Monster (Remaster) R.E.M.

Album info

Album-Release:
1994

HRA-Release:
11.07.2012

Label: Concord Records

Genre: Rock

Subgenre: Classic Rock

Album including Album cover

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  • 1What's The Frequency, Kenneth?04:00
  • 2Crush With Eyeliner04:38
  • 3King Of Comedy03:41
  • 4I Don't Sleep, I Dream03:28
  • 5Star 6903:08
  • 6Strange Currencies03:53
  • 7Tongue04:13
  • 8Bang And Blame05:30
  • 9I Took Your Name04:03
  • 10Let Me In03:27
  • 11Circus Envy04:15
  • 12You04:53
  • Total Runtime49:09

Info for Monster (Remaster)

Not so long ago, Rolling Stone's David Fricke asked the late Kurt Cobain whom he admired among 'established' rock bands. Cobain unhesitatingly named R.E.M., using the occasion to send the band members a virtual mash note for remaining true to their muse and to themselves and for refusing to be swayed by the shifting winds of fashion and commerciality.

The comment was unexpected; R.E.M.'s decade-plus track record surely justified Cobain's praise, but their musical vision and his seemed so different. Cobain wore his heart on his sleeve, wrapping his often angry ruminations in swirls of guitar feedback and distortion. R.E.M.'s music has rarely screamed to make its point and has often seemed deliberately ambiguous. The intricate clarity of their arrangements has been tasteful to a fault.

But now all this is in the past and not just because of Cobain's sad demise. It's too bad he didn't live to hear Monster. If the new album isn't exactly a sonic grungefest, it comes a hell of a lot closer than anyone could have anticipated. Imagine earlier R.E.M. favorites like 'Ignoreland' or 'Radio Song' stripped of acoustic guitars, their lapidary, almost fussily pristine arrangements reduced to slabs of electric-guitar noise and power-chord riffing, and you're only beginning to get the picture. Gone are the manicured interweavings of strings, mandolins and other acoustic instruments, gone the pinpoint definition of instrumental and vocal parts that have characterized so many of R.E.M.'s recorded performances for so long. The two or three softer tunes that might not have sounded out of place on previous outings are pointedly sandwiched in the middle of the disc, surrounded by the sizzle of overdriven amps, snarling distortion and aggressive rhythms. Michael Stipe's singing, so difficult to decipher on early records, so plainspoken and out in front of the mixes since Green, has slipped back into the sonic murk, where it fights to be heard.

Don't misunderstand: R.E.M.'s exceptional pop craftsmanship, their luminous melodic inventions, their sense of mission — in short, everything fundamental — are still there and shining more brightly than ever. What has been jettisoned, at least this time out, is all that tasteful restraint. Monster is one urgent-sounding album, and that's as it should be; what the band has to say here is urgent, politesse be damned. Monster is concerned, in song after song, with problems of identity. It explores how important having a stable sense of one's own identity can be and how up for grabs identities have become in our postmodern media hothouse, where it's possible to slip on a new persona as easily as a new look and couture can mean anything from Paris fashions to body piercing to a sex change. The concept of reality itself is being called into question: Is this my life or an incredible virtual simulation?

Clearly these issues are of more than academic interest to Stipe, who has arrived at that media plateau where his identity is in danger of becoming public property, and personal reticence inspires unfounded speculation more effectively than it preserves privacy. If Prince (who's no longer Prince) sang lines like 'I'm straight, I'm queer, I'm bi' (from Monster's 'King of Comedy') or 'Do you give good head?/Am I good in bed?/I don't know/I guess so' (from 'I Don't Sleep, I Dream'), he would probably be taken literally. Stipe could just as easily be enumerating media guesses as to his own proclivities. He sounds like a man who's delighted to be a bit of an enigma, perhaps pleasantly surprised he has any private life left. But he hasn't held on to his personal space without a struggle. Toward the end of 'King of Comedy,' he practically snarls: 'I'm not your magazine/I'm not your television/I'm not your movie screen/I'm not commodity.'

But if the most basic issues of identity are at stake, the solutions are not necessarily cut and dried. In the course of Monster's 12 songs, Stipe goes at it from a variety of angles. In the opener 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?' he quotes director Richard Linklater's dictum 'Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy' and sounds ready to withdraw himself. In 'Crush With Eyeliner' he decides to lighten up and have a little fun, adapting an oh-so-affected David Bowie/Brian Ferry croon. 'I'm the real thing,' he insists archly, aided on the choruses by the practiced anomie of guest Thurston Moore, only to wonder in the next breath, 'How can I make myself faker to make her mine?' while the band slams out a glam-rock riff the late Mick Ronson might have appreciated.

These first two songs establish a dynamic that animates Monster all the way through: learning to live in an increasingly virtual world without losing your sense of self — or your sense of humor — in the process. Occasionally, Stipe begins to sound not unlike the proverbial rock star, whining about all those fans who just won't let him alone. At least that's what I get out of 'Bang and Blame' ('You're laying blame/You know that's not my thing.... It's not my fault'). But more often, he tackles the issues with the clearheaded insight and gift for the telling phrase we've come to expect from him. Whether the songs are rocking furiously — like 'Star 69,' with its garagey, Count Five-ish flavor or the surging hijacked-identity cyberdrama 'I Took Your Name' — or shimmering gorgeously like 'Tongue' and 'Strange Currencies,' they're all involving. There isn't a throwaway in the bunch.

