The REM Experiment

During 2012 I decided to listen to every album from XTC - a band that I knew I was a fan of but didn't have the full story on. So, for 2013, I decided to take on another band's entire discography in order to get a better understanding of their offerings, their influence and their place in the history of rock and roll. I'm a bit behind schedule on finishing in 2013 but I can officially say I've heard every single R.E.M. album there is to hear.

Prior to this undertaking, I was familiar with Automatic for the People and Monster - the two albums released during my high school days. I knew pieces of Green and Out of Time because I am person that listened to the radio and "It's The End of the World As We Know It" is pretty much ubiquitous to everyone. Even with all that in mind, I still had a lot to consume.

Unlike the XTC project, I just decided to start at the top Discography and work my way forward (for the record, I also tacked Dead Letter Office on before Murmur). Hearing the band change from their early 80's days on IRS records to their late 80's Warner Bros debut of Green is fascinating. You can definitely hear a band finding their footing as they grow in their songwriting and it's unsurprising just how much you hear more contemporary bands moved by their works. The influence of R.E.M. is not to be understated.

Equally interesting as their first eight releases is the back half of their catalog - another seven albums that seems to really get glossed over when thinking about the band. Their confidence seems to stumble after Monster - are they a rock band? Are they experimenting with electronic music? Are they able to harken back to their more withdrawn beginnings? Maybe those questions are only clear in hindsight. Just by looking at the album titles you can assume the band is trying to push forward as they all have some positive slant to them - New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal, Around the Sun, Accelerate and, finally, Collapse Into Now. Not unsurprising, the final album is probably their finest of the back half.

There's absolutely no way I can go on about REM in a manner that is more educated than those that have been following them since their inception. My insight into the bands musical offerings is cursory compared to the true fans but I find myself with an affinity for them that I certainly lacked before. It even helps inform my enjoyment of Michael Stipe's Tumblr, which was already well established.

If anyone else is curious to take on this discography experiment, I highly recommend REM as a candidate. There's not a single album that doesn't have something worth hearing on it and, for the most part, every album is an enjoyable experience on the whole. Some are certainly far better than others but having such a strong catalog is not an easy task.
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  • That's a great choice for a discography to work through. Life's Rich Pageant was my high school-era REM album but I wasn't cool enough to listen to them at the time. Document was where I started in earnest and hung on as a fan through the rest of the catalog.
    Michael on Monday, February 10th, 2014 @ 10:35am
  • i know we talked about a lot of different possibilities for 2014, but did we talk about doing Bruce Springsteen or The Cure? Both pretty influential.
    plainhuman on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 @ 11:59am
  • Actually, Bruce Springsteen was not part of The Cure. Those are two different bands.
    MusicGuy41 on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 @ 1:46pm
  • I think I'm going to go with Talking Heads for 2014. Honestly, ELO is more up my alley but maybe not as educational or influential. My only concern is that Talking Heads really only have eight official albums - not exactly a year's worth of listening.
    Michael on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 @ 2:14pm
  • so expand it to include david byrne and side projects? last suggestion: the melvins
    plainhuman on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 @ 2:35pm

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