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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 1, 2019 | Craft Recordings

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A brilliant distillation of '90s alt-rock. A crass and noisy attempt to cash in on grunge. A band in need of rock tunes for an upcoming tour after six years off the road. The fact that R.E.M.'s ninth album Monster can after still inspire such polarities is proof enough that it's worth a fresh listen. New mixes by Scott Litt, a trove of demos and a 1995 live show from Chicago featuring mostly a post-I.R.S. years setlist fills out the portrait of the 25th Anniversary reissue of one of R.E.M.'s most contentious albums. With liner notes in which Peter Buck admits, "We wanted to get away from who we were," Monster 25 is the sound not only of Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Bill Berry pondering what it means to suddenly be rock stars, but also of a band deep in one of those periodic left turns that artists need to pass through or call it quits. And while the lyrics are typical Stipe-ian jabberwocky mangled further by vocals buried in the original mix, it's Peter Buck's ever-present guitar, bashing out crunchy power chords bathed in delay, reverb and buzzsaw distortion, that remains the album's most controversial aspect as he ditches his former loyalty to acoustic textures and intricate arrangements for an overdriven, rocked up Cobain-life heft and snarl that's fiercely front and center in the mix. The remixed album is a very different experience from the original: the instrumental parts are now clearly delineated, instead of a blurry, roaring mix. "Tongue" drops the four beat count off in favor of a simple piano and loud tambourine. The organ, which was prominent in the original, has been lowered in the remix. "Circus Envy's" sizzling guitar distortion has been dialed back and Berry's drums have been pulled forward. Most noticeable of all are Stipe's vocals, some of which are entirely different takes from the original album's. "Crush with Eyeliner" begins with Stipe voicing an unaccompanied "la, la, la" and continues with a more stylized T. Rex and Iggy Pop-influenced vocal take than the original. Some of the changes are outright deletions. Buck's organ in "Let Me In," and his choppy guitar part in "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?", and the percussion in "You" are completely gone. These changes are needed context, connecting the album to the band's musical progression and in the process making it seem less like an outlier. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 19, 2014 | Rhino

Originally released as a quadruple-vinyl Record Store Day exclusive then later a double-CD set, Complete Unplugged Sessions captures two separate acoustic shows from R.E.M.: one from 1991, performed just after the release of Out of Time, the other from a decade later, just after they released Reveal, their second album without Bill Berry. Oddly, of these two performances, the one that feels the most like classic R.E.M. is the 2001 gig; even with the absence of Berry and an emphasis on latter-day Baroque pop typified by "At My Most Beautiful," this is a band that's playing as a band, augmented by some extra musicians -- trusty Scott McCaughey, along with Posie Ken Stringfellow, fill out the band while Joey Waronker provides percussion -- but nevertheless evoking nearly every era of R.E.M. by providing tight, assured versions of "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)," "Cuyahoga," and "The One I Love," along with a savvy acoustic revision of "Country Feedback." Naturally, there are quite a few selections from Up and Reveal, but those songs sound a bit richer when stripped down and placed in context with the rest of the band's catalog. In contrast, the 1991 set seems like a snapshot of a particular point in time, namely the florid folk-rock of Out of Time. Berry anchors the band on congas, Peter Buck never skimps on mandolin, Peter Holsapple offers sonic coloring (sometimes via an organ), and Mike Mills harmonizes sweetly with Michael Stipe. This is a sound the group never tried before and never did again (Automatic for the People grew out of this but its melancholy stands as a counterpoint to the essential lightness of Out of Time). R.E.M. also peppered their 1991 set list with song choices that remain surprising -- the Troggs' "Love Is All Around" is covered, the B-sides "Fretless" and "Rotary 11" are unearthed, and they performed a nimble rearrangement of "Radio Song," which was distinguished on record by KRS-One's rap -- and that, along with the distinct instrumentation, keeps the 1991 set fresh. Together, these two Unplugged Sessions -- which, in this incarnation, include 11 performances not featured on either broadcast -- make for a bit of a treat for hardcore R.E.M. fans, a document when the group was near the peak of their powers. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 8, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Concord Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | A&M

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 10, 2017 | Craft Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2012 | Capitol Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1998 | Capitol Records

Basically a singles collection from R.E.M.'s first five albums, Eponymous gives the listener a sense of the band's change from folk-rock to rock. The songs are intelligently selected, distilling most of the best moments from their first five albums for I.R.S. Included is the original single of "Radio Free Europe," and different mixes of "Gardening at Night" (where it's actually possible to hear the vocal) and "Finest Worksong," and the previously unreleased (and unspectacular) "Romance." ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 29, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 15, 2016 | Concord Records

