Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly well researched and enjoyable big band biography, 3 Oct. 2002
This review is from: "R.E.M.": Fiction - An Alternative Biography (Hardcover)
Being of a prior generation, and with a somewhat cynical view of galactic sized rock bands, it was with some prejudice that I approached 'R.E.M. - Fiction' ...but I just fell in at the deep end and I loved it. This is a hugely accessible book, readable and gripping while, hooray!, avoiding all the commonplace, big band biog pitfalls of minutely detailed facts or off-the-planet opinions. Instead David Buckley slips you into the complete world of R.E.M., starting with the wonderfully evocative early years, delivering you into the middle of the quietly budding music and youth culture of Athens, Georgia, USA in the 80s, then sliding you along the bumpy but always fascinating road to rock iconism, across more than 22 years.
David Buckley is plainly a big R.E.M. fan, witness the careful research, but it doesn't stop him being critically analytical. He dives into battle on the impacts of rags to riches, of experimental to mainstream rock, of political involvement and private lives and on R.E.M.'s musical ambitions. Yet the writing is seamless, comfortably herding the action along without a blink. Every album is considered in context, exploring the tracks, the atmosphere and the direction, crafted with pithy insights from all involved. The big issues which have progressed and blighted the band are also chewed around; the integrity of their move from indie to major label, the ethics of their political tinkering, the 'did he jump or was he pushed' questions, even interrogating the quality of their belief in themselves and their music.
Given the importance place of R.E.M. in the history and credibility of superstar rock music I expected a heavy, serious, learned tome. This would have been acceptable fare but instead David Buckley has served up a book which satisfies a wider appetite; yes informative, enveloping, sympathetic and incisive but also entertaining and even out-loud funny.
The lasting feel of 'R.E.M.- Fiction' for me is one of the essence of time and place, dropping you into the moment, putting the taste in your mouth; the mood of the American South, the miserable cold of London, the buzz of the studio and the exhaustion of the tour. It must have been like this. If you want to be there as it happened then this is the book for you.
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