Greatest hits from their major-label years
This collection spans the past 15 years and features songs covered extensively in the November issue of Uncut (Take 78). There are few surprises, not least the omission of the unloved “Shiny Happy People”. However, the now-common device of a non-chronological arrangement here serves to emphasise both R.E.M.’s consistency and constancy, in quality and recurring themes. The publicity blitz surrounding this album has had the welcome effect of returning to the centre stage a band who have gradually (wllfully?) slid into a twilight zone since the mid-’90s.
Of the two brand new tracks; the jaunty but scabrous “Bad Day”is outdone by “Animal”, In part a pastiche of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”, which sees R.E.M. make a pugnacious return to their best traditions?wild, frolicsome, iridescent neo psychedelia. Disc one also contains “All The Right Friends”, a callow offering from the Murmur session’s
It’s the limited edition two-disc set that offers devotees something to tuck in to?a second CD of rarities and B-sides represents a mixed but generally worthwhile package. An acoustic version of “Pop Song’89” is surprisingly effective, lending some timbre and urgency to a track that in its original form was a bit skippy and sing-song. A live version of “Turn You inside Out” sees R.E.M competing scabrously with the resurgent guitar bands of the late. ’80s?pixles Husker Du, etc, “Fretless” is an outtake from Out Of Time, the exclusion of which Buck regrets in The sleevenotes it’s Impassioned (“Don’t talk to me about alone” sparls stipe), but it doesn’t quite go off at the exquisite tangents you hope for from R.E.M
Buck also describes “Chance (Dub)” as an” atrocity it’ certainly disposable, flickering boisterously like an old, short Super-8 film of a party discovered in the attic. “It’s A Free World Baby was first heard in the 1993 film Coneheads, and it’s a pleasant delicately arranged piece with flavours of. Strawberry Fields ields Forever”, An accelerated, funned-up “Drive” doesn’t make any sense and is scant consolation for the original’s omission on the hits disc. A version of “Star Me Kitten” ensues, the lyric intoned with debatable degree of empathy and comprehension by William Burroughs.
A re-recorded, rearrange “Leave” is more lushly cinematic than the version on New Adventures In Hi-Fi. An acoustic “Beat A Drum” from Reveal meanwhile, demonstrates that R.E.M. songs are offen as enhanced when they’re pared down as when they’re embellished “2IN” is Buck’s personal tribute to the late producer lack Nitzsche, and is cheesy but reverential, Finally come two elevating live favourites. “The One I Love”, recorded acoustically in 2001 for a radio show, benefits from a softening of the melody on the part of an older, wiser stipe, while “Country Feedback”, always a favourite of ‘true’ fans, is rendered here in all its half-spoken, ragged glory, pure spilt essence of R.E.M.
Plenty here, then, for the uninitated (ie, the clueless Coldplay fans) who need in introduction to R.P.M. as well as the hiding faithful.