Cynics may dismiss R.E.M.'s first-ever live CD as a way to run out their contract, and they may not be wrong. Despite the lack of a full-fledged live album in their catalog -- and some could call R.E.M. Live not quite an album, since it is a two-CD/one-DVD package that documents a concert the group gave at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, on February 27, 2006, so it's as much a video as an album -- there hasn't exactly been a paucity of official live releases, not with all the home videos, DVDs, and B-sides issued over the years (and this isn't even counting the numerous bootlegs). If there wasn't necessarily a need for a live album, it also is true that R.E.M.'s stock never was lower than it was in 2007, as the band was limping along after Around the Sun, which was not so much a flop as it was merely ignored. So, the band could have conceivably been running down their contract or they could have been in a slump, needing the time that a live set bought them, or perhaps they just wanted to offer a reminder of why everybody cared in the first place, something that R.E.M. Live almost provides. At the very least, R.E.M. Live proves that the group packs a stronger punch live than they do in the studio, as the band gives songs from recent albums muscle they sorely missed on record. They also can sound vital on classic material, such as "Cuyahoga," which retains a fragile beauty here, and they give "I Took Your Name" a mean, menacing vibe. Not that everything clicks here -- as they go to the encore, they get a bit too strident and overblown, while Mike Mills' lead vocal on "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" turns the song into something a little too slight -- but the band sounds tight and enormous, a perfect example of old pros comfortable in their skin. Now, this won't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea -- in particular, fans of the frenzied early R.E.M. rock & roll will find this too anthemic -- but this big, big sound on R.E.M. Live speaks to the band's core strengths in a way no post-Bill Berry studio album does. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2014 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Concord Records

Ten years after the commercial zenith of Monster and seven years after the departure of linchpin Bill Berry, R.E.M. have never seemed as directionless as they do on their 13th album, Around the Sun. To a certain extent, R.E.M. have seemed unsure ever since Monster -- sporadically brilliant as it is, New Adventures in Hi-Fi was an effort to clear the decks and redefine the band in the wake of its breakthrough to superstar status. It pointed in a few directions the group could follow, but Berry left the band before they could follow those paths, leaving Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe at a bit of a loss on what to do next. They initially responded with the overly experimental, overly serious Up in 1998, which gave way to the classicist Reveal in 2001. While these two records were of a piece -- heavy on keyboards, containing far more deliberate performances than anything recorded with Berry -- they had different characters and feels, which was not unusual for R.E.M.; since the careening, ragged Reckoning followed the hazy, dreamlike Murmur, each album had an element of a surprise, offering something different than what came before. That's not the case with Around the Sun, which refines and polishes the blueprint of Reveal to the point that Q-Tip's rap on "The Outsiders" fades into the background as if it were another overdubbed keyboard or acoustic guitar. This is as slow and ballad-heavy as Automatic for the People, but where that album was filled with raw emotion and weird detours, Around the Sun is tasteful and streamlined, from its fussy production to its somber songwriting. Automatic may have been obsessed with death and regret, but it was empathetic and comforting. In contrast, Around the Sun offers no weighty themes -- it dabbles in politics and relationships, but the lyrics never seem to mesh with the music -- and it's emotionally removed, keeping listeners at a considerable distance. Here, R.E.M. write songs like craftsmen without distinction -- the songs are sturdily constructed but bland, lacking musical and lyrical hooks. The band sound as if they were going through the motions, hoping to save the tunes in the mix. With their layered, low-key production, R.E.M. seem hell-bent on leaving behind anything that could be construed as their signature sound, so keyboards and drum machines are pushed to the front as Buck's guitar strums instead of jangles and Mills' background vocals are buried in the mix under Stipe's double-tracked harmonies. Change is all well and good, but this doesn't feel like organic change; it feels like the end result of too many hours in the studio tinkering with synthesizers and overdubs, resulting in a record as studiously serious as Wilco but as radio-friendly as U2. By straddling these two extremes, R.E.M. wind up with a record that's neither fish nor fowl -- all the quirks in the production have been sanded down and glossed over so it can slip right onto adult alternative rock airwaves, but it's too insular, too overthought to appeal to either a wide audience or R.E.M.'s dwindling cult following. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 1, 2019 | Craft Recordings

A brilliant distillation of '90s alt-rock. A crass and noisy attempt to cash in on grunge. A band in need of rock tunes for an upcoming tour after six years off the road. The fact that R.E.M.'s ninth album Monster can after still inspire such polarities is proof enough that it's worth a fresh listen. New mixes by Scott Litt, a trove of demos and a 1995 live show from Chicago featuring mostly a post-I.R.S. years setlist fills out the portrait of the 25th Anniversary reissue of one of R.E.M.'s most contentious albums. With liner notes in which Peter Buck admits, "We wanted to get away from who we were," Monster 25 is the sound not only of Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Bill Berry pondering what it means to suddenly be rock stars, but also of a band deep in one of those periodic left turns that artists need to pass through or call it quits. And while the lyrics are typical Stipe-ian jabberwocky mangled further by vocals buried in the original mix, it's Peter Buck's ever-present guitar, bashing out crunchy power chords bathed in delay, reverb and buzzsaw distortion, that remains the album's most controversial aspect as he ditches his former loyalty to acoustic textures and intricate arrangements for an overdriven, rocked up Cobain-life heft and snarl that's fiercely front and center in the mix. The remixed album is a very different experience from the original: the instrumental parts are now clearly delineated, instead of a blurry, roaring mix. "Tongue" drops the four beat count off in favor of a simple piano and loud tambourine. The organ, which was prominent in the original, has been lowered in the remix. "Circus Envy's" sizzling guitar distortion has been dialed back and Berry's drums have been pulled forward. Most noticeable of all are Stipe's vocals, some of which are entirely different takes from the original album's. "Crush with Eyeliner" begins with Stipe voicing an unaccompanied "la, la, la" and continues with a more stylized T. Rex and Iggy Pop-influenced vocal take than the original. Some of the changes are outright deletions. Buck's organ in "Let Me In," and his choppy guitar part in "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?", and the percussion in "You" are completely gone. These changes are needed context, connecting the album to the band's musical progression and in the process making it seem less like an outlier. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 18, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Concord Records