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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 November 2011
After reviewing R.E.M's final original album of new music "Collapse Into Now" back in March of 2011 (4 stars, by the way), I put the album away and didn't think much about it. After all, the indie rockers who put the tiny town of Athens, Georgia on the map have been rocking for over thirty years, so I figured they were just going through a lull with this odd misstep.

It was their sudden and quiet announcement of their disbanding on their band's website only five months later simply blew me away, and I was suddenly reminded me that they were one of the last bands from that era to have still been playing continuously and virtually intact all that time despite the drag of time, surviving many of their pioneers and many of their peers, from Television to the Talking Heads to the Velvet Underground. - even the record label they first signed up with, I.R.S Records, even folded some fifteen years ago!

My impressions of the band vary from the great (1988's "Green" will forever be my indie "Gone with The Wind," as I played it to death when I first got it and made me re-think a great many things in my life) to the just plain blah (and let's face it, 2004's "Around The Sun" even choked them out, they admitted that much), but they have always been one thing to even the most nominal of listeners: they were a band of musicians who provoked you to think thoughts bigger than the average band and made the travelogue of life worth taking just one more step, even though it has been (for me sometimes) through some pretty dangerous waters.

This album is their last letter of remembrances, a plea for you to remember memories lost, and to leave some things that are best left there, behind you.

R.E.M. may never have been the screaming angst of Nirvana or the entirely swallowed bottle of sleeping pills at end of the party of the Violent Femmes, but they were an original, and they sang their songs out of the inspiration to invite you into their odd slice of the world, from observances ranging from wanting to pee during a long drive to the fantasy world of Andy Kaufman's mind, and from wanting you to look at the world as not just yours but as we are all together, part of a much bigger collective that we can all share together if we are responsible enough to vote, to think green before it was ever ever ever popular, and to care for the animals and most of all, to sing and dance really fast and really crazy as the end of the world approached.

The band personally selected the songs from 15 albums over 30 years of music, and instead of just putting up the hits that you can quickly hear on their wonderful "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003" compilation album, they really went all out to give you some really enjoyable moments from their history that they liked, not just because they were popular. Three new songs are included: "Hallelujah," "A Month of Saturdays" and "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" was recorded entirely after that album.

And where did they get the title from, you may ask? It came from a quote by Peter Buck in 1988, "R.E.M is part lies, part heart, part truth and part garbage."

There are 40 really great selections of songs on the general release (and if you buy it at the iTunes Store, you get a third disc of 11 bonus music videos). Here's the track list and which album they came from:

Disc 1

01 "Gardening at Night" - 3:29 (from Chronic Town, 1982)
02 "Radio Free Europe" - 4:06 (from Murmur, 1983)
03 "Talk About the Passion" - 3:23 (from Murmur)
04 "Sitting Still" - 3:17 (from Murmur)
05 "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" - 3:15 (from Reckoning, 1984)
06 "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" (Edit) - 3:55 (from Reckoning)
07 "Driver 8" - 3:23 (from Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985)
08 "Life and How to Live It" - 4:06 (from Fables of the Reconstruction)
09 "Begin the Begin" - 3:28 (from Life's Rich Pageant, 1986)
10 "Fall on Me" - 2:50 (from Life's Rich Pageant)
11 "Finest Worksong" - 3:48 (from Document, 1987)
12 "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - 4:05 (from Document)
13 "The One I Love" - 3:17 (from Document)
14 "Stand" - 3:10 (from Green, 1988)
15 "Pop Song 89" - 3:04 (from Green)
16 "Get Up" - 2:39 (from Green)
17 "Orange Crush" - 3:51 (from Green)
18 "Losing My Religion" - 4:26 (from Out of Time, 1991)
19 "Country Feedback" - 4:07 (from Out of Time)
20 "Shiny Happy People" - 3:44 (from Out of Time)
21 "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - 4:06 (from Automatic for the People, 1992)

