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Old 10-18-2013, 02:12 AM
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Do you think REM's 'Monster' is a terrible album?


It sold well, had a couple of hit singles, got decent reviews at the time. By the late 90's it was a permanent resident of the bargain bin at record stores and nowadays any discussion about REM will usually contain the phrase "I liked them until Monster"

I don't remember my REM fan friends hating it in at the time. Although I preferred the early folksy IRS albums, I listened to Monster a decent amount after I bought it back then. I was listening to some old MP3's in my car tonight and there were a few songs from Monster. About like I remembered, nothing particularly bad or cringeworthy. My impression though was that it sounded very dated. Most of there stuff from 1983-1992 is timeless. Monster sounds like an album from 1994. If it had been a debut album by some other band in 1994 it probably would have been a moderate success and then lumped in with all those other generic mid 90's 'modern rock' bands. So I still don't think it's awful, it just suffers when compared to the previous work.

What's your opinion?
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:25 AM
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I think Automatic for the People was so good, that anything after it had to be a letdown.
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:55 AM
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Monster is okay for what it is, but it think it definitely marked the point when REM stopped producing influential, defining, classic music and just started making...more REM albums.
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Old 10-18-2013, 03:02 AM
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It was the first REM album that came out when I was properly into music, aged about 12. The singles off it are excellent but as others have said it pales in comparison with previous classic albums they seemed to mill out for a decade. New Adventures In Hi-Fi, the subsequent album is a better album IMHO and marks the true point of no return for me. Up has some great tunes, and the rest of their albums have one or two decent tunes but had they stopped with New Adventures they'd have had little complaint from me.
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Old 10-18-2013, 07:22 AM
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I always thought Green was the first album everyone hated.

By "everyone hated" I mean the one that sold more copies.

ETA: And had shitty annoying songs and was overproduced.

Last edited by Manwich; 10-18-2013 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 07:32 AM
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Sorry - they lost me around Document or even the one before that - I much preferred the jangly guitar, word salad stuff off the first few albums. Pilgrimage? Moral Kiosk? Harborcoat? That's some brilliant music right there....

When Stipe chose to sing coherent vocals: a) it was a bid for greater commercial success - and IMHO it affected their music; and b) led to him write maudlin crap like The One I Love and Everybody Hurts. Glurg.

As for Monster, it has a few solid songs on it, but is way past their sell date.
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Old 10-18-2013, 08:02 AM
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Eh, they were having some fun, blowing off steam, tipping a hat to 70s glam rock/glitter rock, kickin' out the jams. "Crush with Eyeliner" is the best achievement in this direction. I think they were thinking more about how this music would be fun to play and hear LIVE -- they toured with Monster, but not with the previous Automatic.... It reminds me of the Beatles in late '68 doing "Helter Skelter" and then stuff like "Don't Let Me Down" (for rooftop jam) -- rockin' out after spending a couple years doing precious, well-crafted, often gentle studio compositions (although even Revolver and Sgt. Pepper have their kick-out-the-jams moments, like "She Said She Said.")

I rarely listen to Monster, but it has a warm place in my heart. ("Strange Currencies" comes to mind.) They were celebrating sex and youth and loud amplifiers. Some of this carried over into the hodgepodge New Adventures... , their last good album.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 10-18-2013 at 08:04 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 08:40 AM
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"a) it was a bid for greater commercial success "

Is this something that is known, or are you speculating?
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Old 10-18-2013, 08:59 AM
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"a) it was a bid for greater commercial success "

Is this something that is known, or are you speculating?
I'm pretty sure Stipe presented it as "the next challenge" in his songwriting. Amongst musicians, that is an in-no-way subtle way of saying "I want to retain our essential style, but try to go bigger." Think of Metallica and their Black Album. producer Bob Rock - after seeing success producing not-commercial-at-all Motley Crüe - challenged James and Lars to focus their songwriting. To strip out the fat and tighten them up, using a shorter song time as a constraint, like haiku's rules or something. It was his way of wrapping their heads around a commercial format. Totally worked.

