Though the album is highly praised by both fans and critics alike, Accelerate saw the band repeating a formula that had worked for them in the past. After the somber and melancholic Around The Sun, R.E.M. went into the studio with the intent of making a more edgy rock record, much like they did going from Automatic For The People to Monster. Accelerate still has it’s moments where the band shines in their typical form, the album as a whole really falls short of the quality of the work the band had put out in recent years.
It’s very rare that with a band whose body of work is as impressive as R.E.M.’s, especially when the band are a bunch of perfectionists, as they are, that the band would release an album where the biggest stand out tracks are the singles. In the post-Bill Berry era of the band, R.E.M. continued struggling to find what worked, without really finding a formula that truly worked for them. Reveal is a great example of that.
13. Lifes Rich Pageant
While the band’s earliest works are still held in such high regard among both fans and critics, what truly makes something classic is its ability to stand the test of time, unfortunately the vast majority of the band’s earliest records sound completely stale and dated when listened to now, with a fresh set of ears. While, overall, the band’s earliest works sound dated, it’s Lifes Rich Pageant that sounds the most out of touch with modern pop culture. However, I am not opposed to giving credit where it’s due, in that the Lifes Rich Pageant single “Falls On Me,” is what began the band’s ascent into the pop mainstream.
12. Collapse Into Now
Anytime a band decides to call it quits, you hope that they go out on a strong note; massive world tour, the best record of their careers, etc. But, as you’d expect from a band like R.E.M., they chose to walk away quietly, no massive world tour, and an album that can easily be forgotten somewhere between their best album and their worst album. While the lyrics are some of the best lyrics of the post-Millinium R.E.M. songs, its the vocal delivery and the music itself that falls short, although it’s the type of thing you’d expect from a band who’s known for their modesty, just as much as their music, to go out on a more somber note than a high note.
Reckoning was the point where R.E.M. really blurred the line between what was post-punk and what was alternative. The album stands as a pivotal point in the band’s career and really helped to elaborate on the sound that the band had created with their first record.
This album helped to usher in a completely new era for the band. Green was the last album the band would release in the 80’s, the last album for 3 years, and would spawn the last tour before a lengthy 5 year break from touring. The album not only showcased a new sound, which helped to show that R.E.M. could write silly pop songs and not have to be serious all the time, but it also established the 4 members of the band as true multi-instrumentalists.
Document was the final album that R.E.M. released with IRS records and the first album to really catapult the band into mainstream success, thanks to the singles “The One I Love” and “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine.)” The album took R.E.M. to a whole new level with Stipe’s lyrics being brought more to the forefront and being more audible, as he had been known for mumbling his lyrics in the early days of R.E.M.
08. Out of Time
I’ve always felt like this album could probably be at the bottom of the list as far as R.E.M. records go, just because of the song “Shiny Happy People,” but you really can’t disregard an otherwise good record just because of one song. I’m not saying it’s a bad song, it just never felt like an R.E.M. song, it felt more like a B52’s song featuring R.E.M. But, in the band’s repertoire of songs, Out of Time is still a great record that has definitely stood the test of time.
This record is often held in high regards because…well, it was the album that introduced us to R.E.M., but it was no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. Like, most of their other earlier material, Murmur sounds very dated, so why is it in the top, and hovering so close to the top 5? Because it’s still a damn good rock record. From Michael Stipe’s cryptic lyrics to Peter Buck’s jangly guitar riffs and Mike Mills’ trademark backing vocals, Murmur was a breath of fresh air and a great introduction to the band.
I put Up at number 6 against my own better judgement. In my personal opinion, Up would probably rank at number 2 or 3, but most fans of the band actually did not care too much for this record, despite the fact of the importance of the album. Up was the re-introduction to the band, it was the end of one era and the beginning of another, as most albums by them have been, but it was also the first album they released as a 3-piece band, and still remains a significant effort in their discography.
05. New Adventures in Hi-Fi
New Adventures in Hi-Fi was almost like a bittersweet end to the 4-piece R.E.M. that we had come to know and love over the last more than a decade and a half. It saw the band leave behind the hard rocking sound of Monster and return to a more melancholic sound like that of Automatic For The People, with some more rocking moments, and a lot more growth and maturity.
04. Fables of The Reconstruction
While Fables of The Reconstruction may seem like a bit of a departure for the band, it served as the first album to see R.E.M. move from their own comfort zone and move towards the sound for which they would eventually become known.
03. Around The Sun
At first, Around The Sun may be difficult to listen to, but as you listen more, the album becomes almost like a soothing lullaby. The album’s release was timed almost perfectly with the 2004 presidential election, in typical R.E.M. fashion. At a time when political tensions in the United States were at an all time high, Around The Sun is the answer to that, by assuring the listener that no matter what happens, everything will be alright.
Monster remains one of the band’s greatest works. It was a major stylistic shift from what the band had been doing in recent years and was a huge nod the grunge bands that they had influenced. From start to finish, Monster is a rip-roaring sonic explosion of sound.
01. Automatic For The People
Automatic For The People is easily one of the most influential albums of all time. No matter what genre, you can find that this album has influenced someone.