Saturday, November 29, 2008

R.E.M. - Murmur Deluxe Edition (IRS, 1983; Universal, 2008)

To mark the twenty five years since its release, R.E.M.'s first full length album gets the deluxe remastering and unreleased stuff added treatment, and it works quite well. This album struck a nerve in the burgeoning college and indie rock scene, and word of mouth became a landslide which helped the group start to cross over. The mix of chiming guitars, mumbled lyrics (recorded in the studio bathroom) and incomprehensible lyrics made this album memorable. The remastering job is almost too good, shining light in and taking away some of the mystery that made tracks like "Radio Free Europe" and "Moral Kiosk" so fascinating. But the power of the original album cannot be denied, the band developed an original sound, and used that to enliven an unforgettable set of songs. They would reach these heights again with Document and Automatic for the People, but never with such mystery and imagination. Disc two is a live album recorded in Toronto in 1983, and reprises much of the material from the album. While there is a little more energy in the live setting, the arrangements are not drastically different from the studio versions, and this makes the second disc a pleasant but unessential addition. So, all in all, I think that the original album is a classic and worthy of any rock music fan's collection. Whether you need this deluxe edition is another question, it is probably best left for the big R.E.M. fans who will also enjoy the rarities in the live set like the cover of The Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again."
Murmur [Deluxe Edition] -

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