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R.E.M.: New Adventures In Hi-Fi

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R.E.M.

Album: New Adventures In Hi-Fi
Label: Warner Bros.

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It's already been the subject of critical spooging in every publication from Rolling Stone to myriad college papers, and darned if R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi isn't actually a fine addition to the band's equally spooged-about canon. Much has been made of the way the album marries the soft, mellow, introspective balladry of Automatic for the People ("New Test Leper," "E-Bow the Letter" with Patti Smith) with the roughed-up guitar-rock of Monster ("Departure," "Binky the Doormat"). But what's far more impressive about Hi-Fi is the abundance of new tricks, like the static and effects that highlight "Undertow"; or the Public Enemy-style siren that runs through the otherwise-melancholy, seven-minute "Leave"; or the surf-exotica of the instrumental "Zither"; or the banjo that subtly drives the shuffling closing track "Electrolite." That's the draw of the 65-minute Hi-Fi: It's not just that it was recorded in numerous bizarre locations during the band's last tour; it's that it displays that restless movement on a creative level as well.