1) Radio Free Europe
2) Gardening At Night
3) Talk About The Passion
4) So. Central Rain
6) Can't Get There From Here
7) Driver 8
9) Fall On Me
10) The One I Love
11) Finest Worksong
12) It's The End Of The World As We Know It
Eponymous, R.E.M.'s first greatest hits album, gives you the biggest songs of the early days in chronological order, so one can see how the band evolved. It kicks off with the three-chord post punk of "Radio Free Europe" and "Gardening at Night", with the band exploring many different sounds before the epic closer, "It's The End Of The World As We Know It". The guys certainly have their own style, but as this compilation demonstrates, they also have a diverse body of work.
There isn't any mandolin in the early albums, though one can hear the seeds of "Losing My Religion" in "So. Central Rain". Most of the lyrics are tricky to decipher, because Michael Stipe had a peculiar mumbling style up until "Romance" or so. With that song and the last two tracks, R.E.M. hit the mainstream, led by a now loud and clear Stipe.
The best moments of the compilation, however, are those more obscure early tracks. The first two songs have a light punk feel, with Bill Berry's rocking drums, Peter Buck's Byrds-influenced guitar, and Mike Mills' Beatlesque bass. "Talk About the Passion" mixes things up with acoustic guitar.
Then things start to really get interesting with "Rockville", as the band ventures into country territory. Next comes an upbeat dance track (!), "Can't Get There From Here". A little later comes my personal favorite part of the album, "Romance", the hardest rocker on the disc, thanks to Bill Berry's powerful back-beat.
I love R.E.M.'s style, an amalgamation of each member's distinctive work. Their influences include everything from Dylan to the post-punk era, with plenty of Beatles, Byrds, and other misspelled animals in between. Find out why they're legends with this well-selected retrospective.
****1/2 out of five