The challenge with bands that succeed that way at a high level is that the next steps are unclear. If you stay moving commercial, you become Genesis or Starship. If you stay innovating; you'll hit a false note - U2's Pop, anyone? - and then struggle to regroup. Few have consistently walked that fine line, and REM, without Berry as a perfect drummer (love his poppy tone and bounce/propulsive grooves. The Phil Rudd (AC/DC) of indie) they lost apparently a valuable voice in their direction.

Last edited by WordMan; 10-18-2013 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:05 AM
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Too late to edit - but even prior to Berry's departure, when Stipe got coherent as a lyricist, their direction and sound fundamentally changed.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:23 AM
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I never liked Monster. It was, for the most part, an assault on my ears ("Strange Currencies" excepted).

However, it did not mark an "end." New Adventures in Hi-Fi came later, and it was excellent.

I do agree, though, that their very best work was pre-Green (and I would actually say pre-Document).

Last edited by Spoke; 10-18-2013 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:24 AM
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I've never gotten the hate. I like it when bands I love do something different. I love Life's Rich Pageant as much as anybody, but I don't want them to keep making it.

"Crush With Eyeliner", "Star 69", "Strange Currencies", and "Let Me In" are all worthy tracks. And the show I saw on that tour killed.

They didn't make a record not at least worth listening to until Around the Sun. (Even Up and Reveal have their moments, though you can hear them running out of steam.)

Of course, I also find myself defending U2's Pop pretty often, so maybe I'm not the one to ask.

Last edited by DoctorJ; 10-18-2013 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:39 AM
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Of course, I also find myself defending U2's Pop pretty often, so maybe I'm not the one to ask.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:33 AM
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I think Automatic for the People was so good, that anything after it had to be a letdown.
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Originally Posted by typoink View Post
Monster is okay for what it is, but it think it definitely marked the point when REM stopped producing influential, defining, classic music and just started making...more REM albums.
I'm not a rabid fan, I just happen to like most of the radio songs and played the fuck out of my Automatic For The People tape. But I agree with both of these sentiments.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:49 AM
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I actually really like about half the songs on the album: WTF Kenneth, Crush with Eyeliner, I Don't Sleep, I Dream, I Took Your Name, and You. It's not much like the older stuff for sure- you could call it R.E.M. on steroids. It's powerful and obsessive and creepy.
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When Stipe chose to sing coherent vocals: a) it was a bid for greater commercial success - and IMHO it affected their music; and b) led to him write maudlin crap like The One I Love and Everybody Hurts. Glurg.
Bill Berry wrote Everybody Hurts.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:55 AM
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Bill Berry wrote Everybody Hurts.
Wow, really?

Lemme check. Ignorance fought. What the heck do I know?

I still find that direction for them to be maudlin crap, but I clearly don't make the right connections about how they ended up there.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:02 PM
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For the most part I don't know who wrote what R.E.M. song, but if I think about weaknesses in Stipe's lyrics I think of pretension and trying too hard, not sappiness. Anyway: I will add here that even though I like Monster, I have (I think) all of R.E.M.'s albums before it and nothing after. I've heard some of the newer stuff but wasn't grabbed enough to buy any of it.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:09 PM
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I don't think Everybody Hurts was a direction, it was a one-time venture. It was a straight-ahead early sixties-style rock ballad, the same way At My Most Beautiful was a straight-ahead romantic love song that aimed at a Beach Boys sound. Not a change in direction, just a one-off.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:40 PM
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I don't think Everybody Hurts was a direction, it was a one-time venture. It was a straight-ahead early sixties-style rock ballad, the same way At My Most Beautiful was a straight-ahead romantic love song that aimed at a Beach Boys sound. Not a change in direction, just a one-off.
Okay.

