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Crate Digger’s Gold – R.E.M. Reckoning (1984)

February 10, 2014

REM reconning

I missed this album the first time around in 1984.  I had listened endlessly to Murmur, but for some reason I lost track of R.E.M. until 1987’s Document.  At which point I backtracked to Dead Letter Office and have been a loyal fan of everything since then.  That being said “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” are somehow embedded in my psyche.  I assume it has to do with the greatest hits package Eponymous that I listened to  regularly in the late 80s.

A few months ago I picked up a nice pristine vinyl edition of Reckoning for $4 bucks but did not listen to it until a couple of days ago.  Well holly shit!  This gem has been sitting under my nose for 30 years?  What a pleasant surprise.

Where most bands fall on their face with their sophomore album, R.E.M. hit it out of the park.  This album did not sell that well nor did it make the kind of impression that Murmur did, but man this is exhibit #1 of the R.E.M sound.  To quote R.E.M.’s Peter Buck: “Minor key, mid-tempo, enigmatic, semi-folk-rock-balladish things.”  Reckoning is all of that and it rocks too.

Looking back with the benefit of 30 years of hindsight, Reckoning is actually a better and album than Murmur – it is more confident and fully formed – more of an album than a collection of songs.  That hindsight also reveals how influential a band they would become: everything from Nirvana to Radiohead to Wilco sprouted out of early R.E.M. The early years set a solid foundation for R.E.M.’s own late 80s/early 90s mega-success when they were right in the mix with U2 for the greatest band in the world.   I am so glad to have rediscovered this masterpiece.  If you have never listened to it, take the time.  If you are an old fan treat yourself to a reprise.

PS while listening to this album I stumbled on a great Wikipediea article: “Timeline of alternative rock.”

  1. More props where they’re due – don’t forget that Mitch Easter sound!

  2. Revisit time. I remember hearing Mike Mills and Peter Buck doing a version of ‘Cat Ballou’ on a radio show. I actually found it on the internet. Why I like these guys.

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