Disc 2
01 "Everybody Hurts" - 5:17 (from Automatic for the People)
02 "Man on the Moon" - 5:13 (from Automatic for the People)
03 "Nightswimming" - 4:16 (from Automatic for the People)
04 "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" - 4:00 (from Monster, 1994)
05 "New Test Leper" - 5:26 (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)
06 "Electrolite" - 4:05 (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
07 "At My Most Beautiful" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:35 (from Up, 1998)
08 "The Great Beyond" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 5:06 (from Man on the Moon, 1999)
09 "Imitation of Life" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:57 (from Reveal, 2001)
10 "Bad Day" - 4:05 (from In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, 2003)
11 "Leaving New York" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 4:49 (from Around the Sun, 2004)
12 "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:11 (from Accelerate, 2008)
13 "Supernatural Superserious" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:23 (from Accelerate)
14 "Überlin" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 4:15 (from Collapse into Now, 2011)
15 "Oh My Heart" (Buck, Mills, Stipe, Scott McCaughey) - 3:21 (from Collapse into Now)
16 "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 2:45 (from Collapse into Now)
17 "A Month of Saturdays" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 1:40
18 "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:35
19 "Hallelujah" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:42

So with that in mind, considering that this might just be the last time we hear from the band who influenced a great many things in pop culture for over three decades, I have to give this final release by them five amazing stars.

After their long-time contractual obligations to Warner Bros. ended, they closed the door and never looked back, as they secretly knew this was it, and what we have here is the last remnant of what they consider some of their finest moments in their entire history. Oddly enough, "A Month Of Saturdays" talks about the work week being done, as Michael Stipe's forever droning vocals ask, "I want a month of Saturdays, gimme a weekend, weekend, weekend..."

After thirty years and a catalog of music 10 indie bands would be jealous of if they could score just one hit, they deserve to find their quiet moments and peace. This is a wonderful compilation that finally brings together their total handpicked favorites from their entire output, and it shines like diamonds. I'm not sure how they felt about whether they succeeded in getting their message out to the world, but here's one fan who appreciated what they did, and I'll admit they influenced me in a small, subtle way that made me - possibly - the better person for listening to their message so many years ago.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a bit of a love letter instead of a review, but you know what? It might just be as we know it, and I feel just fine about that.

(Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment - or a vote - whether you liked it or not!)
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on 21 December 2011
Compilations like this are always viewed with as much cynicism as celebration and this one will no doubt be no different. Yet there is no denying the value for money here, with no fewer than 40 tracks on offer, spanning their entire, lengthy discography. It serves as a perfect introduction for new fans just as well as it does a compilation for the casual fan who has only one or two albums and will even satisfy many die-hards. I say many, as opposed to all, because I have a few reservations (hence the four starts, rather than five).

The first disc is, for the most part, the best possible representation of the first decade of their career, although I would have had "Near Wild Heaven" from Out of Time on there and put "Sidewinder..." at the start of Disc Two, so as to start the Automatic era there. I am also VERY disappointed at the inclusion of only one track from Monster (no "Strange Currencies" and "Bang and Blame", two CRIMINAL omissions) and the poor representation of the New Adventures in Hi-Fi album (lead single - and one of their biggest hits at the time - "E-bow the Letter" has been inexplicably missed out and "Leave", one of their greatest songs, is nowhere to be seen).

The three "new" songs tacked on at the end will no doubt appeal to those who are curious, but in truth they are good songs, rather than great swansongs. Indeed, they could well have been outtakes from their last LP, rather than tracks crafted especially for this compilation. Ultimately, R.E.M. are a band who have always had their detractors and this retrospective will do little to convince them otherwise, but they have always incited passionate debates among fans and critics alike, while always staying true to their vision. Those who are in the former camp will, for the most part, agree that their status as one of the world's greatest alt-rock bands is assured.