I think Coherent Stipe struggled with pretention, per Marley. I guess I mentally paint all coherently-worded REM lyrics with that broad brush.

I also guess I don't really know why, but Word Salad Stipe just sounded great to me. Much past Fall on Me and One I Love, I drifted away pretty quickly. But clearly, I can't explain myself

Last edited by WordMan; 10-18-2013 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:41 PM
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I liked it. I'm probably biased because it was the first CD I ever owned as a teenager. Actually, this thread has motivated me to dig it out and give it another listen.

I was a big REM fan as a teenager, and while I liked some of their later albums New Adventures in Hi-Fi was probably the last one that I was really excited about.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:43 PM
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I like the album a lot. I was thankful that Peter Buck had decided to put down the mandolin and start playing some big rock guitar.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:44 PM
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I've always loved it, although for me, "Murmur" is their grand magnum opus, and it's also their first full-length album.

Except for "Bang and Blame". Never liked that song, and the very first time I was able to say that about an R.E.M. song at all.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:48 PM
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I like the album a lot. I was thankful that Peter Buck had decided to put down the mandolin and start playing some big rock guitar.
Good lord, yes. Put me off the mandolin for a while, that did.

He is a great guitar player.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:00 PM
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I may be the wrong person to ask, because I'm NOT a huge REM fan (I like enough of their songs to put together one good Greatest Hits CD), but I liked Monster a lot.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:14 PM
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I liked Monster but at the time it came out I remember having a lot of trouble getting into it since it was such a departure from Automatic for the People which is still one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time.

The first (and only) time I ever saw REM play a show was at the Gorge Amphitheatre in 1995 or so for the Monster tour. It was their first tour since Green (they never toured for Out of Time) and it was an incredible show. Bill Berry was back from brain surgery and they played their hearts out (by the end of End of the World during the final encore, Stipe's voice was so gone he had to just hoarsely shout the lyrics).
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:19 PM
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I love it that we have two people with REM song user names in this thread.

I like Monster. I'll admit it was pretty jarring on first listen, but by the time it was released I was a long-time committed fan and was interested and prepared to enjoy just about anything that came out of their creativity.

I heard the Hib-Tone version of Radio Free Europe on the radio in 1981 or 1982 and was at their first show in Baltimore at the Marble Bar in 1982. Their early shows were harder and rockier than Chronic Town and Murmur would lead you to expect. Document seemed like a change of direction more to folks who had not seen them live, I think.

They were a band that allowed their producers to have a significant creative impact on their albums, I think. The Mitch Easter/Don Dixon albums, Murmur and Reckoning, defined what REM was supposed to be in the minds of a lot of people. Joe Boyd moved them a little away from that on Fables of the Reconstruction, Don Gehman took it a little further on Life's Rich Pageant. Scott Litt's first work with them was Document, and I think that they felt that they had really achieved something that they had been searching for, because they kept Litt around through New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I love the first four albums, but I think the ones that were co-produced by the band and Scott Litt are their best work.

The last album I bought was Up, which I like a lot. By that time, I began to feel that they were running out of ideas. The last time I saw the live was the Monster tour.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:31 PM
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I don't think it's terrible. But Monster is very much a product of the early-mid 90s alternative rock music scene. The whole grunge thing had been winding down. Kurt Kobain was dead. Pearl Jam was experimenting with all sorts of weird noise on their third album. U2 was doing its best to become an EDM act. It was a confusing time for everyone. We had no idea that we were just a few years away from being inundated with the Matchbox Twenty sound or a steady onslaught of Nu-Metal rap-rock.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:37 PM
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I think Automatic for the People was so good, that anything after it had to be a letdown.
I'll go a little further and say that after "Out of Time" and "Automatic for the People", they were due for something less grand.

