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R.E.M. Song Reviews

Chronic Town (1982)

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Chronic Town

Wolves, Lower A-

Beautiful! I'm reviewing this from the Dead Letter Office bonus tracks, but I can immediately see that the quality of it has improved substantially! This is a very good song, case shut. We have those jangly guitars and Michael Stipe's original mumbly self. The song production isn't nearly as well-done, as this lacks the distinctive atmosphere and intricate textures of Murmur, but this remains a very captivating R.E.M. song ... and it even has a cool chorus!

Gardening At Night A+

The instrumentals and songwriting is just as well done as the previous track, but this goes the extra mile and actually becomes interesting. I swear I can here a sitar in here, but that might just be an electric guitar with an odd tone. At any rate, this quality of the instrumentals along with the great harmonies certainly makes this track remarkably captivating. Hearing this song alone would make the whole Dead Letter Office thing so worthwhile.

Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars) A

That sort of whacked out carnival introduction is an early display of these guys' intense creativity (which I guess they didn't use a whole lot... but that's beside the point.) After that, it morphs into a song that could very well have appeared on Murmur. Mr. Mumbly is back here, although he sounds a lot less reserved than the follow-up album. There's a really great growl he does as the song fades out. (Maybe he got dumped or something.)

1,000,000 A-

How do these little novices write so many great tunes and play them so well? ... Oh my god, those little bastards each with a full head of glorious hair, had talent, didn't they! They're playing a really danceable riff here, and Michael Stipe's low mumbly vocals have never been more charming than this... they even noticeably get rather passionate.

Stumble B+

Not quite as captivating as the other tunes, and Michael Stipe's growl-singing starts to get on my nerves quite a bit throughout this track. But this remains another testament to these guys' unique style, which they surprisingly had already established at such an early stage. The jangly guitars continue to fascinate me... these guys were such amazing instrumentalists! Things get really odd and almost psychedelic in the middle... They were having fun in the studio, weren't they?

Murmur (1983)

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Radio Free Europe A

This begins the album very much on the right foot. It's difficult to immediately categorize this music. It has a bit of a post-punk flavor, but they use jangly guitars that remind me of The Byrds. It's ultra-smart and very catchy, so I guess that's why they started calling it college-rock. Stipe's laid back vocals are soothing, and probably the greatest asset to the band. The drums are mixed loudly, but they're good drums with a sort of deadened din. It's fairly simple and straightforward, but that's a positive quality here... it definitely generates plenty of inertia.

Pilgrimage A

Perhaps it isn't as smoothly oiled as the predecessor. It's a little slower and doesn't quite have that great flow. This melody is also subtly catchy, though, so it's incredibly easy on the ears! One thing you'll notice listening to this is those ultra-clean guitars. Something that was, of course, of intricate importance to the group. It probably could have been cut by a minute, though.

Laughing A-

This is happier and bouncier. But if you weren't paying close attention, you might think it sounds exactly like the song that preceded it. This isn't a diverse album at all, but at least they never once make it boring enough to ever grow tedious in the slightest. (It just makes it difficult to create meaty track reviews!) Stipe's vocals is mixed kind of quietly with the instrumentals, but it works considering how smoothly laid back they are. The melody is catchy, but not quite as memorable as the previous two. The instrumentals continue that jangle-pop vibe, and they manage keep the song toe tapping.

Talk About the Passion A+

The melody here is a lot better than the previous three songs, which is really saying a lot. This is one of the melodies that comes to mind immediately when I think about Murmur. The instrumentation is basically the same thing as the previous songs, though, which doesn't help the diversity aspect of this album at all. But at least that tremendously consistent acoustic guitar is very beautiful!

Moral Kiosk A

This used to be my favorite song on this album, because I liked those electric guitar licks, and those characteristically loud drum raps. Without really sacrificing the laid-back feeling of the album, they managed to make this relatively rocking! So, if you want to call this your favorite track in Murmur, then you are hereby justified. But I don't find the melody nearly as compelling as the previous track, so that's where it falls relatively short for me. (Do you know how refreshing it is to review an album that's so excellent that I'm talking about A-scoring tracks falling short?)

Perfect Circle B+

This is one of the slower songs of the album, and the guitars are kept properly jangly to keep the atmosphere strong. Sometimes I think this track is boring... other times it convinces me a little more. The melody is pretty strong as it is, but I wouldn't have been so wavering on this issue if it was beefed up a bit. I would have suggested that they cut this off at two minutes, because it really doesn't do anything after that point. But it doesn't matter. It's a sort of relaxing song, anyway.

Catapult A-

It's more upbeat and jangly than the last one. Of course, it's still done in the exact same style as the previous songs! The chorus of this song is one that sticks in my mind... Stipe is exclaiming “Catapult!” in that incredibly sleepy voice that he has. Otherwise, the melody is catchy... and it fits in perfectly among these other tracks.

Sitting Still A

This is a little better and bolder than the previous song, in my opinion, but that's another position that can waver drastically depending on when I listen to it. Stipe almost sounds like he woke up a bit... He's putting some strain on his voice sometimes. Quite a change!

9-9 A

This one's even bolder than the previous song... I can hear the bass guitar playing a few dark, busy rhythms. The guitars continue to be right on-the-mark, proving that they can play a little rougher if they wanted to. This melody is very catchy, as usual. The atmosphere is a little more thickly laid on here, and it's quite a bit more cluttered than usual (...e.g. Those whispers.). But these qualities also tend to make it stand out above the others.

Shaking Through A+

This is the third time I reviewed this album, and this track was my favorite all three times (not to mention feeling completely happy when it comes on when I play it in my car stereo). The melody seems to be the snappiest of them all... and I'm positive there's nothing they could have done to improve the instrumentation. It's a complicated texture they create through normal guitars, pianos and drums. Nothing flashy, so it's organic and beautiful. Great song! There's even a creepy little groove at the very end of it. Cool.

We Walk B+

This is one has a ploppy swing to it... Like it should have been written somewhere in France or something. (I'm not sure why I'm saying that.) The melody has plenty of hooks in it, but it's a tad weaker than many of these others. I like the jangly guitars always and Stipe's voice. The thunder sounds effects give the song some more character, which also helps us keep these songs apart!

West of Fields A+

They definitely close it with a good 'un! As one of the more memorable melodies of the album, I have no qualms with awarding this the distinction as the second- or third-best song of the album. (Again, it's really hard to make these distinctions!) This has another one of those choruses where they just repeat the same phrase over and over... for some reason, these guys have a gift of making those stay in our minds!

Reckoning (1984)

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Harborcoat B+

It's obvious right from the beginning that R.E.M. wasn't that interested in trying to re-do Murmur. In fact, this almost seems purposefully sloppy where everything on that album was so refined. Stipe's vocals seem strained and not nearly as engaging as they had been, and he's duetting with someone whose presence serves to do little bit clutter it up a bit. ...Of course, the only reason I'm complaining is because I've been spoiled so greatly on Murmur! I like this song, because the melody is catchy, and they deliver some nice guitar licks in here...

7 Chinese Bros. A

That guitar riff is really fantastic. It's not much of a *rockin'* riff, but it's one that's prone to completely mesmerizing the listener. As long as they weren't making atmospheric statements, they'd might as well make their guitar riffs completely awesome! The vocal melody is OK. The chorus is good, but the verses aren't too memorable (probably because we're so busy paying close attention to the guitar).

So. Central Rain A+

Well, this is incredibly good, and that's for many reasons. First of all, the melody is catchy. Stipe is mumbling catchy verses, and belts out an aching “I'm sorry!” in the chorus, which is so good that it's prone to sticking around in my mind. The instrumentation is also beautiful... The guitars are ultra-clean with a well-mixed piano that you can hear vaguely in the background. Plus, the drums are bouncy, which makes it fun to listen to. The coda is even great, with the piano pounding a little bit dementedly. Just the simple fact that these songs have codas are all the proof I need that R.E.M. was a great band.

Pretty Persuasion A

This is much catchier than “7 Chinese Bros.” but both get the same score, because this doesn't have an awesome guitar line. But Michael Stipe's vocal powers are in full form here, acting like that sandy-but-refined instrument that dazzled me so greatly in Murmur. ...Actually, this is a song that really could have appeared there considering that it's more atmospheric and well-textured than the previous songs. Of course, it's a wholly enjoyable experience just for the upbeat rhythm. Cool song!

Time After Time (Annelise) B

This song is actually rather boring, which is a new thing for them, it seems. The pacing is really sluggish, the droning guitars aren't that interesting and the melody doesn't work that well. I suppose this was meant to be more of an atmospheric piece, which it does do pretty well... especially a section in the middle when things start to get a tad creepy. But this is rather boring overall.

Second Guessing B+

This is a good song though it doesn't do anything to particularly jump out at me. It's fast-paced, so that helps, but the melody doesn't catchy my interest well enough, and I don't get anything distinctive out of the instrumentation. It is easy to kick back and listen to, though.

Letter Never Sent B-

This also seems a little flat to me apart from a funny bit where the guitars are bouncing along. Stipe's haunting voice is nice to listen to here, though, and contributes quite a bit to creating an atmosphere. The big problem with the song is that it's just not memorable. The melody doesn't stick out at me... nothing really gets me wanting to listen to it more. It's well-written and respectable but not too inspired.

Camera A-

Hey, now this thing is good! If this song doesn't have a memorable chorus, then nothing does. The chorus is a little sleepy sounding, especially thanks to the voice, but it works pretty well. Some problems arise in with the bleak verses, though, which is what's keeping me from awarding this a higher rating... surely something could have been done to spice those up. But that chorus is easily worth that A-.