For me, well as a fan for over 20yrs (I first heard "The One I Love" and "Orange Crush" in the late 80's on daytime radio and have been a fan ever since) I can't argue with the bulk of the music which is on display here. I can only wonder what might have been, had it been kinder (and in my view, fairer, in terms of the huge success of the Monster/New Adventures albums) to the mid-90's period, rather than over-representing the post-Bill Berry period.
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on 16 November 2011
As a long-term R.E.M. fan - who has defended them with increasing frustration over the last 15 years or so - I have to say that this is a bit of a let-down. Without wishing to add to the existing quibbles regarding the track selection, it does beggar belief that a supposedly definitive compilation can find space for the irredeemably useless 'A Month Of Saturdays' while overlooking classic hits ('Near Wild Heaven', 'Drive', 'Find The River', 'Strange Currencies', 'E-Bow The Letter' to name but a few). Frankly, even the unloved 'Animal' would have been a more welcome inclusion - there is, after all, a fine line between garbage and excrement, and anything that bears a passing resemblance to Rebecca Black's abysmal 'Friday' can only fall into the latter camp.

As for the other new offerings, 'We All Go Back To Where We Belong' is a pleasant enough Bacharach-inflected affair which recalls the sunny ballads on 2001's 'Reveal', although it benefits from a more laid-back and less fussy production. 'Hallelujah' treads more familiar territory and despite (or maybe because of) its somewhat generic approach, brings everything to a fitting close; an appropriately understated finale for a band whose own retirement was announced with surprisingly little fanfare. In truth though, while inevitably poignant in this context, even these two songs are hardly essential. As is usually the case with 'bonus' tracks on best-of compilations, they probably wouldn't have made the cut had they been released previously - and they certainly don't merit the asking price alone.

However, what really irks is the slapdash, cheapskate manner in which these mostly magnificent songs have been presented. Given that the tracklist represents thirty years of exemplary songcraft, one might expect more than thirty minutes to have been spent on the artwork, yet all we have here is something that looks like it was knocked up on a knackered Xerox. Even allowing for the band's wilfully alternative quirkiness, there's really no excuse for stuffing the booklet into the sleeve alongside one of the discs. I've bought demo CDs from unsigned bands that were packaged with more care; compared with previous compilations 'In Time', 'And I Feel Fine...' or their two live albums, this really is an incredibly shoddy way for R.E.M. to present any of their music, let alone the best of it.

You might argue that only the music matters, which is a fair point - but then, why bother with the CDs at all when you can just download the whole thing in a matter of seconds? If this collection is designed for newcomers then their first impression is hardly going to be enhanced by such sloppiness. If, on the other hand, it's meant to be a parting 'gift' (at £8.99) for those who have followed R.E.M. for years then I for one can't help feeling a little short-changed.

In short: if you're a fan, download 'We All Go Back To Where We Belong' and 'Hallelujah' and stick with the CDs you surely already have. And if you don't already own those albums, I'd strongly suggest that you start with 'Murmur' then work your way through the rest. If any two-disc compilation could ever do this band justice, I'm afraid this isn't it.
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on 22 February 2016
Replacing all my old tapes to CD, I love REM and these CDs will keep me happy for ages, not listened to these for many years. I now have a complete collection once again. Fab double CD, some songs I have never heard before and I am a massive fan.
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on 20 November 2011
Considering the quality and scope this band achieved over their three decades in music, to try and pigeonhole them down to a compilation (however long it is) is always going to leave some people with a headache. This is arguably their best compilation to date, and does a pretty good job at pulling out key tracks from the various eras of the band's existence.

However, for a true music fan - let alone a true REM fan - I would say getting each of their albums (excusing perhaps the dreary Around the Sun) is probably a better step than just leaving it with this compilation. I can't help but look at the omissions in this collection, and some of them are very significant. E-Bow The Letter and So Fast, So Numb from New Adventures in Hi-Fi (although I'm very pleased that New Test Leper has been given the recognition it deserves in this compliation). Let Me In and Strange Currencies from Monster; I'll Take the Rain from Reveal; Drive and Find the River from Automatic for the People; Near Wild Heaven from Out of Time; Pilgrimage and Perfect Circle from Murmur; Pretty Persuasion and Little America from Reckoning; Feeling Gravity's Pull from Fables of the Reconstruction... could go on. Two albums seem criminally under-represented here especially: Life's Rich Pageant and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. For me, the latter stands as one of the best and most underrated albums they ever did.

