As you may have heard around the internet, R.E.M. just released the 25th anniversary edition of Out Of Time, which made many of us feel very old. But also very good, because it’s a watershed album for the influential band, launching as it did “Losing My Religion.” (Also “Shiny Happy People” and, way more importantly, “Country Feedback.”) The set is available in various permutations, all of which include excellent liner notes by A.V. Club contributor Annie Zaleski, as well as previously unheard demos and, in one iteration, a live disc.
The band coaxed a bunch of its famous fans into creating Spotify playlists of their favorite R.E.M. songs, and even wrote some blurbs. We, in turn, coaxed R.E.M. into letting us publish a few of those exclusively. So below, you’ll find three of our favorites, and below that, a complete list of the blurbers/playlist-makers; those that aren’t featured here (we’ve got author Dave Eggers, former VJ Tabitha Soren, and Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood) will be sprinkled out over R.E.M.’s social channels over the next week or so. Make your own playlist in the comments!
Dave Eggers: “I go back to Murmur, which I read about when I was in seventh-grade, pivoting hard from Journey/Styx/Loverboy to REM and the Plimsouls. REM was the first real concert I went to as a sentient being (UIC Pavilion, between Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction), and I still have that pink T-shirt with the yellow bicycle on it. Question: What’s worse, wearing a 30-year-old concert T-shirt, or talking about a 30-year-old concert T-shirt you have saved in a drawer like a holy relic? As you ponder the answer, here are some REM songs, some of my favorites, more or less in the order they were released.”
Tabitha Soren: “There are many wonderful things about R.E.M.: their songwriting, the democracy in the band, their political activism, their intelligence. But the first thing that comes to my mind is the fact that the good people in the band were supported by really good-hearted, trustworthy, hard-working people who were so much FUN. I can’t tell you how rare that was in the ‘90s music business.”
Patterson Hood: “I was lucky. I worked at a record store (Record Bar #98 in Florence Alabama) as my first job. I was turned on to R.E.M.’s Chronic Town a few weeks before Murmur came out. I became an obsessive fan. We ran the album on sale and every time we would play it in the store people would inevitably buy it. It was my album of the year in 1983. A year later a friend took me to see them in Oxford Mississippi on the Reckoning tour and I was convinced that they would become the biggest band in the world. For once in my life, I wasn’t wrong.
Looking back, I’m taken back by how incredibly well these songs hold up a few decades later. They sound as fresh and amazing today as they did in 1982. Maybe even better. I still mourn them no longer making new records or playing shows, but I can’t imagine my life without the records that they did make and the memories of the life-changing shows I witnessed.
Here is my essential listening list of R.E.M.’s first ten years of making records. A rein of masterful records that puts them in the exalted company of only a tiny handful of bands ever and totally alone in their era.
Other blurbers and playlisters include Brian Molko of Placebo, tennis pro Jim Courier, photographer/filmmaker Anton Corbijn, Big Star’s Jody Stephens, violinist Robert McDuffie, chef Hugh Acheson, director James Ponsoldt, writer David Corn, Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond, and director Alex Young. Follow R.E.M. on Facebook and Twitter for links to those playlists, too, and launch yourself down a rabbit hole of one of America’s greatest bands. Oh, and you can order Out Of Time right here.