(Don't Go Back to) Rockville A-

This is more upbeat and the melody in the verses and chorus are almost equally as good, though it does manage to come off as a little bland to me. I guess it's those really weird and bleak chord progressions. ...I'm saying this even though I know full well that I enjoy it! These guys can make *bland* work, as long as the instrumentation works and Stipe is singing well... And yes, this song fits the bill.

Little America B+

Well, this isn't such a grand conclusion, but it's an enjoyable song nonetheless. They come up with an involved guitar riff vaguely similar to “7 Chinese Bros.” except it's not nearly as compelling. The song development is pretty good... the chorus is a little unconventional for reasons I'm not sure about. (The chord progression is odd, for a start.) But again, they played and arranged this song so incredibly well that I get caught up in the textures. I like listening to it!!

Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

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Fables of the Reconstruction

Feeling Gravity's Pull A-

Wow, they sound utterly tormented. Another fairly extreme step at removing themselves even farther from that polished mellowness of Murmur. Wow. But at least that electric guitar riff is really good, although it's completely mad. That bass-line they have is positive creepy... but it's a great bass-line, which I always find to be an integral part of rock music! If you have a good bass-line, then you pretty much have a good song. The extremely dark cello they bring in is a little bit reminiscent of the psychedelic era, and it clutters it up. A couple times unexpectedly, a more conventional R.E.M. style ballad comes along. The end is really an odd thing... The violins come in to create these extremely dark and ugly noises for a mad, though bombastic coda. It was probably a little too ambitious, but it was nonetheless impressive.

Maps and Legends A-

This is lusher and certainly more conventional for them than the previous track. The song-structure is fairly normal anyway (except with the funny lack of one of those trademark one-word choruses). The atmosphere is still consistent with the previous song. It seems a little out-of-its-mind. Funny, I just realized that the melody sounds a little like a sea shanty.

Driver 8 B+

This sounds more emotionally neutral than the previous two songs, but that just means it sounds more related to their previous sound. They do come up with a good guitar riff, and Stipe's voice comes off very well amidst those jangly guitars. One thing that I sort of miss is a chorus. Didn't they use to have cool choruses?

Life and How to Live It B-

It's almost happier than the previous songs in a way... They play their jangly guitars nicely. Stipe takes his mumbling to a whole new level, because I'm not even sure you could call this mumbling ... it's more like gurgling noises. Other times he tries to show off like he was David Byrne or something. None of that should come as a big surprise if you've been following R.E.M., but the most conspicuous thing that's absent here is the melody. They were capable of writing cool melodies once.

Old Man Kensey B-

There's a pretty cool bass riff that starts this one out, and the lead guitar plays something equally as cool. That's just about the entire appeal of this song. It moves at a rather unpleasant, turgid pace while Stipe doesn't deliver much of a vocal melody at all. ...It gets a B- anyway because of that cool riff, and I tend to like this jangly instrumentation no matter where it is...

Can't Get There From Here A-

They are getting so bold that this song even has a horn section in here! That riff is pretty flashy, too. I suppose I should feel glad that they were willing to change their style around ... after all, why should they spend their entire career coming up with Murmur sequels? This track is a tad sloppy, and somehow the melody seems a little predictable, but I really adore all this energy. And the horn section is pretty cool. Admit it!!

Green Grow the Rushes B+

They go in a slightly more straight-ahead route with this one, delivering a standard mid-tempo jangle pop tune. It's an incredibly pleasant thing to sit back and listen to. Stipe sings as though he only half-cares, and the guitars are as hypnotizing as ever. ...That's sort of the default mode of this group in this period. And if you didn't like that sort of thing, you would have hated Murmur.

Kohoutek C+

This song is a little bit like their default-mode, except they weren't trying hard enough at it. Stipe's vocals are very quietly mixed in there. Although, he's doing a funny falsetto bit occasionally, which he doesn't do too often. The guitars are surely well-played, but they're not as compelling as they were in other songs. There are no riffs... the jangly guitars seem too jumbly...

Auctioneer (Another Engine) C

R.E.M. is making it difficult for me! I'd probably call this one of their more tormented songs... That drum is pounding away like mad, and the guitars sound a little more squeaky than usual. Stipe sounds like he's only singing about three notes in this whole thing. That chorus is very odd... incredibly jumbled and unpleasant. I can't think of a reason to give it extra points just for sounding weird. ...Eh!

Good Advices B

This is a nicer-sounding mid-temp song with an OK melody and more mesmerizing guitars. Stipe sounds like he's falling asleep, which is sort of usual. I wish the melody was hookier... or perhaps more variety in that instrumentation. This should have been more interesting.

Wendell Gee B-

Gee, they know how to end this album on a glib, depressing note. Not that I was expecting anything happy on an R.E.M. album, but they could have at least ended it with something a tad more memorable. They do create a good mood for that, though, if you like depressing stuff. It just lasts three minutes, the vocal melody isn't that interesting... I like that twinkling banjo, though. They've gotten to the point of using banjos now, I guess!

Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)

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Lifes Rich Pageant

Begin the Begin A+

As a world-class procrastinator, this seems like it should be my theme song based on the title, but really it's a song about political activism. I guess they had a problem with Ronald Reagan or something. ...Eh, I still can't understand what Michael Stipe is saying, anyway! I have to try too hard. ...But wow, this is a huge change from Fables of the Reconstruction. They're back to writing pop songs, and the song production is very polished... even flashier and more mainstream than Murmur was. The electric guitars are a little more glammy, and the drums are very loud. Most importantly, the melody is catchy and memorable with incredibly well-mixed vocals.

These Days A

This is more violent... the drumming is a little more robust, and the guitars are louder. This has a sort of grunge undertone, but the melody certainly has its poppy qualities. Michael Stipe's vocal performance is one again, nailed. His wind-worn vocals have never sounded better... he sounds like he's singing passionately, and it's one again very well-mixed.

Fall on Me A+

Oh, bring on the jangle! It's mainstream-ish jangle, and thus it's incredibly well-polished. But what makes this song so great is that melody, which is fantastic. The verses are good, and the chorus is better. The harmonies are breathtaking! Yes, it's back to normal. Michael Stipe is obviously acting more like a lead singer... he's trying his hardest to sing hard.

Cuyahoga A-

This one doesn't have anything particular stick out at me such as a massively catchy melody. But what we do have is a lot of jangly guitars and a moderately catchy melody. Emotionally, it seems fairly neutral, although there's something in that vocal performance. (As there is always something in it, it seems.)

Hyena A

They pack on the energy with this one, and they manage to come up with one of the catchier guitar riffs they've ever done. They're playing their hearts out for this one, and it really pays off... I wanna get up and dance with it. (That's right... this is a song that you can dance to.) It loses a little bit with the vocal melody, which they probably could have done better. I do like they've gone back to those adorable one-word choruses again. This time it's “hyeeeeeeeeena!”

Underneath the Bunker A

This is a funny, two-minute Latin number that they probably decided to put in here just because people were complaining that some of their albums sounded too samey. NOT ANYMORE, THERE'S A FUNNY LATIN NUMBER IN HERE! It's pretty hilarious, too. In the second half, Stipe brings his mumbles to a new level, this time literally mumbling in a sort of megaphone. Despite my best efforts, I can only make out a few words.

The Flowers Of A

This is a really gorgeous jangly-type ballad with a more upbeat chorus. Stipe's mumbling just like he did on the previous albums (it's not so well-mixed as it was on “Begin the Begin”), but then again, this isn't the same sort of pop song, isn't it? It's a really cool thing to hear him sound like he's falling asleep, for some reason. It creates this certain haunting mood that goes exactly well with the instrumentation and the harmonies, which are utterly enchanting.

I Believe A

Geez, do these great songs never end? It starts out as a sort of hillbilly song with finger pickin' banjos, but it quickly turns into a conventional pop song in the similar vein of “Begin the Begin” with the incredibly upbeat instrumentation and a more audible Michael Stipe. Once again, the energy level of this song is high without ever sacrificing those jangly guitars. That's a remarkable skill!

What If We Give It Away? A+

That bass-line sounds like it could have been something from a Duran Duran song... (see how mainstreamish they were getting?) ... But of course the harmonies are nothing but pure R.E.M., and of course that singer is one-of-a-kind. Geez, good melodic hooks were flowing out of them like running water at this stage, weren't they? This is fantastically catchy!! They find a funny chord for the coda... Yeah, no fade out!

Just a Touch A

Just a touch ... mental. It's also a touch rock 'n' roll. R.E.M. might have sounded energetic sometimes in the past, but they've never ever tried to rock like this. The heavy guitars open up the song, and they start playing the most energetic riff that they could possibly play. Michael Stipe is so into this song that sometimes it seems as though he was screaming at the top of his lungs... at one point even giving a howl. It's a bit strange to hear them rock out ... and stranger to know that they could in fact do this very well. This is a remarkably entertaining song!

Swan Swan H A-

It seems like I should like this song more than the others, because it's a really sweet folky song with minor chord sequences, jangly chords and a really funny swing in Stipe's vocal delivery. Even some accordion in the background, and I'm kinduva sucker for that. Just when it's all said and done, it comes off as a little flat. ...I know, an A- song, and I'm nit-picking! What a fantastic song!

Superman A

R.E.M. is much more famous for singing this than the obscure '60s sunshine-pop band The Clique! Well, I have that Clique album somewhere in my archives, and it's really enjoyable! R.E.M.'s treatment of it is better, though, probably because they produced it so well. They continue to use these jangly guitar powers to their intense benefit. Stipe doesn't lead the vocals... several of the members join in the singing to try to give it their best, cheesiest shot. Really a lot of fun!