To fully respect the immense contribution this band made to rock music, use this compilation as a starter point only, and not a finish. Please seek out their back catalogue, as mentioned.

The 60s: the Beatles. The 70s: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or David Bowie. The 80s AND 90s: REM? They'd be a sure fire candidate to musically be the best band overall, over both those two decades. Do yourself a favour: if you've not discovered them before now, make a start.
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on 30 June 2012
I'll admit, I'm a fan of REM and own all their albums, but there is something about hearing all their hits in the space of two CDs that really blows you over. I mainly bought this for the extra songs which are definitely worth it: "We all go back to where we belong" is such a beautiful swan song. I will miss this band!
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on 9 April 2012
There isn't a rock and roll band from the across the span of recorded music who would not be grateful to have this collection standing as the best of their work: it is a remarkable collection of songs. What is more pleasing (and perhaps surprising) is that the later work (ie post Berry/1997) stands up at least as well as the older. That said I, like many, stopped buying REM LPs after 'Reveal' simply because that and the album before it weren't particularly good, whereas up to that point any punter could pretty much buy any REM album with complete confidence (although personally I thought Monster was a bit of a dog). I don't know what the last three albums are like because I haven't heard them.

But it really doesn't matter because that is not what we are discussing. Which album and which period is 'true' REM or 'the best' REM doesn't matter for what we are discussing is a best of collection that covers thirty years of great music. It is also superb value for money.

What the two discs and forty odd songs prove beyond doubt is that REM have never been bad: they have had periods that some people like and others don't, they have had their hard days and dark days ('we were a three legged dog' says Stipe of the early part of the last decade), they have golden periods, pop periods, political periods, periods when they couldn't stand working together and periods when that is all they wanted to do, but throughout every one of those eras they managed to produce remarkable material. Not all of it was of course, but again, that doesn't matter, because what you have got here is the best of it.

The sleeve notes are marginally engaging, the packaging is a bit cardboardy, but who cares? This is not an artifact, it is a collection of music and if you are under thirty you probably only own it as a collection of bits and bytes anyway so who cares what it looks like? It sounds - every last drop of it - wonderful.
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on 16 February 2015
one of the most truly original bands over three decades, a true one off band, this collection gives you a great value forty track history of a band who were unique and original, brings back good memories, a truly great band and an album that everyone should have.
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2011
The John J Martinez sums up pretty much my own feelings on this great band. Read the tracklisting and then read it again. Can you name any other bands of their time and musical direction who came close to producing that quality of songwriting? Exactly! I was lucky to chance upon REM on one of their first visits to the UK after buying Murmur on spec because I liked the sleeve!

Once you have digested the quality of the songs on this release, have a look at the albums these tracks came from. My god, there's enough on each to turn this package into a quintuple CD box set without having to scrape any barrels! I know many people just want the well know stuff but it's a shame there wasn't an opportunity to produce a 'best of the rest' disc! I could scribble 20 tracks down without thinking about it.

On a final point, don't believe all the hype about later albums being irrelevant. There are some great songs on all of them. The woefully underrated 'Around the Sun' album gets put into my CD player on a more regular basis them some of REM's better known albums. Have a proper listen to a few of the later years releases and get past the 'repeat what I've been told' views of reviewers who turned off when they were told to by the music press!! REM we miss you already!
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on 14 November 2011
It's sad to think I'll never listen to a new REM release after this. All I can say is this album is brilliant. These were probably the biggest and best band on the planet and their music will be played in 100 years and will still inspire. Amazing collection. Thanks for the music guys.
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