Monster was hardly bad, but it was a more rock-ish shift in sound and style, and I think that turned a lot of people off, plus pop music at the time was firmly in the throes of grunge, and REM didn't fit into that nearly as well as they did in the post 80s pop era of 1991-1993, when grunge was just starting to find wide commercial success.

I mean, people freaking loved "Out of Time" and "Automatic for the People", and then when "Monster" came out, the general reaction was "Huh."

(based on personal recollections of my first few years of college, including an insanely rabid, obsessed with REM roommate, who after making me listen to all the albums up through Automatic for the People, just sort of gave up at Monster.)
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:56 PM
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I like the album a lot. I was thankful that Peter Buck had decided to put down the mandolin and start playing some big rock guitar.
I agree with this.

I didn't become an REM fan until Out of Time, and I listened the hell out of that and Automatic. Really liked that sound at the time, but then Monster came out and was glad to hear some rock out of them.
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:11 PM
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BTW, not only do I have "Chronic Town", when I purchased it, it was the only record they had. I was in college, and my roommate didn't care for their music (a massive understatement) and we did agree that it would quite likely be their only release. And then "Murmur" came out, and I knew then that they would indeed be a huge band someday.

And at the time, I wondered if I might know one of them. When I was a kid, there was a boy named Mike Mills that I knew through some activities who was a few years older than me and did indeed look a bit like his namesake, and I went to high school with his sisters. That summer (1983), I was working at Target and they came through my line, and I asked them if their brother was in a band. They said no, and neither had heard of R.E.M. until that moment. I attended our 10-year HS reunion in 1991, and the sister who was in my class told me that I was the first person ever to ask her that. Obviously, I wasn't the last.
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Old 10-18-2013, 02:16 PM
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The second half of Monster has some grating noise that has always bothered me, but altogether I think it's an excellent album. As others have said, it was just so different. It didn't attract the same people who had been listening to REM up to that point.

FWIW, I was 14 when it came out. I have Out Of Time through Up, not interested before or after those albums.
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Old 10-18-2013, 03:31 PM
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Honestly, I don't get the hate for Monster. It's a terrific album. I'll say the same about "New Adventures in Hi-Fi," too.

I think their post-commercial stuff is frankly excellent, at leastr up until New Adventures. "Automatic for the People" is one of the best albums ever recorded by anyone, full stop; it's Top 50 all time, which is saying a lot, and albums like Document, Out of Time, etc. are full of absolutely sensational music. When people say "aw they're no good after they started selling a lot of albums" I honestly wonder if it's an attempt at parody. REM's best work was their best selling work.

The band lost its mojo when Bill Berry quit. I don't think anything they did after that had the life or originality of anything that came before. "Reveal" is a lovely album, in its way, but its way is pretty bland, IMHO, just a repetition of the stuff that worked on previous albums.

That's no shot against the remaining members. It's simply to be expected that the dynamic between four artists is not going to be the same when one leaves.
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Old 10-18-2013, 03:52 PM
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Honestly, I don't get the hate for Monster. It's a terrific album. I'll say the same about "New Adventures in Hi-Fi," too.

I think their post-commercial stuff is frankly excellent, at leastr up until New Adventures. "Automatic for the People" is one of the best albums ever recorded by anyone, full stop; it's Top 50 all time, which is saying a lot, and albums like Document, Out of Time, etc. are full of absolutely sensational music. When people say "aw they're no good after they started selling a lot of albums" I honestly wonder if it's an attempt at parody. REM's best work was their best selling work.

The band lost its mojo when Bill Berry quit. I don't think anything they did after that had the life or originality of anything that came before. "Reveal" is a lovely album, in its way, but its way is pretty bland, IMHO, just a repetition of the stuff that worked on previous albums.

That's no shot against the remaining members. It's simply to be expected that the dynamic between four artists is not going to be the same when one leaves.

Well, all three of the remaining members agree Bill Berry had a LOT of say on which songs made it onto albums and how they arranged or performed each song. His opinion carried a lot of weight with the rest of the band.

