Monday, July 25, 2011

Lifes Rich Pageant

I just realized I'm about the same age as R.E.M's fourth album. It's also their fourth one from the 80's to get the remaster/re-issue edition, though I can't say that the songs benefit from the treatment (loudness war strikes again!). Like their previous Fables Of The Reconstruction, Pageant is criminally underrated. To my ears, it's the band's most catchy record (my only gripe: why the cheesy banjo playing at the start of I Believe?). It also contains the best sounding drums out of all their first decade's output. This album highlights the start of the maturity and sophistication of Michael Stipe's songwriting.; you'll notice how he puts more political subtext into the words. Still present here is Mike Mills' signature background vocals and of course Peter Buck's awesome Rickenbacker jangles, but managing to sound very different from their first three records. But this is only half the fun. The other half is the second disc titled Athens Demos, in which I got a real kick out of. Bare in mind it's not a bunch of throwaway songs. Gives us some insight into the band's creativity. The last six songs or so is classic stuff. Biggest surprise here is a very early version of Bad Day, which was finally released as a single in 2003. So here's how I rank my top five R.E.M. albums: first Murmur, then Reckoning, Lifes Rich Pageant, Automatic For The People, and New Adventures In Hi-Fi.