Fans of one of the last, great, decade-spanning rock and roll bands can’t believe it, or at least refuse to (I know I do). R.E.M. are really going to sleep with the rapid eye movements and calling it quits. Rolling Stone called them ‘the best band in the world’. These nice guys certainly and genuinely were, and now they finally finish last, shaking hands and outlasting all their peers over the years. Now another ‘Greatest Hits’ package is expected, but this is the mother of them.
Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982–2011 shows the band’s humility, honesty, humour and, most importantly, heart-filled hits. Just under 30 years of classics are brought together for 40 tracks over two tremendous discs, essential for die-hard to new-born fans.
From the independent ‘I.R.S. Years’ to the latest and last tracks from the band, the new and old are brought together seamlessly on an epic but cohesive set. This coda to their career is as classic as their tremendous tenure. This Warner Bros. music release is such a soundtrack to many generations it’s cinematic. This band need a film like Pearl Jam. They defined the expansion, growth and now the nostalgic love of the nineties. Step forward Spielberg. From the band’s first Gardening at Night outing off the Chronic Town EP, to the last devotion of Oh My Heart off this year’s formidable and final album Collapse Into Now, it’s all here – loud and clear.
Everybody Hurts, Man On The Moon, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, The One I Love, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, Shiny Happy People, Losing My Religion, Nightswimming, Electrolite and Orange Crush can all be heard too from a band that have too many classics, of not just theirs but modern music itself, to remember all in one go. This is where this definitive guide comes into play. Merging classic albums of the early days (like Fables of the Reconstruction and Life’s Rich Pageant, which was honoured with its own 25th Anniversary special this year) to the peak time of Out of Time and Automatic For The People and beyond to the later greats of Up and Reveal to make a catalogue collection that makes this collective stand out, showing that as a band they really had something more than the rest.
So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry), (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville, Fall on Me and truly the Finest Worksong help show new fans just how defining R.E.M. were in their early years. While the likes of Bad Day (although originally recorded for ‘Pageant’ we learnt this year), At My Most Beautiful, The Great Beyond, Imitation of Life, Leaving New York and the wild energy of Living Well Is the Best Revenge show the old heads that Stipe, Buck and Mill still had it. If that isn’t enough, then there is always the serious and significant new single We All Go Back to Where We Belong, the most-high Hallelujah and the strong-end of A Month of Saturdays to finish this compilation and the band’s collection.
This really is a definitive package of one of the world’s most defining bands, but to get to know one of the greatest bands better, you really have to go beyond the hits. The depth and dignity of a trio that embodies these qualities to the letters of the words of their songs are really found in the individual albums. This is no sales pitch; this really is how it is for a band that has a classic for an album. You can’t quantify decades of definition into a double disc (besides it’s criminal that more tracks from the incredible Up aren’t in pride of place here, I mean Daysleeper was a huge hit regardless). It will come to die-hard fans creating their own compilations, mixtapes and playlists, but still this stunning set will more than do. What won’t is what we’ll do now the last disc of the band that saved rock and roll music is pressed and released. Now that’s a cut. TIM DAVID HARVEY.