CD Review: R.E.M.


R.E.M.
And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987
Capitol/I.R.S.
By David Chiu

Throughout its nearly 25-year career, R.E.M. has always put out consistent albums, some great ones. Fans would agree however that its best songs happened when the group was on I.R.S. Records for most of the ‘80s. During that period, the Athens, Ga. band defined—maybe invented—college music. The lyrics may be cryptic and singer Michael Stipe might sound incomprehensible. but the shimmering, melodic music draws from a tradition inspired by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, the Byrds and ‘70s punk. “Radio Free Europe,” the group’s first single might have seem out of place in an era of “Every Breath You Take” and “Billie Jean,” but it’s an adrenaline-inspired pop rocker for those disaffected by the sorry-state of commercial pop music then (and still now). The triumphs are many to be found on this compilation: “Driver 8,” the funky “Can’t Get There From Here,” “Gardening At Night,” the gorgeous “Fall On Me,” the band’s first Top Ten hit “The One I Love,” and the exuberant rocker “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” R.E.M. would eventually sign with a big major label and for a time, was the biggest band in the world thanks to “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts,” but there is no doubt that the early material collected on “And I Feel Fine” had something to do with that success. It is an absolute must for any collection on ‘80s modern rock music (If possible, get the double-disc edition that features some previously unreleased and live tracks from the era).

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