R.E.M. Listening Club


Lifes Rich Pageant

This should be R.E.M.‘s best album, but as has been widely acknowledged, it tails off badly towards the end. The first eight songs are probably the strongest run the band ever recorded, but then the lack of material kicks in and we get two ancient songs that aren’t bad but aren’t exactly great either. Swan Swan H returns us to ‘classic REM’, and I’ll always adore Superman for Mike Mills’ gorgeous vocals. “I Believe” was the very first pre-WB REM song I heard, and “The Flowers Of Guatemala” features Peter Buck’s (and perhaps the world’s) most beautiful guitar solo. Apart from that, I can’t offer track-by-track commentary to this album, because (paradoxically) I know it so well I’m not sure what to say. I’ll tackle Document Saturday night, all being well…


I probably do it a disservice - it’s a lovely, lovely song, but for me it gets a little lost amongst so many other understated, dark classics. Stick ‘Rushes’ on Lifes Rich Pageant or somewhere on Document, and I think it might truly shine…


Giving Document a quick listen this evening before bed-time, and reading the tracklist is illuminating in itself: as a teenager I considered this the best IRS album behind “Murmur”, but nowadays I’d probably say it’s the weakest by far. Still a fantastic album, that said…


This 2003 live version of "Life And How To Live It’ is beyond magnificent. R.E.M.'s songwriting chops might have been tailing off by then, but in the late-90s to early-2000s Stipe’s voice was at its utmost peak :open_mouth:


It may be because my first introduction to IRS REM was the early IRS best of they did. So I heard all of those songs out of the context of their album.


Hadn’t seen that before, it’s very good. So wished they’d played that on any of the occasions I’d seen them.


Can’t disagree with this. I think revisiting Document this week had only reaffirmed how much I prefer the other IRS records.


This is true. I always thought one of the great strands of the REM story was that of the guy who went from hiding behind a fringe and mumbling to developing a voice and presence that could fill stadiums.


I’m spending my morning at work listening to the Live at Olympia gig. This is really great and the Fables stuff especially sounds way better with Stipe on top form, as opposed to his more understated performance on the album. It really elevates that material.

Is there a reason they renamed Supernatural Superserious to Disguised on the tracklisting? Is that the correct title?


Answering my own question…

Wikipedia says it was an early working title as they were road testing new Accelerate material on the tour at this point


Welcome to the Occupation and Disturbance at the Heron are the big keepers from Document for me. it’s a solid album but there’s something a bit staid and self-serious about it overall. i much prefer Green. End of the World, like Man on the Moon is an REM song that’s objectively very good but that i’d be happy to never hear again.


So, the last IRS album. Unfortunately for me while still of general high quality it does continue what appears to be a decline across the albums. Don’t get me wrong these are all good records for me but after revisiting them all I would now put them as:

Chronic town > Murmur > Reckoning > Fables > Pageant > Document

It may seem odd to put Chronic town first. I basically think it’s perfect but it only has 5 songs so does it count? Is it a fair comparison? Maybe not…

Document like the couple of albums before it is 3/4 amazing and then let down by a few naff tracks. Murmur to me has no filler. Reckoning doesn’t have much at all in that respect but it does have only 10 tracks. If the following 3 albums were trimmed to 10 would they be more highly regarded?


i think the sprawl is part of Fables’ appeal myself. i thought Pageant is a pretty short album?


Ok, thought I’d check…

Album lengths are:
Murmur 12
Reckoning 10
Fables 11
Pageant 12
Document 12

I think this makes a decent case for what I said above. Pageant and Document I would trim by 2-3 tracks, Fables by 2, Reckoning by 1 so I’d say they all have a very similar number of good tracks. Murmur I think wins with no filler (for me)


track numbers doesn’t tell the whole story though, i think if you trimmed a couple of tracks (three!) off Pageant it would feel very slight, almost EP-like. they mightn’t be the best tracks but they sort of pace the album too


yeah that’s fair enough. The album as a whole and how it flows, and what the actual tracks are like rather than the number of them, does tell a bigger picture. that said there has a been a lot of comments about how certain albums tail off towards the end.


Going to need to write an essay about Document later. Probably my favourite R.E.M. album. Been listening to it loads over the past few days and all the tracks that have been suggested as bad songs are my favourites!


love document, could do without the wire cover but even that’s fine really. am normally v much ANTI SAX but think fireplace might be a bit dull without it. stipe’s voice is real weird on lightnin hopkins, I love it.

reckoning / lrp
chronic town

sometimes document is my favourite but I’m really feeling fables at the mo. they’re all great though


sorry to go backwards folks. but this is such a perfect song. every note perfect.


Here’s an odd fact behind the percussion on Moral Kiosk, as provided by Mr Mills himself. I saw this on twitter recently and had to google to find it (he’s pretty often on there).