Document (1987)

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Finest Worksong B+

Well, this is quite a nice way to start the album! It's not a tremendously creative song, but Michael Stipe appears to sing it with passion. And you notice that he's also singing like a real rock star as opposed to some inaudible depressed guy. The vocal melody manages to be rather memorable despite the surprising lack of chord-changes. The drums have never been this loud nor as mainstream on an R.E.M. album, and the guitars are very mainstream, but the guitars keep a compelling texture, and I do like that drum beat.

Welcome to the Occupation A-

The harmonies are much better than the previous song. It does sound a little bit like they borrowed from an old English folk song, but I like that sort of music, so I like listening to this. The instrumentation continues to sound incredibly mainstream, and the guitars sound as jangly and wonderful as ever. I like the flow of this mid-tempo ballad, but the melody could have stood to be catchier.

Exhuming McCarthy A-

What is this I hear? Poppy drums and synthesizer hits? Poppy electric guitar licks instead of jangly acoustic-ish instrumentals? Going mainstream, are we? It still has that overall R.E.M. signature to it, of course. The melody is breezy, and I still have trouble figuring out what Stipe is mumbling about. That part is business as usual. Just they were probing for radio hits, no doubt. They did give it a good go!

Disturbance at the Heron House B-

I get the feeling that they've engaged the autopilot button for this one, but R.E.M. were so fresh at this point that they could be enjoyable no matter what they did. This is rather forgettable, though. The guitar riff was a nice try, but it's forgettable. Stipe sings like he's supposed to. The melody doesn't sound too fresh. It's fine, but—meh!

Strange A

Much better. This is a cover from Wire, a well-regarded post-punk band. They did write a nicely catchy song, and Michael Stipe is doing his best to sound like a normal rock singer! There's a bit of an overabundance of emotion in his vocals, there! Don't strain yourself, man.

It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) A

Who can say 'no' to this hit R.E.M. song with the catchy melody and Michael Stipe's legendary campy performance? Everyone likes the way that he rattles off those lyrics at a lightning pace! I guess that gimmick was enough to compensate for any lack of melody there might be .... but this thing is catchy, anyway! Cool hit song.

The One I Love B+

Here's another tune that reminds me of an old English folk song. I love how Michael Stipe reminds me of a crusty old sailor. The guitar is pretty cool. It's based on a pretty nice riff, and there's the sort of jangly guitars that's their classic sound.

Fireplace B+

One of the odder ones. The droning chord progression is really strange for R.E.M., and the melody doesn't do much to keep me incredibly interested. This isn't too memorable, other than this unusualness, which I don't think is *that* unusual. But it does have a wicked, twisty saxophone solo at the end, which accounts for the reason I raised the score from a B/B- to a B+.

Lightnin' Hopkins B

A nice rocker, though it's a little dumb. That chant that's threaded throughout sounds a little like one of those sports anthems you might hear in hockey arenas. Stipe comes in and delivers verses, of course, and he sounds weird; he was over-enunciating those words. I'm not too sure what he was trying to do. This song makes a fine listen, but it's not too memorable.

King of Birds B+

Ah now, this is good. Part of me likes this better than “It's the End of the World,” but I suppose that part of me is just being silly. I really enjoy listening to this, but it doesn't nearly have that charming tendency to dwell in my mind long after it's through playing. It's characterized by a driving, military beat, and Michael Stipe resumes his default, mumbly ways. The harmonies are very nice in this, though, with particularly nice effect at the end of the chorus when he sings “awaaaaaaaaaaay!”

Oddfellows Local 151 A-

This one has a really nice rhythm to it. Probably the nicest rhythm in an R.E.M. song ever. It's jumpy, mid-tempo and a little bit creepy. The few hits coming in the electric guitar lends to that spooky atmosphere, while Stipe's warble has a sort of foreboding feel to it. But the five-minute length of this song was slightly too long for it. It loses its edge after three minutes or so with nothing particularly new to add. Pity. Still a good song, though.

Dead Letter Office (1987)

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Dead Letter Office

Crazy A-

This is a nice little song, a cover of the obscure new wave band Pylon that was prominent around the time that R.E.M. was starting out. I read that they had a lot to do with R.E.M.'s original sound, but I haven't listened to them beyond just a few songs I casually listened to. The resemblance is there, I suppose, but it's not obvious at all. Anyway, this song fits right into R.E.M.'s early style. Stipe is mumbling around, the jangly guitars are there in their full glory, and the melody is catchy (especially the very distinctive chorus). The sound quality is a little iffy, though... it sounds like Stipe was singing two feet away from the microphone.

There She Goes Again B+

This is such a good Velvet Underground cover that it doesn't even sound like The Velvet Underground. It's was very much molded in R.E.M.'s image, and Michael Stipe isn't even closely following the original vocal melody. Sure, it's not as seriously “artistic” as the original, because they were having fun with it. And, yes, it's a good listen. (I do get a bit tired of those incessant stops, though.)

Burning Down B+

Oh. There's original songs on here, too? I thought this was just a covers album. ...OK, this was a B-side to “Wendell Gee” from the Fables of the Reconstruction-era. I suppose that explains why this R.E.M. song lacks a chorus. That also probably explains why it is rather boring! But at least the jangly guitars are there, and this is nice enough to keep the cool moods going... Alright, those moods are worth my kingdom.

Voice of Harold A

This one's from the Reckoning-era... Objection! You're out of ORDER! ... And why does this sound so familiar? ... Oh yes, this has the exact same backing instrumentation as that stellar tune of theirs “7 Chinese Bros.” Well, I suppose I like the album version better, but I guess I can't really come up with a reason why. That background texture is a great thing to listen to, though, and I'll gladly welcome every chance to listen to it some more!

Burning Hell A-

Oh god. They're living out their hair metal fantasies. ...Well, they're having a lot of fun. Michael is squealing his voice like he never did before like some crazy metal guy who can't sing. They come up with a cool heavy metal riff that was undoubtedly lifted from somewhere else, but I don't know enough about heavy metal to say where. It's just a fun song they did...

White Tornado B+

They're really having fun with this one. It's just a two-minute surf instrumental... and it's very good even for that. The drums roll around at such a thunderous pace, and the guitar themes are pretty catchy and memorable. Why, I just want to go to Hawaii and Hang-10 (whatever that means).

Toys in the Attic B

I don't like Aerosmith very much ... actually this is one of the few songs of theirs I'm known to enjoy listening to. R.E.M. doesn't strive to do anything new to it... they pretty much just play it the same way that Aerosmith did. Yeah, they're having fun with it, obviously, so don't take it too seriously. They're energetic with it, and it's a decent tune anyway.

Windout B+

Well, I guess if there's a next-time I watch that early Tom Hanks movie Bachelor Party, I'll have to keep an eye out for this song! When I watched that movie last, all I knew about R.E.M. was that my cousin would wear their T-shirts all the time. I do imagine this to be a pretty decent song to play at a party. It has a good-time feel and a beat that you can dance to. I wonder how they came to record a song for such a movie, but it does sound like R.E.M. and it's appropriate. The melody isn't incredibly hooky, and it's very energetic. Cool.

Ages of You B+

This is a reworked version of “Burning Down.” It's not significantly different, in my view, except this is a tad shorter and perhaps messier... Or at least, I don't have a preference to either one. It's a fun song to listen to, of course, and there's plenty of nice pieces of jangly guitar in it. So... cool.

Pale Blue Eyes C+

This is a pretty lousy cover if you ask me. Michael Stipe's vocals sound like he's about to fall asleep, and consequently, they threaten to put me to sleep. The guitar tone sounds more suited to that surf instrumental, and it sounds like it's mixed too loudly. ...But anyway, we have to remember not to take this too seriously. This is a leftovers album, for pete's sake. So... there you go.

Rotary Ten B-

They wanted to do some jazzy improvisation jam apparently, so here it is! It comes from the Lifes Rich Pageant-era, and I suppose it sort of fits in with the more diverse nature of that album. I can't say I ever cared much for rock jams, and there's nothing too amazing about this one. The guitar sounds OK, but it's nothing an amateur couldn't do.

Bandwagon B

This is also from the Fables-era, which would also hints at why there isn't one of those distinctive choruses that are so easy to fall in love with. Yes, this is a tad boring, but as I said a number of times, the jangly guitars are always good.

Femme Fatale B-

The third and final Velvet Underground cover, and this is also pretty lousy. It probably wouldn't bug me so much if Michael Stipe wasn't constantly hitting a note that wasn't sung in the original. Stipe even sounds out of tune when he does that, so it really made no sense to do that. Oh well...

Walters Theme C

Yeah, this really goes to show the scattershot nature of this disc. This sounds like the band was just warming up (although there was an organized chord progression and groove). Michael Stipe can't decide if he wants to talk or sing. It's really messy, and it's not very pleasant to listen to.

King of the Road C-

This is similar to the previous song in that it sounds terribly unorganized. The band sounds like they were playing it for the first time, and they were stumbling around. I guess I won't spit poison at it, just because it's a B-side compilation... but why did they even put this on a B-side? ... Couldn't they have at least learned the song, first?

Green (1988)

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Pop Song 89 A

Right from the beginning here, R.E.M. is poppier than ever! In Document, they had a number of pieces that sounded vaguely like they were aiming for a radio audience… but it's blatantly obvious here. Perhaps that's just thanks to their move to a huge label and more money to work with. But this ultra-polished guitar riff and poppy drum beat seems tailor-made for radio audiences. Not that there's anything wrong with that… this thing is catchy as all hell.