So, if Bill said, "This song sucks, it's not going on the album," it didn't go. Or, if Peter Buck came up with what he considered a throwaway riff, Berry was often the one to say, "No no no, that's good- keep working on that one."

Berry was frequently the one to say "Let's slow this one down," or "Let's rev this one up," or "Why don't we try this one with a string section?" Even when he wasn't writing a lot of songs himself, he shaped the overall sound of each album.

Last edited by astorian; 10-18-2013 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 03:59 PM
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For me, they peaked with Fables of the Reconstruction, but I pretty much like everything up to and including Green. Though there's a few clinkers in tracks, overall they put together a brilliant body of work on the EP and the six subsequent albums. After that, I liked a song here and there, but I wasn't interested in keeping up with them any longer.

Off of Monster, I like "Let Me In", but I generally like big washes of guitar.
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Old 10-18-2013, 04:13 PM
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I loved Monster. It was the first REM album I ever bought (college roommates had Green and Automatic). I saw them on the tour, and that was the first great rock show I ever saw.

I remember Radiohead was the opener and I had no patience for them at the time (Play Creep already!)

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Old 10-18-2013, 04:22 PM
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To use an analogy... Monster was a VERY popular album, as was Metallica's Black Album. And yet, it's common to hear fans saying, "Metallica started to suck with the Black Album" or "REM started to suck with Monster." EVERYBODY didn't hate those albums - it just SEEMS that way from angry web postings.

Now, I happen to like both of those albums a lot- in fact, I like them a lot better than most of either band's earlier albums. But there's no doubt that each album represented a major change in style from what older fans had been used to. The Black Album didn't sound like thrash- it sounded like mainstream hard rock/heavy metal. And Monster didn't sound anything like the college band that people got into in the 80s.

I think it's absurd to call either a "terrible" album, but easy to see why many older fans didn't appreciate either album the way millions of newer fans did.

Last edited by astorian; 10-18-2013 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 04:44 PM
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Of course, I also find myself defending U2's Pop pretty often, so maybe I'm not the one to ask.
I don't own all the really old U2, having started with Joshua Tree*, but Pop was their first album that I outright refused to buy. Didn't buy No Line on the Horizon either, just didn't interest me.

* Then went back and purchased War, and Unforgettable Fire
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Old 10-18-2013, 04:57 PM
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Didn't care for Monster, and I liked earlier REM albums.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:08 AM
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Not the greatest album ever, but it did give rise to this moment where Dan Rather sang "What's the Frequency Kenneth" with the band during a sound check. The song title refers to an incident where some lunatic attacked Dan Rather.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:51 AM
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I've expressed this opinion before, but the REM album I can't defend at this point is Out of Time.

Let's be clear: "Country Feedback" is a stone classic and would make my top 5 REM songs list hands down. "Losing My Religion" was so ubiquitous that it's impossible to really judge it anymore. "Me in Honey" gets most of the way there and misses hard on the landing. "Half a World Away" isn't bad, but it's nowhere near as interesting as the slower songs on Green like "Hairshirt" and "You Are the Everything".

The rest ranges from filler to atrocities like "Radio Song".

