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?

I think Automatic for the People was *so *good, that anything after it had to be a letdown.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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 :wink: - 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.

Too late to edit - but even prior to Berry’s departure, when Stipe got coherent as a lyricist, their direction and sound fundamentally changed.

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).

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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 :wink:

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.