Friday, 9 November 2007

R.E.M - 'Life's Rich Pageant'

The second of my reviews of albums of the past is the fourth album by highly successful American rock band R.E.M. In contrast to the previous one, I am of course familiar with this band but not previously with this particular album which is from before they attained significant commercial success.

This album certainly starts with a bang in the form of the upbeat melodic rocker 'Begin The Begin'. From then on it is something of a mixed bag; some tracks hint at the band's later standing, while others are somewhat pedestrian.

Two tracks with environmental lyrical themes, 'Cuyahoga' and 'Fall On Me' belong in the former category, and the politically- and socially-conscious songwriting is one aspect of R.E.M's music that marks them out from other bands of the same genre. However alongside the thoughtful themes is a pinch of creative playfulness, particularly the digression of 'Underneath The Bunker'.

The second half of the album contains two strong pop songs, 'I Believe' and 'Superman'. The former in particular is a rollicking singalong that was alongside the opener the standout track on first listen of the album. 'Swan Swan H' is an above average mid-paced soft rock track with some rather cryptic lyrics and 'Just A Touch' is exuberant, busy-sounding power pop.

There are three not so good tracks on here, though. 'Flowers of Guatemala' tries for atmospheric but becomes a little irritating because of the languid vocals - I imagine Stipe staring at his shoes droning this. 'Hyena' and 'What If We Give It Away' are rather forgettable and are clearly album tracks.

Overall, I'll give this a 6.

RIP: 'I Believe', 'Begin The Begin', 'Cuyahoga'
SKIP: 'Hyena', 'What If We Give It Away', 'Flowers of Guatemala'

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