Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Top 5 R.E.M. albums

In honor of today's release of Accelerate, the long-sort-of-awaited album from R.E.M., I'm posting this top five. Edit: Now that I have listened to it and let it soak in for a month, Accelerate would be #5 on this list.

Tim's Top 5:
1. Automatic for the People - This could make a strong argument to be any band's finest work, with only two aberrations that I'm not enamored with (Star Me Kitten and New Orleans Instrumental No. 5 do little for me). "Everybody Hurts" has gotten too much credit and "Man on the Moon" made its way into popular culture, but the real majesty of the album is tied up in its other tracks -- Sweetness Follows, Monty Got A Raw Deal (the greatest song ever written about Montgomery Clift, sorry, The Clash), and Ignoreland...and the last two tracks -- nightswimming and Find The River, which are great achievements. I think if forced at knifepoint, Find the River would probably be my favorite R.E.M. song, but at the very least, it's on a short list with Daysleeper, Circus Envy, and Texarkana.

2. Murmur - As a disclaimer, I never listen to Murmur. I didn't hear it until I'd already been the owner of five R.E.M. albums at which point I was in disbelief that it was that amazing. So I can't say much except that I'm still in disbelief at its greatness even though later albums -- Document, for instance -- fell far short of expectations for me. Radio Free Europe and Talk About the Passion are great songs, Sitting Still and Catapult aren't off that level, and the sheer raw sound still charms me.

3. Monster - Ok, it got so much radio play that it took a long time to forgive for songs like Bang and Blame, which was hardly average, but this was a revelation -- R.E.M. could actually just drop the mandolins and quiet introspection and rock. Circus Envy is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs, and it's likely my absolute favorite after "Find the River".

4. Life's Rich Pageant - A perennially forgotten album, I will listen to it once a year and just be in disbelief that it took a year to get back to it. Fall On Me, What If We Give It Away?, and Cuyahoga are representative of the better parts of Out of Time and Green in the near future, but Begin the Begin and Superman also tend to point toward what Monster and, ultimately, Accelerate would become.

5. Up - More than any album, Up was aptly titled, because it actually seemed possible that R.E.M. might actually continue to improve after losing Bill Berry. Walk Unafraid, Sad Professor, The Apologist, Lotus and Hope all started to blur the line between traditional R.E.M. and production-heavy artists like Beck, but they still had the smallness of R.E.M.'s best work. Daysleeper is likely the best song R.E.M. has ever written, and it's not low on the list of the best songs they've ever recorded either.

Honorable mention: I could have made an argument that Green, Out of Time, or Accelerate belong on this list, but I'm content with what I've done.

Dan's Top 5:

Disclaimer - I am just starting to take an active listening role towards R.E.M., so forgive any poor taste.

1. Automatic for the People - Actually one of my favorite albums to listen to, which is a surprise, since I'm just starting to get into R.E.M. "Man on the Moon" is one of my favorite songs ever, and Drive is a great lead-off track. In all, nothing to complain about in this album (or any other R.E.M. album for that matter, lest I trigger Tim's blog-wrath)

2. Out of Time - Anyone claiming that "Losing my Religion" is their favorite R.E.M. song won't get any scoffs from me. Along with "Shiny Happy People," it presents the case for a strong album, though it can never have that master's touch like Automatic for the People.

3. Document - Responsible for two of my favorite R.E.M. songs, "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" and "The One I Love." As is typical, I've only heard the others a handful of times. But I have heard them.

4. Green - Much like Document, in that I'm enamored with two songs from it - I absolutely love "Orange Crush," and I'm pretty fond of "Stand." I've only heard the rest of the album once or twice, though. Such is my bad habit.

5. Murmur - I've actually not gotten around to listening to this one yet (though I do have it on my computer), but it does have "Radio Free Europe" on it, and I hear that's one of their classics. But that laziness on my part may be the only reason that this is ranked at the bottom.

Honorable Mention - Accelerate, which I don't have yet because Amazon is taking their sweet-ass time getting it to me.

Ryan's Top Five

In respect of R.E.M., I'll defer to my associates on this one--I love the REM that I know, but I know so pathetically little (save what everyone's heard on the radio) that I don't feel comfortable ranking albums. "Losing My Religion" is one of my favorite songs.

1 comment:

John Snediker said...

Best REM album was Reckoning! Hands down their best stuff! Sorry just had to say that. :-)