Get Up B

Somewhat lame this time, but the bouncy instrumentation does well enough to inject needed life into it. So, the instrumentation is good … the arrangements are fine, though maybe too polished for its own good. But what happened to the catchy melodies? This isn't memorable at all. It's just a fun thing to hear, and one minute later it'll be out of your head.

You Are the Everything B

Instrumentally speaking, this is more like it. They give us an acoustic atmosphere, and it doesn't seem very polished. A ukulele (or something) strums along at a high register while Stipe starts singing a droning melody with his droning voice! It starts out fine, but they don't do anything to change the mood… and, honestly, the melody wasn't compelling in the first place.

Stand A-

This was a hit for R.E.M. and one of their more recognizable songs. It's easy to understand how this turned into such a big hit! The production is polished, naturally, but the song sounds good. We can hear Stipe's vocals high in the mix, and the guitars are crunchy enough to lend it a darker atmosphere. I also really adore that rubbery guitar solo in the middle… So, this is very nicely done.

World Leader Pretend A

Give me more of these songs! Whereas "Stand" was a tad too flashy, this song doesn't try to do anything too fancy. And it turns out to be just about the album's most engaging song. It has a cool, mid-tempo pace, which is kept utterly punchy through a marching rhythm section. Stipe's vocal performance isn't a whole lot different than it was in Murmur, so this whole thing is more like their old style! The atmosphere is rather overcast, and I like that! This seems to be the sort of song you'll want to listen to right before it's going to rain…

The Wrong Child B

Give them their due credit for creating a song unlike any song they've ever done… R.E.M. had been good for trying unusual things for quite a while in their discography now. This is a twinkly acoustic guitar and acoustic piano song… They create such an intricate texture that might not have been out of place on some Celtic CD. But what happened to the melody? …There really isn't much that's memorable about this apart from the textures, and who remembers textures?

Orange Crush A-

This is probably the most popular song of the album… but I suppose I don’t have such a good pulse on what’s “famous” in these R.E.M. songs. But it is one of the album’s most brazen and upbeat songs. The melody is marginally catchy, and there are a few really well constructed parts in this song. The overall melody is OK, and that “aaaaaah” bit that takes the form of a chorus is really pleasant on the ears. There’s a really unusual instrumental interlude … sounds like someone’s riling up troops, and there’s a helicopter flying around. …Oh, it seems he wrote a protest song about Vietnam. Yeah… way to procrastinate…

Turn You Inside-Out B

There’s a lot of good guitar on here although it’s far messier than R.E.M.’s typical sound is known to be. Oh well, I like that they’re doing different things, and they’re doing it relatively well. The vocals are a bit drowned out by the instrumentals, but that’s part of the style, I suppose. It’s a nicely done ditty, but I can’t seem to enjoy this thing more than just a casual ‘liking.’ It’s lacking that certain spark.

Hairshirt B+

This is much quieter and subtler than the previous track, which helps me like it! These guys don’t seem at their mightiest when they’re doing so much pompous stuff. The instrumentation consists mostly of a moderately paced ukulele sound strumming with some light accordion-like synthesizers. Stipe sings some thoughtful lyrics in those spaced-out vocals of his. It does come up a bit short on the melody… so, this thing isn’t as memorable as it could have been.

I Remember California A-

This rhythm section is so cool and creepy that I’m very tempted to raise this rating to an A… But I don’t, because I don’t know why this thing has to sound so dreary! Whatever happened to R.E.M.’s punchy songwriting and instrumental playing? Oh well… The atmosphere of this is certainly effective, and they do have some good guitar playing throughout. Alright.

Hidden Track B

…Well, that wasn’t too hard to find. I suppose I understand why they hid this… It’s a nice song, but it needed more work done on it. I guess they realized they weren’t ever going to do this work, so they just threw it in and barely gave themselves credit for it. The melody resembles a nursery rhyme sung in round-robin style. The instrumentation sounds awfully choppy, and that keeps it from fully entering orbit.

Out of Time (1991)

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Out of Time

Radio Song A

Wow. They’ve commercialized their sound so much that they’re even incorporating elements of hip-hop in their work. But who cares about commercialization when the song is this excellent? That year-long break they took really did them well. It’s been a little while since they sounded this fresh. The ultra polished groove was constructed with some very tightly played bass, rhythm guitar and organ... that gives us a good reason to get up and dance! And then there are the parts where they suddenly though expertly transition into a twinkly ballad. This is very easy on the ears!

Losing My Religion A+

This is the rare sort of song that I can listen to back-to-back for hours on end. Of course, I haven’t done that because that wouldn’t be a great investment of time. But whenever I do listen to this song, my brain eats this thing up like the most delicious candy! These ultra polished production standards helped create this utterly crisp texture, and their songwriting of course yielded a catchy song. This is incredibly compelling from beginning to end... Wow!!

Low B

It starts out as a quiet though creepy minimal song with some rhythm guitars and bongos plodding along (with a creepy organ in the background). Soon, a violin comes into add to this creepy atmosphere. An electric guitar section comes into deliver a chorus of sorts... After that, these sections I already described essentially repeat, although things do get a little more dramatic by the end. This is an OK song, but it never totally catches fire for me.

Near Wild Heaven A

They’re taking this sunshine-pop thing to the next level by, well, writing another one of them. They come up with yet another good melody to accompany this utterly feel-good type of song. The 12-string guitars and pianos and drums sound like they’re right out of the 1960s, and you can hear them channel Beach Boys vocal styling at the end. It’s a little bit cluttered sounding, but it’s glorious. This is also completely unlike R.E.M., if you want to know the truth, but it’s too good to pass up.

Endgame B+

Ha! My early reviews weren’t completely useless. I said this near instrumental would be appropriate as the theme music to a BBC gardening program (or should I say “programme”). I don’t know what on earth these fellers are doing sounding like limeys, but it’s a nice instrumental. The theme is fine, and the texture is alright. It just doesn’t seem like it has enough ideas for the four-minute running length.

Shiny Happy People A

Am I a complete nutcase for liking this song so much? Eh, it has a hopelessly infectious melody, so why not? They take that old sunshine-pop stuff to the next level. This is so happy that it’s practically insane. This also marks a merging of the two great bands of Athens, Georgia... The B-52’s Kate Pierson is heard here singing with Michael Stipe. That ultra-clean guitar riff is really catchy, too.

Belong B

This is the second song so far in this album without lyrics. Were these guys just not feeling poetic or something? We can hear Michael Stipe and other singers singing “uuuuuuuuuuuhhh!” a lot, though. Oh, right, and we can hear someone mumbling some lyrics if you listen very closely. It’s a starkly unconventional approach, although hardly grabbing, but it does make a nice listen if you put it in the background.

Half a World Away A-

This is really an interesting song... It’s like an old English folk song. The acoustic guitars strum away a nice chord progression while Stipe’s world-weary vocals sing a rambly melody, which manages to provide some terribly nice moments. It’s one of their more overcast songs, but that’s closer to their original song, right? That sort of baroque-style ending was a real classy touch.

Texarkana A

Geez, how many wonderful songs can they cram on a single album? This is a gorgeous song with another incredibly enchanting melody. They also give it a danceable rhythm, which makes it a lot more fun than some of the others. The mood of it is also rather grey and cloudy, which is something that their longtime fans were glad to hear ... well, at least those who were mortified with “Shiny Happy People.”

Country Feedback A-

It’s difficult to know what to actually make of this song. In my original review I accused it of being country music and dismissed it, but the only thing country about it is they use a lot of slide guitars. They don’t do it in a conventional way, either... they sort of turn it into a dreary nightmare!! The atmosphere is effective in that way... I’m drawn to the song, and I’m not too sure why. Well, that’s what I call interesting songwriting!

Me in Honey B+

This doesn’t strike me as such a spectacular ending, but I guess they weren’t going for that, eh? The overly repetitive nature of the back up instrumentals (consisting of five notes) does manage to get on my nerves slightly, but I do appreciate the overall murky atmosphere of the thing. Kate Pierson comes back and provides back-up vocals.

Automatic For the People (1992)

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Automatic For the People

Drive A

This, of course, is completely unlike R.E.M., but I like it! It starts out rather slowly and a tad tormented with Michael Stipe’s vocals given a sort of echo effect. But, some drums pick up the pace and strings eventually come into create a sort of minor, grandiose effect. I really like this engaging song development! The string arrangements are very good, but they’re the sort of thing you might expect in a Pulp song or something. It’s ultra polished and ultra dramatic ... but it has a catchy melody, too.

Try Not to Breathe B

They seem to be concentrating more on creating an atmosphere instead of caring a whole lot about the melody. I like that they’re not just writing generic pop songs, and the atmosphere they develop is pretty good, but it’s not good enough to trump out the rather dull melody. The plodding pacing doesn’t help either... Overall, it’s a good listen that’s best if you just put it on in the background.

The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite A

Ha! You can hear Stipe aping those signature falsetto warbles from “Lion Sleeps Tonight” at the beginning of this! Well, it’s a sidewinder, and I guess they need quicker songs than lions. And what a nice song this is. I don’t think anyone would care how POPPY they went as long as they continue putting out songs like this. This has a very catchy melody, more than anything, and it has a beat that you can dance to. Do you require anything else? Why, this song also has incredibly pleasant, polished instrumentation that features a string section that would have been perfectly at home in an ELO album.

Everybody Hurts A

How many of these cool songs are they going to come up with? And, by the way, this is by far the poppiest song they’ve ever done. Anything POP about Out of Time doesn’t seem quite as bad anymore. This is so far down it that I might have assumed that this was something from the adult contemporary radio station. ...But, I repeat, who cares what kind of music it is as long as it’s this good? The melody, once again, proves to be one of their catchiest, and Stipe manages to give a rather emotive performance. The instrumentation is good, too. It starts out sounding like a nursery rhyme, but they bring out some heavily orchestrated stuff to keep it from growing dull at all. Beautifully done!

