Review Summary: Long live R.E.M...
When considering the longevity of our favorite older bands, a mixed sentiment is likely to occur in regards to whether or not said group should still be making music. Instances such as the ever-consistent Tom Waits, indicate that there is no reason to throw in the towel just yet, but for every Tom Waits there are several The Rolling Stones; bands that have been well out of their prime for some time now and releasing just enough material to continue touring. Over the past decade or so, R.E.M. has been subjected to a great deal of argument over this, whether they have been perceived as proficient veterans or irrelevant relics. Whichever category you may believe R.E.M. belongs in, one thing is for sure: R.E.M. had an intriguing career. When R.E.M. announced on September 21 that they had officially broken up, it put an end to a storied 30 year livelihood that spanned several musical eras, produced fifteen full-length records, and heaps of commercials and underground acclaim. Less than two months removed from the declaration, R.E.M. have delivered their ultimate contribution to the music world, in the form of a 2-disc compilation. Perhaps titled Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage
as a spoof of what many believe R.E.M.’s career was, the all-encompassing anthology is a comprehensive overview of those 30 years.
Just as R.E.M.’s calling did in 1982, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage
kicks off with the band’s lo-fi indie sound with Chronic Town
’s “Gardening At Night,” before drifting into Murmur
’s classic opener “Radio Free Europe.” Littered with outstanding melodies and jangling guitars, “Radio Free Europe’s” existence at the façade of the compilation does a tremendous job of recalling R.E.M.’s abiding early work. What is to follow are excellent cuts off of the descending releases, including the regretful “South Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” and the rollicking “Finest Worksong.” Yet as easy as it may be to choose fantastic material during the band’s most proficient decade, the set proves it’s worth when it comes to representing records such as Out of Time
, which don’t have the back-catalogue of the 1980s albums. Other than the obvious appearance of the radio singles, the back end of disc one features the irrevocably dark “Country Feedback,” which may very well have laid the foundation for much of Automatic for the People
’s harrowing ambience. Additionally, the lone inclusion of “What’s the Frequency Kenneth"” of Monster
, highlights a mediocre record quickly and harmlessly, leaving a great deal of room for R.E.M. gems such as “Man on the Moon” and “Imitation of Life.”
Not taking Automatic for the People
lightly to signify the height of R.E.M.’s commercial/underground praise, the record is conveyed through four deserving tracks, most notably its penultimate track and poignant ballad “Nightswimming.” With knowing what to include clearly apparent on the compilation, the Up
/Around the Sun
era is very dimly represented, and rightfully so, due to the fact that those records embody the darkest and least remarkable period in the band’s illustrious career. Instead filling those spaces with straightforward rockers and melodious ballads for the group’s last two releases, as well as with three new tracks, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage
concludes as fittingly as possible, considering the material available.
As far as the new tracks are concerned, they express nothing that the band’s last few albums didn’t indicate. With the exception of “A Month of Saturdays,” which does nothing intriguing musically or lyrically, these final songs recorded by R.E.M. are subject to the same charming alternative rock that the band has been touted for. With all of this in place, the comprehensive compilation is very much a testament to R.E.M.’s 30-year career; highlighting the brilliance of their early work, the infectiousness of their major hits, and the resilience of their latter days. As accurate as the title of Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage
may be in order to fully represent R.E.M., the compilation itself is devoid of lies and garbage.