If you were a cool kid in the 1980s, you’ll have listened to R.E.M.
You’ll have impressed people by playing their cheerfully apocalyptic It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and other songs like Exhuming McCarthy from Document, their fifth and most political studio album. It was not all politics though. Their next album, Green (1988), featured the single, Stand which contains the line:: “Your feet are going to be on the ground, Your head is there to move you around.” which I think we can all agree, is genuinely very helpful information.
As the 1990s began, their next two albums, Out of Time and Automatic For The People (both 1991) helped make them become one of the most successful groups on Earth. This was the era of peak R.E.M. with songs which even old people know like Shiny Happy People, Man on the Moon, Everybody Hurts and Losing My Religion. Michael Stipe went from being all shy and hairy to all bald and cool like Doctor Manhattan from Watchman (although not blue).
The inevitable backlash came with their next album, Monster (1994) which had a scary orange cover with a weird dog on it. It had tracks like What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? and Crush With Eyeliner on. It was certainly different. Some people thought they were trying to sound like Nirvana. 29 years on, it doesn’t sound anything like Nirvana and holds up pretty well.
R.E.M. continued producing interesting music into the 21st century. Their 2001 album, Reveal featuring Imitation of Life and All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star) remains a high point. They split in 2011.
This book isn’t really an ‘album by album’ guide at all. But it is a comprehensive history of one of the best American bands ever, so well worth reading.
REM: Album by Album, by Max Pilley. Published by: Pen & Sword.