New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 B-

Eh??? After such a nice run, why do they put in this pointless, two-minute instrumental? It’s not even a very good one. It’s just some guy plodding around with two chords on a wobbly keyboard and someone else noodling around with an acoustic guitar. The good thing that it lasts only two minutes, but ... seriously, if they were going to do something like this, they should have made it more substantial.

Sweetness Follows A-

Similarly to “Try Not to Breathe,” the primary purpose of this song just seems to be to develop a thick atmosphere, and little attention is paid to the melody. The atmosphere here is rather ominous thanks mostly to a dark synthesizer oscillating throughout the track. There’s an organ playing like a high-pitched industrial buzz, and halfway into the track there’s some ugly guitars playing about. ...Well, I like the atmosphere! It takes awhile to get into this song, but it happened for me eventually.

Monty Got a Raw Deal A-

Well, these guys were really fond of this old sea sailor stuff. I guess it goes to reason since Stipe’s voice had that old sailor quality about it. I guess he’s uncharacteristically engaging whenever he sings these sorts of songs. That old minor-key chord sequence is really engaging at the start, and it’s accompanied nicely by an acoustic guitar and an accordion playing lightly in the background. They catch me by surprise by bringing in a poppy drumbeat and a bass guitar in the end... Maybe I would have rather that they just kept the thing slow. But I guess the drums make it fun, right?

Ignoreland A-

Holy crap on a stick! This sounds like ‘80s pop music! Stipe’s vocals sound almost exactly like those old Buggles songs. And do you hear those stadium-like keyboards and those very subtle ‘calculator’ rhythm guitars that sound like they’re right out of “Jeopardy” by Greg Kihn? Well, none of this is a bad thing, of course, but it does go to show how weird this sounds on an R.E.M. album. It’s a tremendously addictive song though with some great energy and compelling harmonies. Stipe’s lyrics are very rapidly paced, and it’s always compelling when he does that.

Star Me Kitten B+

Starme was a big starfish with a red jewel in the middle, not a kitten! (...Oooo, shhh... I don’t want to reveal that I used to play Pokemon.) ...Um... This is another one of those atmospheric songs with little or no attention paid to the melodies. How can they keep doing this to us??? ... But I actually like this song. The atmosphere is really engaging this time... there’s a creepy old organ playing and sort of Medieval church choir in the background going “Aaaaa!” What I find so compelling about this is that weird chord progression, which has a tendency to wander. Though, I’d still say this thing could have been livened up a bit.

Man on the Moon A+

This and “Losing My Religion” certainly represent the best of R.E.M.’s pop songs. Both of these songs have neat, captivating instrumentation and melodies that can’t be beat. “Man on the Moon” is based on a sort of tango (you can hear it in the bass), but it sounds like just another good song on the surface. It’s even more of a traditional song for them. The guitars tend to be more jangly, which hints at their classic sound, and Michael Stipe’s vocal styling is mumbling like God intended them to.

Nightswimming B

This sounds exactly like Tori Amos! .......... YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! ......... Er, ok, I like Tori Amos. At least her early stuff. And so this is pretty good. This song is based on a heavily repetitive piano loop while Stipe sings a marginally interesting melody. (But how interesting can they make a piano-pop song if the piano just repeats the same old thing over and over?) That sweet clarinet coming in the final third could have caused negative reactions from their longtime fans.

Find the River B+

And they end it with something completely unspectacular though nice. (Remember when Lifes Rich Pageant ended with that rousing cover, “I Am Superman?”) They develop a rather thick atmosphere, which helps keep it engaging. An endearing accordion fiddles around in the verses, sounding more melodically interesting than the droning notes that Stipe mumbles. The back-up singers in the chorus were a really nice touch. I’m on the border giving this an A-, but I just wish the whole thing was more interesting ... this seems to plod around too much.

Monster (1994)

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What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? B+

OK, I’m just going to throw this out there in the calmest way I know how... WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING????!!!! R.E.M. sounds like they went to great lengths to create a catchy, poppy melody that would have had a perfectly fine home on either of their two previous albums. But someone goes and ruins it and plays an incredibly muddy guitar over it. Talk about bad ideas! I wouldn’t even be surprised if the song was originally recorded without that terrible guitar, and then they decided to “switch musical directions” at the last minute so they found some stupid teenager with a cheap guitar to play over it. I’m still giving this song a B+ because the stereo in my car is shot, and I’m pretty good at filtering out static, but this seriously would have been a potential A+. Yeah, the melody is that catchy.

Crush with Eyeliner A-

This is better because the guitar doesn’t sound nearly as retarded. They mix a very wobbly guitar at the beginning of the song, but they lost faith in it halfway through so they buried it in the mix a little better. The underlying R.E.M. song is a rather bubbly one despite the sort of music they were trying to emulate. Really, why didn’t they forget this crap and just record another Out of Time? I swear I wouldn’t have thought any less of you...

King of Comedy B-

The two previous songs sounded like regular R.E.M. songs with bad arrangements. This sounds more like Iggy Pop. At least they’re actually doing something different other than ruining what would have been perfectly good R.E.M. songs. There’s a 1980s snare drum hit twice per measure, and Stipe tries to give his vocals quite a growl. This is a rather annoying, droning song. The composition is very simple, but I like their chords. If it didn’t sound so muddy, they might have had something excellent.

I Don’t Sleep, I Dream C-

A tremendously misfired effort. Gosh, what happened to these guys? They never sounded this clueless before. They’re trying out one of those dreary, dreamy shoe-gazing types of songs that were gaining popularity around the time. A pulsating synth-bass plays amidst twinkly piano and messy though quiet electric guitar noodles. These noises are supposed to work together to draw me into a thick atmosphere, but they do nothing but create noise pollution in my ears. There is very little about this atmosphere that draws me in. And Michael Stipe’s mostly just singing one note through this except for a part where he breaks into a ridiculous falsetto. That sudden ending was terrible, too. It just proves how lazy they were.

Star 69 B+

This has really cool vocal overdubs where we can hear multiple dubs of Michael Stipe play over itself. That produces a funny texture that I can’t say I’ve heard before. Naturally, since they love this cruddy guitar sound now, they’re playing these cheap grunge licks all over the place. But at least it sounds more appropriate (apart from the general fact that Michael Stipe doesn’t have a voice for grunge ....... whatsoever).

Strange Currencies B+

I like this song! Alright, it’s a clone of “Everybody Hurts” and a vastly inferior one, but there are worse things that you could clone. It starts out with pointless feedback noise, but the song itself doesn’t go too overboard with their fuzzy guitar sounds. Although the arrangements certainly could have been improved... it still has that hardened sloppy sound, which doesn’t go well with this style of songwriting. Stipe’s singing mostly like he should, but he’s still trying not to be Mr. Mumbly, which doesn’t go well.

Tongue C

...Er. Michael Stipe singing falsetto with a plainly played piano and that choppy soap opera organ makes him sound like a five-year-old. What the heck does this guy think he’s doing singing falsetto anyway? Is he getting cocky, or something? Again, this sloppy style doesn’t suit R.E.M.... they’re old dogs now, and they’ve been meticulous since Day 1. Maybe this song would have been OK if the melody worked... but really it doesn’t. The only reason it gets a C is because I’m laughing at how freaking ridiculous this is.

Bang and Blame A-

If they would have made this three minutes instead of five minutes (not counting the unrelated 30-second coda), this could have been an A easily. They just didn’t have enough ideas for anything longer than that. But what they have here, I’m perfectly satisfied that this is A- material. This piece wavers back and forth between a light, bouncy groove and a more guitar-heavy chorus. The thing about this song is it actually sounds like it should have been done like this. Those wavy guitar textures at the beginning are cool, and the punky guitars in the chorus should have been heavy. Since they really wanted to this heavy stuff, this was the way to go about it.

I Took Your Name B

Um..... guys...... My name was never “R.E.M.” (these guys are weird). Those electric guitars have the same aesthetic quality of a buzz saw. Gah! And I can barely even make out Stipe’s vocals over the mix. Otherwise, there’s a decent song somewhere in there. The songwriting is simple, but it’s not worst; there’s a good ole bouncy R.E.M. song buried somewhere down there. I’m still disappointed that they decided to mix these songs so badly. Is this a rock album, or is it a lumber mill? By the time I’m finished listening to this album, do you think you can build me a new desk? ......... guys?

Let Me In D-

This is a bunch of very fuzzy guitars playing very loudly. I hear a tambourine rattle off clumsily buried very deeply into the mix and a clean organ cluelessly pattering around. Michael Stipe, who we can barely hear, doesn’t sing at all with the guitar ... and he sounds really stupid when he hits those long notes.... Terrible. Well, I’m in shock. This is very bad. Whoever told them this would be a good idea probably also thinks strep throat is a good idea. I have no idea what these guys think they were doing at this point in their career.

Circus Envy B-

It starts out with a very clean riff that is heavily reminiscent of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Stipe sings an OK melody although he’s still buried very deep ..... Hey, wait a second, are my speakers broken? ... Hold on, let me check. ...... Uh kay, Alice Cooper sounds like the way he’s supposed to. So that must mean that static noise playing throughout this track was intentional (I’m sure this was a very distorted guitar whizzing about). I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason they did “Let Me In” was so that we wouldn’t think too badly of “Circus Envy.” Well, yeah, this is a real *song* at least. But ... man! Why do they have to litter up these songs?

