Released in 1992, R.E.M.’s 8th album exceeded all expectations of what an album should sound like. It was less pop-sounding than their previous effort, “Out Of Time” but still managed to spawn six singles: “Drive,” “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Nightswimming,” “Find the River,” and “Man on the Moon”, a tribute to the late comedian Andy Kaufman.
This album stands as my favorite R.E.M. record to date, even surpassing such great releases like “Document” and “Life’s Rich Pageant.” It’s an album that I can listen to from start to finish and enjoy each and every song. But admittedly, I do have a couple of favorites that I go to every once in a while. “Find The River” is the final song on the album and it brings out an emotional side of me, with it’s melodic flow and inspirational lyrics that take me to a quiet place of reflection.
And “Sweetness Follows”, a song that Michael Stipe refers to as his “diatribe against organized religion” Lyrical content aside, the guitar work is flawless and adds another dimension of sound to this incredible record.
Regardless of my favorites, I most certainly think the popular tracks from this album were some of R.E.M.’s best. “Man on the Moon” was played to death on mainstream radio, so I got tried of hearing it when it was first released, but when it gets played now, I enjoy each and every note. And of course “Drive”, which opens the album, it a surreal tune that starts off with a wonderful acoustic strumming and moves into a wall of sound that finishes the song.
While I think this album does belong in my Top 25 list, I’d be hard pressed to make the call on which album it would replace. But if I had to make such a decision, I would replace Sex Pistols “Nevermind The Bullocks” with this album. It’s strong enough an album that I don’t feel apologetic to Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones for removing that release from my top 25 favorites.
If you’ve not heard this album in a while, put it on the iPod and press play and listen to twelve tracks of pure enjoyment.