What's truly impressive about Monster is the way R.E.M. make an album with such potentially grave subject matter so much fun. Earlier R.E.M. albums have been impressive in other ways and not without their own humor, but this one fairly barrels along, sweeping you into its vistas with the sure-footed élan of a band very confident of its considerable powers. It also affirms in no uncertain terms that R.E.M. are a band. Monster could be guitarist Peter Buck's finest hour; he's all over this album, proving he can be just as effective without all those overdubs and acoustic fills, playing more from the gut. Mike Mills' melodic bass lines are integral to many of these songs, his piano and organ add a range of textures to the soulful 'Tongue,' and he locks in with Bill Berry's crisp, incisive drumming to make a suitably 'monster' rhythm section. If you've been a fan of R.E.M. live and missed the raw power of their gigs on earlier albums, this one's for you.

But really, it's for all of us. Neither a 'get back' garage-roots move nor a calculated attempt to win over the Lollapalooza crowd with the Big Guitar Formula, Monster is a deeply felt, thematically coherent, consistently invigorating challenge to 'evolve or die,' with all the courage of its convictions. (Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone Magazine)

Bill Berry, drums, piano, vocals
Peter Buck, guitars
Mike Mills, bass, organ, piano, vocals
Michael Stipe, lead vocals

Additional Musicians:
Bertis Downs
Jefferson Holt

Produced by Pat McCarthy & R.E.M.
Recorded at Ocean Way Recording, Los Angeles, California
Criteria Recording Studios, Miami, Florida
Crossover Soundstage, Atlanta, Georgia
Kingsway Studio, New Orleans, Louisiana


R.E.M.
were an alternative rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, United States in 1980. The band originally consisted of Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Bill Berry (drums). Berry retired from the band in October 1997 after having suffered a brain aneurysm in 1995.

R.E.M. released its first single, 'Radio Free Europe', in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. The single was followed by the Chronic Town EP in 1982, the band's first release on I.R.S. Records. In 1983, the group released its critically acclaimed debut album, Murmur, and built its reputation over the next few years through subsequent releases, constant touring, and the support of college radio. Following years of underground success, R.E.M. achieved a mainstream hit in 1987 with the single 'The One I Love'. The group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988, and began to espouse political and environmental concerns while playing large arenas worldwide.

By the early 1990s, when alternative rock began to experience broad mainstream success, R.E.M. was viewed as a pioneer of the genre and released its two most commercially successful albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), which veered from the band's established sound. R.E.M.'s 1994 release, Monster, was a return to a more rock-oriented sound. The band began its first tour in six years to support the album; the tour was marred by medical emergencies suffered by three band members. In 1996, R.E.M. re-signed with Warner Bros. for a reported US$80 million, at the time the most expensive recording contract in history. The following year, Bill Berry left the band, while Buck, Mills, and Stipe continued the group as a three-piece. Through some changes in musical style, the band continued its career into the next decade with mixed critical and commercial success. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Work on the group's fourteenth album commenced in early 2007. The band recorded with producer Jacknife Lee in Vancouver and Dublin, where it played five nights in the Olympia Theatre between June 30 and July 5 as part of a 'working rehearsal'. R.E.M. Live, the band's first live album (featuring songs from a 2005 Dublin show), was released in October 2007. The group followed this with the 2009 live album Live at The Olympia, which features performances from their 2005 residency. R.E.M. released Accelerate in early 2008. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard charts, and became the band's eighth album to top the British album charts. Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke considered Accelerate an improvement over the band's previous post-Berry albums, calling it 'one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made.'

In 2010, R.E.M. released the video album R.E.M. Live from Austin, TX—a concert recorded for Austin City Limits in 2008. The group recorded its fifteenth album, Collapse into Now (2011), with Jacknife Lee in locales including Berlin, Nashville, and New Orleans. For the album, the band aimed for a more expansive sound than the intentionally short and speedy approach implemented on Accelerate. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, becoming the group's tenth album to reach the top ten of the chart. This release fulfilled R.E.M.'s contractual obligations to Warner Bros., and they began recording material without a contract a few months later with the possible intention of self-releasing the work.

On September 21, 2011, the band announced via its website that it was 'calling it a day as a band'. Stipe said that he hoped their fans realized it 'wasn't an easy decision': 'All things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.' Long-time associate and former Warner Bros. Senior Vice President of Emerging Technology Ethan Kaplan has speculated that shake-ups at the record label influenced the group's decision to disband. The band members will finish their collaboration by assembling the compilation album Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011, scheduled for release in November 2011. The album will be the first to collect songs from R.E.M.'s I.R.S. and Warner Bros. tenures, as well as the group's final studio recordings from post-Collapse into Now sessions.

On 21 September 2011, after over 30 years together, R.E.M. announced that they had split up. (Source: artists.letssingit.com)

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