There may never be agreement on the best tracks of such an important, much-loved band. Universally successful groups like REM reach a great variety of people with diverse tastes, connecting with different sides of their musical personality. This, their second best-of, covers REM's albums with Warner, incorporating their most commerically successful period and taking us up to their more recent slip from the limelight. Still a great band, there is no disputing the fading of their relevance lately, but their time will come again. This collection concentrates mostly on their singles output, but somehow largley avoids the sunnier side. I think - and I think the diehards would agree - that this Best Of is at least a close representation of the Spirit of the band, something that can't always be said about such compilations. That said, there is also the irritating commercial imperative to include some new tracks which don't make the grade, but this is standard practise now.
I think there are some jarring exclusions - conspicuous in their absence - such as 'Drive', 'Country Feedback', 'World Leader Pretend', 'Crush With Eyeliner'. The albums Monster and Out of Time are only represented by one track each, criminal really, the most obvious omission being the latter's Shiny Happy People (but this is understandable). If the intention of this collection is to bolster the songs post-Automatic, then it succeeds to place them on a non-chronological platform with greats such as 'Losing My Religion', 'Man on the Moon', 'Nightswimming' etc. The overall effect is one of amazing consistency, but feels strangely downbeat, despite the inclusion of poppier moments such as 'Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' and 'What's the Frequency Kenneth?'. Anyone for whom REM fell off the radar during the 90s will be blown away by E-Bow the Letter with Patti Smith, among their best ever songs. Quibbles aside, you can't beat the value of this CD for content. I don't normally mention the price of a CD when discussing its merits, but this really is a bargain!!