You C

Again, this could have been a formidable song if they didn’t go messing around with those guitar tones. What we have here is a tedious mid-tempo song with a pulsating guitar playing off in the background and some very messy guitar licks everywhere. This doesn’t have any verve to it at all, so it hardly measures up to the best of what grunge has to offer. This is something like a grunge purgatory.

New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)

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New Adventures in Hi-Fi

How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us A

Right away, I have to say that I endorse the direction R.E.M. decided to go with. They did exactly the right thing and pretended that Monster never existed! Although they hadn’t reverted back to the way they sounded in the 1980s or the early 1990s (and they never really would). This is a very low-key song with very sparse textures. The star of the show is that lounge piano, which plays a neat groove. It gives a flashy solo in the middle that bears resemblance to the piano from David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Cool song!

The Wake-Up Bomb B

They’ve cleaned up the ugly fuzz guitar, which is another decision that I endorse fully! I don’t hear any of that pointless feedback, and I can hear Michael Stipe’s voice perfectly well in the mix. Despite the better presentation, I wish the song could have been more interesting. The riff is sort of empty, and the melody is bland. Eh... at least it has energy.

New Test Leper B

This isn’t bad. It’s more of an acoustic number with some nice guitar textures and Stipe’s brooding voice being put to good use. Although I’ve heard this sort of song a billion times and that choppy vocal melody almost couldn’t get less inspired. However, a rather nice chorus keeps it floating above water as well as a decent middle eight section with a laid-back guitar solo and a long-drawn-out organ providing some atmosphere.

Undertow B-

Lesser this time, but I like the sort of groovy bass-line that gets played throughout the beginning. Once again, though, the vocal melody isn’t much to speak of. They didn’t really plan these melodies too well. The atmosphere is heavily developed here, too, with all sorts of hisses and thumps going on at the same time the song is playing. The guitars are very fuzzy here, which makes this a closer relative to Monster, but at least it sounds better planned. Had they axed the final two minutes of this five-minute song, it would have gotten a higher rating. The guitars get really overblown there, and they close the song on a disappointing note.

E-Bow the Letter B

Wow, this is dreary! But I sort of like that moody texture they develop in here, and the novelty of hearing Michael Stipe clumsily speak-singing the lyrics is enough to keep this from growing tedious at first. Apart from incorporating some boring back-up vocals from Patti Smith, they don’t do anything to spice it up. TOO FREAKING LONG.

Leave B+

The vocal melody is much better this time, and they play a rather somber guitar line in here. It’s depressing, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that suits Michael Stipe’s style of mumbly vocals! This is much longer than any of the songs preceding it, but it was solid enough to warrant such a length. Though there were a few questionable decisions they used ... That orchestral introduction was rather cumbersome to sit through and just seemed pointless at the end. The conclusion had its problems with a false ending, which sounded too clumsy for it to have worked. And all throughout the rest of the song, there’s this constant zippy noise that gets on my nerves if I forget to mentally filter it out.

Departure A-

This is a surprisingly good use of a more grunge formula, although it has more in common with old school Modern Lovers. The guitars are heavily distorted, too heavy in the mix, and just playing two chords, but how that combines with the drum beats and Michael Stipe’s playful talk-singing makes this a fun ditty. So there you go. They should have just done stuff like this on Monster.

Bittersweet Me A

I was looking for a good excuse to not like this song when I discovered that that’s no way to treat a music review! If I like a song, then I like a song, and no other excuse is necessary. What I especially like about this song is the harmonies, which are so good that they remind me of their good old 1980s albums! The atmosphere is nice and thick... it’s thick and moody and they don’t rely on any gimmicks such as distortion or that zippy noise from “Leave.” There’s that cheapish guitar that comes in for the chorus, but it actually serves to change the mood of the song instead of littering it up like it was in Monster. So, cool!

Be Mine C+

I don’t need to find an excuse to not like this song, ‘cos I don’t! I find this one to be a more cumbersome listen with nothing particularly special about it. It starts out with Stipe singing uninterestingly to a distorted guitar (but it doesn’t sound that terrible). Every once in awhile a more thunderous chorus pops up, but this song still has a bad tendency to just wallow and do nothing interesting.

Blinky the Doormat B+

Here’s another song of the grungy variety that actually sounds suitable. The distorted guitars get a chance to actually soaaaaar instead of just existing in a sort of dull plane that they did so frequently on Monster. The melody is somewhat interesting with Michael Stipe trying the best he can to sing over all that noise! Well, this is pretty good then!!

Zither C+

This is one of those pieces of filler that could have been axed to make this album a better one! As it is, this uninspired, slow and dreary thing reminiscent of a boring surf instrumental only adds running length. The good thing is that the running length wasn’t too long.

So Fast, So Numb A-

Hey, this is more like it! Sure, it’s full of those heavy electric guitars (which still don’t impress me), but the beat is bouncier and the harmonies are more colorful than usual. Stipe’s vocals are pretty odd sounding here. At some times it warbles like he’s nervous about something. Other times, there’s a horseness as though he had a cold. But I guess these interesting vocals add to the novelty value.

Low Desert B

This is also heavy on those guitars, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the previous track. They do tend to drag things down rather badly in here, especially those ugly guitar tones in the middle. But they do produce an atmosphere, and I suppose the riff is OK. (Although, if you like this sort of thing, then you should probably pretend the song is rated an A- ... I just have a hard time with these guitars, and I’ve heard this thing done much better.) The overall feeling of the song is dreary, and it’s rather effective in that way. But it’s too ugly for me!

Electrolite A-

At least they decide to end it on a song that’s pretty good! They bring the piano to this to give it some body without being GUITARS, which I start to get sick of here sometimes. They also bring in a violin that lends it some class! The rhythm is light and snappy, and Stipe’s vocal performance reverts back to good old Mr. Mumbles. I suppose I would have scored this higher if it didn’t just hold a constant tone... I think if they did post production on this, they could have improved it immensely.

Up (1998)

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Airportman C+

R.E.M. certainly knows how to hit you over the head with their new style. This song is so dreary that only physicists have been able to concoct something drearier, and it killed them! You can hear some wavy feedback noises in the background music, but (rest assured) this was done more for a calming effect than an ugly effect that it was originally meant for. A loudly pulsating fuzzy guitar comes by and provides just about all its rhythm (though there is a fake-sounding hi-hat that’s playing 1/16 notes). Some twinkly bell sounds are in the background that helps this hypnotic feel. Michael Stipe can be heard barely and he’s mumbling like he never has before! ...Well, I kind of like the atmosphere, but why did they have to make it so boring? This was probably written about someone who likes to sit around airport lobbies waiting to board the plane.

Lotus A-

Oh look, they’re playing a real song now! I don’t know what Michael Stipe thinks he’s doing though... The way he screams “Hey! Hey!” at the beginning of this sounds like he’s striving to be Bono or something. Hmmm... Anyway, this is a good piano-based rocker. Tons of ugly sounds are in the background (including a synthesizer that sounds like someone in the 8-bit video game era was trying to emulate a dying cat), but it was well-mixed enough to keep it punchy.

Suspicion B

This one takes me awhile to get into. Those thick string arrangements completely drown us out... and Stipe’s vocals threaten to put me to sleep! I do suppose this song could have been more interesting. But it’s a rather pretty song with good, gloomy harmonies. A sort of rubbery guitar solo comes in the middle to mess with our minds.

Hope B

They are really in love with those weird synthesizer instruments, aren’t they? And that’s a drum machine they’re using, isn’t it... Oh man, what are these guys without the drummer? All of this starts out sounding very neat, but that loop starts to grow old. The melody is very simple, which doesn’t help matters. As the song progresses, it does grow more involved... They just layer everything they can on it, it seems! And then, it sort of explodes in a huge airplane noise. It’s not a particularly pleasant song to listen to, but that instrumental touch is really neat.

At My Most Beautiful A

Wow, this is just gorgeous! They obviously tried to emulate the songs on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and they made a shockingly solid attempt at it. It’s a heavily produced piano ballad... The piano is at the forefront, but we can hear accordions, tambourines, strings, and I don’t know what in the background. Some unmistakably Beach-Boys-esque vocal harmonies come in for the chorus. Wow.

The Apologist B+

After that pretty song, it’s hard to go back to something more ugly and tormented. But at least they do it well. The instrumentation is thick and complex, and quite impressive! There’s a mix of twinkly instrumentals along with deep, distorted guitar sounds. Meanwhile, a clomping drum beat plays. Stipe’s vocal melody works well over the mix... it doesn’t overpower it nor is it too buried.

Sad Professor B-

I’ve known a lot of sad professors in my day... Mostly, they were upset that new federal laws meant they can’t smoke in their offices anymore... Anyway, this R.E.M. song is adequate. The melody is adequate. The instrumentation is adequate. (Though I appreciate that they’re only using normal instruments for the most part... acoustic guitars at the beginning and electric guitars in the middle.) It’s not especially good, but I like it enough to keep from getting bored. O, adequacy!

You’re in the Air C

This is one of those songs when the dreary instrumentation starts to really bog down on me. I appreciate how complex it is. This song has all those airy synthesizers buzzing around and a nice acoustic guitar piddling around through it all. On the other hand, this atmosphere doesn’t compel me, and the melody is dull as hell!

Walk Unafraid B

Well, it's more interesting than the last song, and I appreciate that, but it still could have used a dose of extreme heat in it! I don't know why they have to sound so distant through this whole album... It's boring the living crap out of me. The pacing is generally good, though; they have a nice groove going. The melody is fine here, but it's not too distinctive, and the atmosphere is well developed, but also not too distinctive. Come on, guys!!

