R.E.M.: Up (25th Anniversary Edition) (Craft) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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R.E.M.

Up (25th Anniversary Edition)

Craft

Feb 12, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Over the past decade or so, all of R.E.M.’s Warner Brothers era albums (which spanned from 1988’s Green to their swan song, 2011’s Collapse Into Now) have been reissued, typically in chronological order. This 1998 classic, however, was saved for last and though I’m not sure why, I know they definitely saved the best for last. Yes, you read that correctly. I think this album is perhaps their very best, or if not, at least tied with Lifes Rich Pageant (my favorite of the incredible 1982-1987 I.R.S. era), though at the time it confused me a bit. Over the last 25 years, its stature (and its fanbase) has grown, though overall, it’s still a criminally underrated and underappreciated album in their catalog. That said, it was one of their most successful albums internationally (especially in Europe), so in this case, the Americans didn’t know what the Europeans understand.

After the loss of founding member and original drummer Bill Berry, R.E.M. retreated and made the last “rock” album of their career up to that point, very audibly sonically more taken with late ’90s indie rock stalwarts like Stereolab, their tourmates Radiohead (whose producer Nigel Godrich worked on this album), Tortoise and the rest of the Thrill Jockey catalog, and so on. This is no mere copy nor an instance of a major label group of global superstars aping more underground sounds, but rather of a great band redefining their entire aesthetic and creating a masterwork in the process while being aware of what was happening around them.

The Beach Boys influence that started with songs such as the instrumental “Endgame” or “Near Wild Heaven” (both from 1991’s smash diamond-seller Out of Time) comes into full flower here on “At My Most Beautiful,” but that’s hardly the only “beautiful” moment on here. The lead single “Daysleeper” is another standout here, as is the Leonard Cohen referencing “Hope” (the reference to “Matthew” is not a reference to murdered Wyoming student Matthew Shepard) and “Walk Unafraid,” perhaps the closest this album gets to their mid ’90s sound.

The vinyl is lovingly remastered by Kevin Gray and like the original, it’s a double LP that doesn’t come with a gatefold. The two-CD version also has a bonus disc containing their live set from the set of the TV show Party of Five. (www.remhq.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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