I don’t know why I consider REM one of my favorite bands. They’ve made some great songs, sure, and a few are included on this compilation; an album-to-album collection of mostly popular singles, along with three new songs. But they’ve also made songs that aren’t so great. And a lot of those are also included here. There’s no “garbage”. That’s a joking display of modesty. But compared to personal favorites that aren’t included on this consumer-focused set, like Up‘s Sad Professor, some of what is emit a rather unpleasant odor.
The One I Love is the template for a generic “love” ballad and Everybody Hurts has always been overrated. But Shiny Happy People is better than bitter angry people say it is and I consider the second half of this chronological set; the era in which REM’s music supposedly began to decline; much better than the first. End Of The World, from that first half, is their best song, but the inclusion of Bad Day; their second best; a reworked demo-child of End Of The World; makes for an off-putting clash. They should have chosen one or the other.
I like that there’s no less than three songs from Collapse Into Now; a decision that serves as a free promotional plug for their last (final) album, released only a few months ago. Überlin, despite the stupid stylization of its title; the “Ü” means “thru”, and “berlin” is the capital city of Germany; soars. That’s thanks partially to the harmonic background vocals of Mike Mills, which also help make Leaving New York the best cut from Around The Sun. The Sidewinder is another major stand-out. And I have nothing but praise for Country Feedback.
But Driver 8 is tired. And New Test Leper, which sounds beautiful enough during the verses, falls under the weight of its deadpan chorus. How fitting is it then that the three new songs are also a mixed bag. A Month Of Saturdays is as lazy and unproductive as it sounds, but Hallelujah is comparatively enjoyable. Nicer still is We All Go Back To Where We Belong, which shines like the sun on a warm summer day. It’s just a pleasant song; the kind of melodic dream music REM should’ve focused more on during their twenty-nine years.
my rating = 3 of 5