Why Not Smile A-

Ah good. Here's an instance where R.E.M.'s dreary turn produces something excellent. The song starts up as a hypnotic tubular bell sound plays lightly and Stipe comes in with his sleepy mumbles. Very slowly, they layer the instrumentals gradually to create quite a good build-up. It loses some points in the final third when this build-up stagnates and then there's a cheap fade-out. But this is still a classy song!

Daysleeper B

Not as good as the last one, but this has a much better ending. I prefer that down-scaling oboe sound to a fade-out any day of the week! Anyway, the actual *song* is the typical dreary, mostly uninteresting thing with some finely textured acoustic guitars. The melody is solid enough ... the chorus is probably even “memorable.”

Diminished B-

Six minutes long and it starts rather overbearingly dreary. Stipe sings something uninteresting amidst some low key guitars and a drum beat that you can barely hear. But it catches fire about two minutes into it when it adopts some Beach Boys vocal harmonies as well as some really sweet slide guitar! A little bit of editing would have done wonders to this... The last minute of it, for example, really didn't need to be there. It's just Stipe singing very uninteresting stuff with an acoustic guitar. Despite the pangs of greatness, there's too much time I'm left waiting...

Parakeet C

This is sort of like the last one except it's all boring! I wish I could say something about this that I couldn't the other songs... it's dreary, slow-paced and dull. It's based on an electric piano instead of an acoustic guitar, but I'd hardly notice that if I wasn't paying close attention. It does have a nice chorus, although that part is only interesting for about 10 seconds.

Falls to Climb C

Oh good. This is the last song. I was dreaming about this moment, and it's finally here!!! OK, I'm just being melodramatic... as usual... Um. Well, what can I say about this song? They surely don't try to end it with anything other than this whimper. Just the usual low-key stuff that we've been hearing for this whole freaking album! There are a lot of quiet old organ noises while Stipe's mumbling keeps things very sleepy.

Reveal (2001)

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The Lifting A-

This is a very compelling start for Reveal. They still have that overly flooded feel leftover from Up, but it sounds a little more appealing here for some reason. The synthscape feels like they were listening to The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin a little bit, which isn't a bad influence. I love hearing all these busy synthesizers beep and whistle all over the place. Of course, there's still a central vocal melody and a bolder rhythm section kept from a confident drum-line and a pounding piano. The melody is fairly simple, but it's catchy. It's even compelling thanks to the way Michael Stipe sings it. What a cool vocalist!

I've Been High B

Its dreariness and slow-moving pace is a little overbearing this time, but this is nonetheless a pretty decent song. The vocal melody has its moments, and the evolving orchestration helps give it a certain *push* that makes it more ear-catching than a song like this really deserved. That wobbly synthesizer that plays throughout the song sounds like it's speaking in some sort of alien language... but that's pretty cool.

Reno A

Another cool song! They still love this dreary stuff, which I oftentimes find insufferable, but they do a great job arranging this one. In fact, this was done so well that I wouldn't even call it “dreary.” Rather, a more appropriate description would be “summery.” It's so warm! The background synthesizers are at just the right quieter levels, and those beeps, bells and sitars come in at just the right times. More importantly, the melody is very incredibly captivating, particularly the chorus. This is rather beautiful and colorful.

She Just Wants to Be B

This seems like it's a tad too long, and I really don't care for that slow-moving acoustic part at the beginning. But when it picks up pace in its final third, it becomes quite explosive with an utterly captivating array of orchestral strings, electric guitars and funny sounding synthesizers. It just takes too long to get to this point, and my attention span has been too numbed from the less inspired first three minutes of the song that I usually fail to sit up and take notice of it. Ah well. It's a good song, anyway.

Disappear B+

The dreariness is a pretty terrible factor with this one as it gets overbearing at times. The potential gray moodiness of it wasn't as effective as it might have been. It's also so noisy that I have no freaking idea what Michael Stipe is singing. But on the other hand, he was mumbling, so I probably wouldn't know what he was singing even if it was a cappella. Now for the good part about this song: The melody even sounds like it was derived from an old sea shanty, which was exactly what Stipe's moody voice was always good for. They've done songs like this in their past, which I've always adored, and it's great to hear them revisit the style. Those trembling violins used as instrumentation were a cool idea.

Saturn Return C-

Oh no. I've been slightly bored with some of the previous tracks, but all of them at least had some huge draw to them like a melody or a particularly awesome instrumental choice... but “Saturn Returns” has none of these. It's a yawn-fest through and through. There is nothing good about the melody, which sounds choppy and only consists of a limited amount of notes. The instrumentation consists mostly of plain piano chords and these hissing noises in the background that sounds like a malfunctioning dishwasher. Zzzzzzz....

All I Want A-

MUCH BETTER. In fact this song's gorgeous instrumentation and morose harmonies is reminiscent of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. I remember the only song I truly cared about in Up was reminiscent of that group. I guess it's a bit unexpected for R.E.M. to be masters at that sort of song, but there you go. The dreary-factor of this is similar to the previous songs... but this one has harmonies that are much more mesmerizing. This is quite gorgeous, actually.

Imitation of Life A-

Yay! This is right out of their 1987-1991 era when they were prone to come out with these wonderful sunshine-pop songs that I love hearing. The melody is sweet and catchy and there's a tambourine rattling throughout. The only thing really holding this back is that part in the middle where they strip away the string synthesizers. That part seems dead. There was a better three-minute song lurking within this four-minute song for sure, but I do like it!

Summer Turns to High C

This is an odd song, and it's rather awkward. Consulting my previous review of this album, I apparently used to *like* this song, but I can't seem to recapture the same interest in it. The synthesizers sound a little too flooded here, and occasionally they'll come in with annoying beeping synthesizers. More importantly, the harmonies aren't even remotely as intriguing as the previous two songs, and Stipe's mumbly melody sounds is choppy and way too repetitive. Meh!!!

Chorus & The Ring C-

Wow... either this album is superbly boring or it's incredibly beautiful. Nothing about this song is fundamentally different than the others; it's still very dreary! The problem comes in with the melody, which does nothing for me. The instrumentation is very static, too, which makes all these guitars and synthesizers come off as a plain blur. Man, this is so boring that I'm thinking about cleaning out my room. Bluh!!!

I'll Take the Rain B-

It's not a lot more interesting than the last two songs apart from the chorus, which really picks it up. Though those are just brief moments, and the rest of the song is quite bland. The style of this song is so typical of the album's overall sound that I can't think of anything else to say about it. So, let's change the subject. Whose vice president do you like better?

Beach Ball C

Oh gwwwwaaaaaad! (I felt like exclaiming like I was from Brooklyn for some reason. Sorry.) Well, R.E.M. didn't exactly pick an exciting number to close things out. It's an extremely slow-paced song with an atmosphere that's well too flooded. I do like that saxophone sound albeit they're still way too sluggish to actually help the song pick up pace. Unfortunately, neither the melodies or harmonies are up-to-snuff. This is vastly unmemorable and, frankly, a huge bore to sit through. Ugh.

Around the Sun (2004)

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Around the Sun

Leaving New York B+

This isn't such a shabby way to open the album, but it's also not a great triumph. I like that they're toning down all of that excessive instrumentation that was all over Up and Reveal, and their concentrating more on that adult-contemporary formula that made Automatic For the People such a triumph. At the same time, their songwriting skills seem to have deteriorated a bit since then, and all we're left with is a nice-sounding song that's a little bland. It's a ballad, a type of song where a great melody is as good as solid gold, and this isn't completely up-to-snuff. But it's a nice enough song to sit through, and Stipe's vocals have that quality to them of course.

Electron Blue B-

Wow, these boring melodies are going to be a common complaint regarding this album, aren't they? I can tell that just by hearing these first two tracks (and, naturally, I've heard the album before, so I know what's coming up). At any rate, the only problem with the song is the boring hooks. The atmosphere is finely developed without seeming overbaked, this time bringing a nice, melancholy piano, a busy though low-key drum beat and some nice buzzing synthesizers. Stipe's vocals are given a pretty heavy echo effect, which greatly suits the atmosphere. It's just the melody is DULL. MAN!!!!

The Outsiders B+

Much more captivating than the previous songs. If that idiotic rapping bit at the end was axed and I wasn't fighting the nagging notion that this pop-ballad is so generic, I might have been convinced to raise the rating to an A. At any rate, this thing fully deserves that B+ despite those facts. Once again, this song exhibits a dreary-esque atmosphere, but it's not as down the deep end as Up and Reveal often got. This mid-tempo ballad has a nice, steady drum beat, some well-placed calculator synths, a few heavenly guitar lines, and a captivating chorus. The melody is good, but I get the feeling it was much more of a toss-off than something that came from their gut.

Make it All OK C+

Yeah... if only it all could be like Oklahoma. Um... the red dirt. Terrible roadways. Indian reservations. Radical conservatives. Everything. ........ Er. I guess they might not be referring to the state. Ah. Anyway. This is a piano ballad that is so plain and dull that I wouldn't be surprised if someone in a youth group in Oklahoma wrote it (and then the heathen Michael Stipe altered the lyrics). The arrangements are very nice, though, giving us a delectable mix of pianos, guitars and vocals! It's hardly original, of course, but it sounds nice. If only these guys remembered how to deliver on the melodies...

