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Alternative & Indie - Released July 28, 1986 | IRS CATALOG MKT (I91)

Fables of the Reconstruction was intentionally murky, and Lifes Rich Pageant was constructed as its polar opposite. Teaming with producer Don Gehman, who previously worked with John Mellencamp, R.E.M. developed their most forceful record to date. Where previous records kept the rhythm section in the background, Pageant emphasizes the beat, and the band turns in its hardest rockers to date, including the anthemic "Begin the Begin" and the punky "Just a Touch." But the cleaner production also benefits the ballads and the mid-tempo janglers, particularly since it helps reveal Michael Stipe's growing political obsessions, especially on the environmental anthems "Fall on Me" and "Cuyahoga." The group hasn't entirely left myths behind -- witness the Civil War ballad "Swan Swan H" -- but the band sound more contemporary both musically and lyrically than they did on either Fables or Murmur, which helps give the record an extra kick. And even with excellent songs like "I Believe," "Flowers of Guatemala," "These Days," and "What if We Give It Away," it's ironic that the most memorable moment comes from the garage rock obscurity "Superman," which is sung with glee by Mike Mills. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 1990 | IRS CATALOG MKT (I91)

The hits collection Greatest tries to reduce the Go-Go's' career to that of a mainstream pop/rock band, downplaying their punk and new wave roots. Of course, those can't be entirely erased, especially since the hits "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat" form the core of the collection, but the song selection on the 14-track compilation leans a little too heavily on latter-day material and lesser songs, including an extraneous, previously unreleased cover of "Cool Jerk" that was added as bait for collectors. As a brief overview, Greatest is adequate, since it does contain all the hit singles, but it's also misleading, since it doesn't capture the group's punky spirit. Nevertheless, it's a cheaper, more manageable introduction than the double-disc set Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's, even though serious fans should choose that collection instead. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released July 28, 1986 | IRS CATALOG MKT (I91)