It seems most of my reviews start off with a bit of a background story. At the time I purchased this album, the only R.E.M. I was familiar with was 1987's masterpiece Document
. I was walking through the Kennesaw Wal-Mart, looking for something to buy when I found Eponymous
in the Radiohead bin. "Silly people," I thought. On my way back to return the CD to its rightful slot (I am a perfectionist), I stopped by Wal-Mart's relatively new scan and play thing to see what the album was like. While I'd like to say that I felt a feeling of euphoria or something else cliche for an album that would change my musical life as much as this. Instead, I mentioned that I was getting the album to my friend, and I cooly walked towards the camping section of the store.
is R.E.M.'s greatest hits collection before In Time
picks up. It is the perfect introduction to the 1980's R.E.M. for someone who can't decide which of the five regular albums to pick up first. In my opinion, the '80's were the prime time of R.E.M. They were still a happy jangle-pop alternative rock band. By the '90's, they would become a much darker, softer-sounding band that while still good, did not sound the same as the band credited with starting the alternative rock scene in America. This album introduced me to the rest of the band's '80's material, and for that, I owe it a lot.
The disc, while short, spans all five LP's and the Chronic Town
EP R.E.M. recorded with the I.R.S. label. It includes songs that any die-hard early R.E.M. fan would recognize, but it features an interesting twist. Three of the songs are in an alternate format. Radio Free Europe
is presented at a faster pace that I prefer over Murmur's
version. Finest Worksong
features a horn section that should have made it onto Document
. Besides the altered tracks, the offerings are still worthy as well. Minor hits such as the beautiful ballads South Central Rain (I'm Sorry)
and Fall on Me
are featured, as well as more famous songs like The One I Love
and the ubiquitous It's the End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
However, besides the more familiar material, people who like the overall sound will fall in love with the deeper cuts. Driver 8
is a great country-rocker, albiet with a slightly dark feel. Radio Free Europe
is an upbeat rocker. Then there's one of my favorites, the slightly dark, yet pretty Gardening at Night
. And if you haven't had enough, there's the funky Can't Get There From Here
With a few listens, you'll notice that R.E.M. at the time aren't about flashy, complex music. They present simple, classy jangle-rock without taking themselves very seriously. If you're already a fan, I'd go for the other albums of the period unless you really want the three alternate versions presented here. If, however, you're not sure about where you should start, I'd pick this up.
Great overview of early R.E.M. material
No weak tracks
Alternate versions of some songs are an interesting listen.
If you don't like jangle-rock, you won't like this
A but on the short side (Only about 40 minutes)
If you already like them, it's only worth the purchase if you really want the alternate songs.
Tracks I like:
Gardening at Night
South Central Rain
Radio Free Europe
As for my rating, I'd go a bit higher, but I feel that while good songs are on here, it leaves off some better tracks, such as Begin the Begin
. Coupled with the shortness factor, I had to knock it down a bit overall.