Monday, November 17, 2003

REM – In Time (Warner Brothers, 2003)

In Time is a compilation of work that REM has done for Warner Brothers from 1988 – 2003. Not exactly a greatest hits, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge of well known songs, obscurities and a few new tunes thrown in. There’s also a special two-disc version that has an extra disc of b-sides and rarities, something like Dead Letter Office from the Warner Brothers years.

The disc kicks off with “Man on the Moon,” one of their most radio-friendly songs and somewhat unrepresentative of their melancholy yet extraordinary album Automatic For the People. Things bog down a little bit with music from their most recent and least successful albums. “Bad Day” is one of the new songs recorded for this disc and it builds on the old “It’s The End of the World…” template with varying success.

“Losing My Religion” is a throwback to the IRS years with the jangling guitars and ominous, pained vocals. In general, the most recent material from albums like Up and Reveal are the least successful. Originally Michael Stipe was quoted as saying that the band would breakup on December 31, 1999. In retrospect, this may not have been such a bad idea. While they aren’t exactly floundering, the music of recent years lacks the spark of their earlier music. The disc ends on a strong if somber note with three of their finest ballads, “Everybody Hurts,” “Electrolite,” and “Nightswimming” which is rivaled only by The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset” as the most beautiful pop song ever written.

Longtime fans may not much to interest them besides a few new songs, but dabblers and radio listeners may find this to be a listenable package of the band's recent music.

Rating: 7.5

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