In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988 – 2003

Another best-of compilation, this time featuring songs off of their major label period and none from their earlier period, complete with three “new” songs to make sure fans bought it and a whole extra CD of “Rarities and B-sides.” Joy howdy.

Firstdiscwise, the good news is that nearly all of these songs range from really great to really good. Your mileage will vary on which are which and whether “Everybody Hurts” is any good, and a few of them get old way quickly (“Electrolite” and “Orange Crush” are only good about once a month), but the songs by themselves are hard to argue with. R.E.M were maybe the premier serious band of the 90s, able to be artsy and seriousfaced without losing pathos or their sense of humour or ability to write great melodies, and ya’ll should recognize. Plus, the new songs are pretty good! They couldn’t include “It’s The End Of The World And I Feel Fine” so they included the almost-as-good pre-write “Bad Day”, old anti-social outtake “All The Right Friends” is annoying but ridiculously hooky, and the inscrutable (I tried scruting it many times to no avail) “Animal” has aged into a surprisingly good indie rock song. Go fligger!

On the frownfaced side, 90s radio favoured a certain moderate tempo, and since this is the hits (the only real “best of” decision was including the gorg “Nightswimming”), that sensibility plays out to look like R.E.M. were really re-writing the same few songs over and over. Combined with a few questionable sequencing choices (putting silly pop song “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” next to silly pop song “Stand” and ending the disc with three straight slowsters), it really isn’t much fun to listen to all the way through. Also, it contains “All The Way To Reno” for some fucking reason.

The second SeeD, for insertion into your discy spinny thingy, contains an hour of bonus soundy stuff, divided equally into alternate versions and genuine outtakes. The remakes are pretty fluffy aside from an astonishing live version of “Country Feedback” that’ll make you shit your pants in googoojoy, but the actual outtakes include the lovely ‘Fretless”, the somewhat convincing rocker “Revolution” and the bizarre “Chance (Dub)”. Plus, there’s a retake of the vulgar artfucker “Star Me Kitten” inexplicably and hilariously featuring William S. fucking Burroughs! How’d a bunch of musicians like these get an artist like that? I’ll even forgive them for including all three of the lame B-sides from the “Imitation Of Life” single for some reason. Guys – it’s a best-of, you don’t have to pretend that Reveal was good anymore!

8 / 10

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