Final Straw C

I was thinking this song sounded like an old '50s and '60s protest folk ditty when I remembered that R.E.M. wrote to protest the George W. Bush administration with hopes to prevent his re-election. ...Yup, and just like protest '50s and '60s protest folk, this song didn't change a thing at all. (Musicians are nutty people as it is, and average people don't take anything they say seriously.) Anyway, I'm not going to analyze the lyrics because Michael Stipe is mumbling, and I can't understand what he's saying. I'm just going to tell you that the song itself is boring. It starts out with a rapidly strummed acoustic guitar, the kind that would make Joan Baez flip her toupee, but some ugly, noisy instruments come into litter things later on drowning out Stipe's vocals some more. I don't care so much about the somewhat misfired instrumentation as I do the completely boring melody. Did these guys forget what a melody was? Do we need to force you to listen to ABBA albums?

I Wanted to Be Wrong D+

Alright, this is getting seriously bad. I sort of like the instrumentation even though the rhythm section is weaker than the Oklahoma state road system. The string section reminds me of that one famous Louis Armstrong song that I shouldn't even be mentioning because it's jazz. But that's all the song has going for it, and the strings get old after about 10 seconds anyway. Michael Stipe's world-weary vocals are still nice, but he can't save such a nothing-melody and these bland harmonies. BACK TO SCOTLAND WITH YE! .... Er... or Greece, or Georgia, or wherever you're from.

Wanderlust B

This is more like it, my laddies. This has more of a happy and upbeat pace, and thus the mostly uninteresting melody is easier to take. This is a sort of sunshine pop song with a bouncy pop-piano and a bright drum beat that The Turtles might come up with, but it wouldn't be one of their better ones. I seriously don't know why R.E.M. just doesn't go all out and make an album full of this sunshine-pop stuff. They obviously adore it...

Boy in the Well B

This is a lot moodier than the previous song, but it's not so different in quality. The verses are rather gray and drab, but the chorus picks up some considerable steam. The melody is decent enough to be passable. Again, the ultra-clean instrumentation is very similar to the way it was in Automatic For the People, but the only thing holding it back are lesser melodies.

Aftermath B

This song begins as though it might be an A or A-, but it loses terrible momentum by the time it reaches the end that I could do nothing but continuously degrade the song. And just a plain B is where it ended. The pacing is a little happier than normal, and I like that bright piano worked gently into the mix as well as a steady pop drum beat. We can also hear a cool, pulsating fuzzy bass doing a neat thing on occasion. The melody is OK for about 30 seconds before it quickly runs out of steam. Unfortunately, they don't do anything to the instrumentation to keep the experience fresh.

High Speed Train C+

There was some potential here... I like the harmonies, and I also like the way they introduce that drum beat. But once again the song grows terribly dull by the time it reaches the end of its five-minute run, and they don't do anything to refresh the mood in between. Furthermore, there's this distorted feedback noise they inserted throughout the track, which I thought we firmly established in Monster, was a terrible idea.

The Worst Joke Ever C-

Yeah, I'm starting to get supremely bored. They do a nice job picking up things in a more majestic chorus with a full string section and tubular bells... But the melody is as empty as a Diet Sprite, and that effect greatly loses its power by the end, anyway. Man... this album is BORRRRRRRRINGGGGGGGGGGG.

The Ascent of Man D

Stipe annoys me profusely me with that 'yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah' nonsense he sings throughout this track, but chances are I was going to be annoyed anyway. Sorry, but I can only take so many of these bland melodies. And those “yeah's” just make matters worse. I can't even enjoy that subtle fuzz-bass like I'm supposed to. ......This is quite possibly the worst song R.E.M. has ever done. I would love to argue that, but I really want to stop listening to this song.

Around the Sun C+

I took a few deep breaths, and the prognosis is this is a pretty good song. Not terribly great or anything, but at least Stipe's vocals aren't annoying me. Though I do really wish they would have taken a moment to develop melodies. Honestly, I don't know why this is such a task... they used to be able to write great melodies! Was that farmer drummer guy such an important factor? ...I suppose he was. The one nice thing about this song is that it isn't so samey from beginning to end. Though the only part I actually like is in the middle where the drums adopt a stomping beat along with weird, overdubbed vocals that sound very menacing. The beginning of it is more of an average folky thing that I don't care about. The end of it is a flooded and dreary thing that I don't care about. OK, album over.

Accelerate (2008)

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Living Well is the Best Revenge B+

...yeah, that's what losers always say. Anyway, I like this song! It's nothing super amazing, but it's also a *rock* song that only lasts three minutes. I know... the last time they tried to rock out was in Monster, but this is much more straightforward. So, unpretentious rock music can't hurt, right? No! It can't! The guitars are hard and fast, but not *too* hard and fast, and Stipe puts a fun sort of snarl to his vocal performance. Oh yes. The riffs are good. This is fun to listen to. Awesome.

Man-Sized Wreath A

Whoah!!!! These guys must've went through a Buddhist sort of spiritual revival before writing the material for this album, because this is right up there with their classic material. Well, the song textures undoubtedly would have been more intricate and they wouldn't have used that cheapish (but awesome) fuzzy guitar, but the melody wouldn't have been much catchier. The verses of the song is quite fun to hear them play, and it even has some of the coolest most danceable bass-line that I would have imagined in an R.E.M. song. But that chorus is so wonderful that it becomes utterly airborne! Oh man, it's been awhile since I've gotten this excited about R.E.M.!!!!! This is a good sign. A very good sign.

Supernatural Superserious A-

These guys are really cooking now, and all it took was a little bit of 'back to basics.' This is a very simple riff-rock tune that's about three minutes long. The riff is simple and catchy, they come out with a chorus that's rightly hooky. The middle-eight section is catchy, too. Cool! Michael Stipe doesn't do anything other than sing with his awesome voice. Why did they ever think their music needed to be more than this?

Hollow Man B

This one doesn't make much of an impression on me at all. But you know, that's OK, because it doesn't suck. That's what's important about R.E.M. albums in this stage of their career. It's also less than three minutes long, which shows that they had a better idea about how their music actually sounded. It starts out with a little bit of twinkly, organic piano while Stipe sings something not-too-interesting with it. An acoustic guitar picks up, and it's still not too interesting, but at least it helps the song flow. Then heavy electric guitar comes in for a loud chorus. Again, it's not too wonderfully melodic, but I appreciate that there's a mood change.

Houston A

Houston, we don't have a problem! That two-note organ riff that blares constantly through the song is so freaking cool that it's inspiring me to remove my pants and dance around the room with glee. It sounds like some sort of big ship, except it's a little more Procol Harum-ish. The twinkly acoustic guitar was a simple though brilliant idea to gives it that old-time R.E.M. feel that I've been missing for so long! In fact, this instrumentation is so cool that I don't really care that the vocal melody is nothing special. Indeed, this is one of the cases where Michael Stipe is mumbling inaudibly, and sounds very very cool at it.

Accelerate A

Holy crap, this song is so incredibly strong for R.E.M. in their old age that it now has me wondering if they were taking some sort of performance-enhancing drug! The guitars sound so cool here, playing a remarkably simple but driving riff with excellent backbone, rock 'n' roll drums to make the whole thing danceable. Stipe's vocals are mixed well, and yet I don't understand a word he's saying. (Oh, how nice it is to hear this band back in full form!) There's a little bit of an ugly synthesizer in the background, but it actually adds to the atmosphere instead of just being distracting. This is a rock 'n' roll song first and foremost, and it's a fun one!

Until the Day is Done B-

This is more of an acoustic ballad with tightly strummed and heavily layered acoustic guitars, very faint background synthesizers. The song is structured well in a verses-chorus-verses format, which I do like. But what I don't care for in this song is the lack of a memorable melody. Unfortunately, as an acoustic ballad, it doesn't have the luxury of a 'driving beat' to keep it going. It's also one of the longest songs in the album, at four minutes, although I'd still say this running length doesn't come close to overdoing it.

Mr. Richards B+

Yeah, it's great how well they're doing these heavier songs. I don't believe they've ever done this type of song so well this consistently. (I guess Monster was the only other album they've done this on.) The guitar sounds excellent. It's a rather distorted, heavy drone, but it's mixed perfectly well with the stable drum beat and Stipe's awesome vocals. Not only does the song sound good, but there's an actual vocal melody in here! GET THIS! A MELOOOOOODDY!!! (I think it shows that I've spent way too much time in the recent past listening too much to their other recent albums.)

Sing For the Submarine A-

Wow, man! At five minutes, this song is positively epic for Accelerate! Honestly, I didn't think much about it at first; I was accusing it of being rather melodically bland with a rather bleak atmosphere. But the more I listen to it, the more I like it. It took me some time to realize that there was a vocal melody lurking somewhere in there, and they take a few very interesting turns. Sure, the bleak mood of the song doesn't change at all, but the drums are mightily awesome, usually trudging along steadily up until a really crazy explosion. There are some very subtle wobbly back-up vocals, which somehow makes this whole song seem so much richer. Sure, the melody could have been more memorable, but I'm close to the opinion that this is a masterstroke for them.

Horse to Water B

This is quite possibly the weakest of the 'hard-rock' tracks from the album, but it still comes off as a very solid track with more of these highly confident and spirit-filled vocal performances from Stipe. Plus, the guitar does this really cool, low-pitched sort of “wail” that sounds really excellent. What I don't care about is that squeaky electric guitar tone that we hear in the vocals... That chorus is fine, but it sounds a little too much like the average thing that bands like Green Day put out.

I'm Gonna DJ A-

Now they're living their punk dreams! I guess they were lamenting, a little, about spending the '80s acting like depressed art-freaks instead of rocking out with the punks a little more. This song comes fully equipped with hugely pounding drums, towering drums, bouncy bass, glammy vocals and two-minute running lengths. This is quite good, too; it's very confident and driving. I can't recall them ever trying something like this before, so congrats on nailing the genre with your first try!

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