someone Is You / Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I / Blue

    REM, re-invigorated after 'Accelerate' release an album that feels like a compilation of the best of their major label years, post 1988. So, we begin 'Green' and end up a miserable blue. Ha, actually 'Blue' seems to come straight from 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi', it's got that weary 'E-Bow The Letter' experimentation and beauty - 'Twentieth Century collapsing into now' intones Michael. 'It Happened Today' is a cross between 'Automatic For The People' and ends with the joy of the backing vocals of Mick Mills 'whooay hay!' sort of 'Out Of Time era happiness. The first two tracks are 'Green' REM being a rock band. Will inevitably sound great live though initially both songs seem slight in terms of substance. That old cliche, repeated plays do really help, not just for these two 'Accelerate' fans pleasing songs but for the album overall, an album that seems like REM by numbers, heard it all before - yet there is real craft here. REM are no longer the behemoth they once were but with 'Collapse Into Now' they've shown their true class, a band able to make an album better than 99% of all album releases that i'll hear this year from new bands trying to do something, anything and abjectly failing to sound anything other than Oasis pub-rock average or some descendants of early 80s American hardcore blandness. Oh, 'All The Best' is terrific but don't take it in isolation away from the whole album. A band that's been around as long as REM have can't realistically be expected to manage for every track they release to be better than anything they've ever done. Just almost as good is more than enough for this listener.

    'Oh My Heart' would sit happily within 'Out Of Time' or 'Automatic For The People' and improve either album. The guitar does that semi-mandolin type REM thing, goes round in circles. Michael Stipe comes up with affecting lyrics and warm vocals. 'Collapse Into Now' is an album that's like a comfy pair of old slippers, 'It Happened Today' always threatening to burst into 'Losing My Religion', 'Walk It Back' being a shoe-in to join 'Automatic For The People' and that album's more thoughful moments and then 'Aligator, Aviator, Antimatter' rendering all of 'Monster' utterly redundant. It's even got hand-claps.

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    this page last updated 05/04/11


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