R.E.M. Listening Club


Document - always struggled a bit with this one, and as result don’t feel I know it as much as the other IRS albums. Coming to R.E.M a bit later and working through these chronologically I
thought this should be the one that connected best - the ‘rocky’ early album - but it just feels a bit dumb at times, especially compared to what came before. The singles are iconic and most songs are fine on their own but, listening from start to finish, I’m usually a bit exhausted by it by the time I get to the later songs, (not sure I’ve ever felt the urge to listen to Lightnin’ Hopkins).

I suppose it’s all relative. R.E.M did release at least 7-8 classic albums and this might be one of them, but it’s never been a personal fave.


I really like Document, I think because it has those big hit singles on it people can overlook how weird it is, the whole last third is pretty out there really – I love King of Birds, I love Oddfellows 151, those screams of “firehouse” are haunting. Also The One I Love is such an incredible song.


Is Fireplace the only notable use of saxophone in the entire REM back-catalogue?


Cant Get There From Here ?


Yep, side two of Document would be one of the all time greats…if it wasn’t for Lightning Hopkins.


idk, there’s something about the way he shouts the word ‘crow’…


On my first revisit today the sax on this really grated for me, sounds very un-rem.


Or about 2 of the other songs on side 2 at least…


Document is brilliant. Possibly my favourite.
Also, IMHO Fables is easily the weakest of the IRS albums.


I think this is why it stood out so much. I’m a sucker for a bit of sax, but it just sounds out of place on an REM record.

I like Document, there’s nothing to dislike about it and, obviously, with “End Of The World…” and “The One I Love” it contains two of their greatest songs. But yeah, it’s less interesting than what came before, feels like a straight forward “indie rock” record.


I largely agree with this. I was genuinely surprised in this thread by the love Fables has been getting. It’s a very good album but, as thesewoodenideas says, clearly the weakest of the IRS ones for me, which I’d probably rank Pageant = Reckoning > Murmur > Document > Fables.


Many of the non-singles are great too, not least Welcome to the Occupation, Disturbance at the Heron House and King of Birds.


Undoubtedly, but compared to the non-singles on other IRS albums? They’re definitely second-tier.

And I’d 100% agree with your ranking above


I can’t abide by a list that puts Pageant over Murmur, no way


The apocalyptic sax on Fireplace made me jump on my morning commute. Forgot it was there. Sounds very 80s now, but probably made sense then.

The sax backed with chiming guitar sounded familiar, but just couldn’t place it.
Then it hit me - Working Hour by Tears for Fears


Anyone familiar with John Mellencamp and his Scarecrow album from 1985? Mellencamp did a decent run of 80s albums playing Springsteen style heartland rock with a dose of roots and folk.

Reason I mention this is because Lifes Rich Pageant and Scarecrow were both produced by Don Gehman. Makes me speculate if R.E.M. chose Gehman for LRP because they heard Scarecrow and wanted that roots, folk and radio friendly sound. If you compare both albums, some of LRP would not be out of place on Scarecrow. I’m thinking What If We Give It Away and Just a Touch. It’s interesting that those two get the least love in this thread, but are pretty good tunes for 80s heartland rock radio.

(I don’t have Spotify, so not sure if this link will for you all)


Urgh, this bloody record. I’ve been wrestling with it all week and I’m still struggling unfortunately. Like Fables with @Raanraals, I just can’t work out why Document is rated so highly.

I can’t get on with the guitar tone or the big gated drums, and the bass is pushed through the same mechanical filters as everything else. Finest Worksong has that little slap outro, Strange is really irritating, not a fan of Exhuming McCarthy, Fireplace has that ghastly sax and Lightnin Hopkins is a nest of 80s badness.

End of the World… was one of those party trick songs as a college student where at 2am someone would get out an acoustic guitar and attempt to rattle it off. Like The One I Love, it’s clearly a classic, but for me there’s no real flow to the album so they’re both just bunched together among three of the bands worst songs to date.

As long as I can look past any production issues, I like Disturbance At The Heron House and King of Birds. Oddfellows Local 151…hmm…a bit of a mixed bag I think.

There are also a lot of references to fire on this record. :fire:


First average record by REM then… the worst of the IRS albums and by a distance.
One of the defining strengths of their previous albums was the ridiculously high quality of the first 3-4 tracks in particular. Reckoning & Murmur pretty much don’t let up in terms of that quality for me, they’re close to perfect albums. Fables & LRP, while excellent have 2-3 lower quality tracks, but here it gets more grating.
Like others have said there are excellent songs, but the gap between the good & the bad is really widening here… and the ratio of good to bad is getting too close to 50/50.
7.2 in Pitchfork rating

Was never a huge fan of Green, but looking forward to revisiting with fresh ears.


I’ve fallen horribly behind this, so I’ll try and catch up now:

Fables Of The Reconstruction
I owned but never really got this as a teenager; along with Up it’s definitely now my “most underrated” R.E.M. album. The production definitely doesn’t help; the 25th Anniversary edition is a lot clearer and easier to listen to.

Feeling Gravitys Pull - Always loved the atonal guitar, and those strings at the end :open_mouth:

Maps & Legends - lovely, but a wee bit overrated, perhaps?

Driver 8 - I used to think this song was over-rated, but not any more. I also heard a Glaswegian busker playing this a couple of weeks ago, which was a wonderful surprise :slight_smile:

Life And How To Live It - so, so wonderfully addictive. Peter Buck slays me on this song. A copy of Brevs Mekis’ “Life: How To Life” is currenly on eBay for £800 or so I believe…

Old Man Kensey - the low point of this album, but relatively speaking - there is nothing wrong with this song. Very unsettling.

Cant Get There From Here - kind of irresistible in that silly, ever so slightly cheesy REM way.

Green Grow The Rushes - not sure what to say, really. It’s not filler, yet it’s not important. Hmm…

Kohoutek - Oh, how I utterly adore this track! It was “Live At The Olympia” that helped me see past the murk and appreciate the song underneath, 23ish years after I first heard it. The imagery in this song is so beautiful it scares me. “She wore bangles, she wore bells,on her toes and she jumped like a fish. Like the flying fish, you were gone” is one of my all-time favourite Stipe lyrics. For the non-astronomer spods out there, Kohoutek was a comet in the 70s that was supposed to be super-bright but proved thoroughly unspectacular. It was before my time, but as a geeky astronomer teenager I knew about the comet before this song :smiley:

Good Advices - Yes. It is lovely. You should listen to it. Good advices.

Wendell Gee - another ‘lost classic’ in the REM canon. The violins and banjos break my heart every time.


Lovely write up. Apart from Green Grow the Rushes. It’s perfect! Aww, man…