What's good is so good that it justifies the record's existence, but it's by far my least favorite of the records up through New Adventures.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:55 AM
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I really like Texarkana, too. I agree there are a couple of clunkers on Out of Time, but if I had to pick one early R.E.M. album to get rid of I'd join the anti-Green horde.
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Old 10-19-2013, 01:00 AM
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Not the greatest album ever, but it did give rise to this moment where Dan Rather sang "What's the Frequency Kenneth" with the band during a sound check. The song title refers to an incident where some lunatic attacked Dan Rather.
Some lunatic who later murdered an NBC stagehand. It entered pop culture as a great random moment, but it's much creepier in hindsight.
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Old 10-19-2013, 01:31 AM
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Honestly, I don't get the hate for Monster. It's a terrific album. I'll say the same about "New Adventures in Hi-Fi," too.
I agree. Honestly, Out of Time is the album I don't really care for. It has some good stuff, "Low" is probably my favorite, but it really never did a lot for me.
As for Green, I don't know how anyone can dislike that record. "Stand" got incredibly overplayed at the time and I usually skip it but the rest of that album is fantastic.
I became a fan when I heard "Radio Free Europe" in 1983 when I was 14 and they were always one of my favorite bands although I didn't keep up with them much in the later years. The last R.E.M. albums I bought were New Adventures in Hi-Fi and In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.
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Old 10-19-2013, 08:59 AM
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I thoroughly enjoyed 'Monster' when it first came out, and still enjoy it some 15+ years after. I totally don't get the hate. I guess I am smitten...

And WordMan, I'm surprised - I would have thought you would have savoured that incredible guitar tone to no end! Not to mention the solos where he sounds like he's on the verge of dropping the instrument altogether.
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Old 10-19-2013, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Le Ministre de l'au-delà View Post
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Monster' when it first came out, and still enjoy it some 15+ years after. I totally don't get the hate. I guess I am smitten...

And WordMan, I'm surprised - I would have thought you would have savoured that incredible guitar tone to no end! Not to mention the solos where he sounds like he's on the verge of dropping the instrument altogether.
Oh yeah, it sounds good - and I like Monster more than most other REM albums from that era. But tone isn't everything () and the songs haven't really stuck with me. But, as we've seen in this thread, I'm a bit clueless about REM once the lyrics got intelligible, so I will humbly step back .

Again, Peter Buck is a great guitarist and typically plays and sounds great; the question is more about the songs...
  #46  
Old 10-19-2013, 11:01 AM
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For me, "Reveal" is the R.E.M. album that should never have been released. It has exactly ONE good song ("Imitation of Life"; JMS has never been in finer vocal form, either) and the rest is just......there.
  #47  
Old 10-19-2013, 12:28 PM
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But there's no doubt that each album represented a major change in style from what older fans had been used to. The Black Album didn't sound like thrash- it sounded like mainstream hard rock/heavy metal. And Monster didn't sound anything like the college band that people got into in the 80s.

I think it's absurd to call either a "terrible" album, but easy to see why many older fans didn't appreciate either album the way millions of newer fans did.
Bingo. I was a pretty serious Metallica fan from roughly Master of Puppets forward, and the Black Album was kind of like a derailment. Good songs, and I liked it, but it wasn't really what I thought of as *Metallica*. More like Metallica trying to do ballads or something. I wasn't so much disappointed with the Black Album itself as I was with the album after, when they lost a lot of the harder sound I liked, and concentrated more on the melodic stuff. That was the point I quit listening to Metallica, actually.

I imagine for a lot of REM fans, it was similar- Monster was a change- well done, but a change, and then after that with the loss of Bill Berry and a change in sound, they were done with the next album.
  #48  
Old 10-19-2013, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by nearwildheaven View Post
For me, "Reveal" is the R.E.M. album that should never have been released. It has exactly ONE good song ("Imitation of Life"; JMS has never been in finer vocal form, either) and the rest is just......there.
I vehemently disagree-I think "All the Way to Reno", "She Just Wants to Be", "Disappear", and "Saturn Return" all are the equal of anything else that they have ever done.
  #49  
Old 10-19-2013, 05:26 PM
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Not only do I NOT think Monster is a bad album, I would put it behind only Automatic For The People and Murmur as their best. I can't quite put my finger on why, though.
  #50  
Old 10-19-2013, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by astorian View Post
I may be the wrong person to ask, because I'm NOT a huge REM fan (I like enough of their songs to put together one good Greatest Hits CD), but I liked Monster a lot.
Ditto. Most of the REM songs I like are on Monster and it's the only REM album I own.
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