25 years has flown by!!! But on the other hand the early 90s feels like a life time ago !!!
Purchase and Packaging
I cheated with this one a little as I bought it as soon as it was re released back in November but didn’t have much time to listen to it then. When the music is this good though it’s always worth a revisit at anytime.
I bought the album from Reflex Records in Newcastle. It was great to go in on my lunch hour and buy an album that had been released that week and was held in the new releases section, I can’t remember the last time I did that. It cost me about £17 and comes on a single in a slip case on 180 gram vinyl. It’s a re-release so happy that they have kept the packaging the same as the original. There is a deluxe version but this is a tad expensive for demos.
when the needle hits the vinyl and “Radio Song” begins it feels as it did 25 years ago, like good wine it has got better with age. Even the somewhat dated early 90’s style rapping doesn’t distract to much and is used sparingly enough.
“Loosing My Religion” is an all time classic, as soon as that intro with the mandolin starts it’s just pure magic. The lyrics are profound and speak to a lot of people. The music video for the song an’t bad either (check it out on Youtube here). For a lot of people this song and album was the first time they had really heard of R.E.M. And how lucky they must have felt to realise that there was a back catalog of around 6 albums they could also enjoy.
As “Low” starts its a complete jolt and total change of gear. A have never really been a fan of “Low” it just seems to go on forever and has no meaning at all. When I had it on CD I would always skip the track but as I can’t do this on vinyl I have come to appreciate the track much more and it gives the album a more varied feel.
The album jumps from happy songs to sad songs one after the other to great effect, as an example “Low” is followed by the more upbeat “Near Wild Heaven” which then drops down into “Endgame” with its minimal lyrics to finish off side one on a bit of a downer. Then side two opens with the happiest song R.E.M. have ever created. It’s not a fav of mine but I enjoy it for what it is, which is a great fluffy kids song, is a good opener to the rest of the second half of the album. “Belong” then moves straight in with the lyrics “the world collapsed on a Sunday morning”, it’s like those shinny happy people never even existed. This was R.E.M.s genius, they could take you from total joy to utter depression in the space of one track.
Better on 2 sides with the up tempo track shiny happy people on side 2
I have had the album on CD since about 1997 and didn’t think the vinyl would add anything, I was wrong. The album works better with 2 sides, it just flows better and has a good spread of tracks across each side. It’s an album created by a rock band but its done in a style that isn’t heavy. It can be enjoyed as music in the background or sat listening at high volume, enabling you to take in the great guitar riffs and melodies. The music doesn’t dominate though, it’s mixed in such a way to allow Stipe’s fantastic voice to really shine. The vinyl format really helps this and brings out all these aspects in clear detail.
The album finishes on a great high with “Me In Honey”, I really enjoy the way Kate Pierson’s backup vocals add real depth to a song which in truth is a simple repeated couple of chords. So simple but extremely effective.
What a great album and one you should listen to and own. It isn’t the height of R.E.M.s work that accolade would come next with “Automatic for the People”. Put it on your player and step back to the early 90’s when music was simpler and to the point in a better way. I love this album.