"Dead Letter Office" is a housecleaning effort from R.E.M.'s days on IRS records (1981-1987). As such it provides an interesting alternative view of the band. Several of the tracks reveal a goofy sense of humor that doesn't show itself on their "proper" albums. Two examples are "Voice of Harold," which features the backing track from "7 Chinese Brothers" as singer Michael Stipe reads a studio promotional flyer, and a cover of the Roger Miller country staple "King of the Road." The band acknowledges its considerable debt to the Velvet Underground by covering no less than three songs ("There She Goes Again," "Pale Blue Eyes" and "Femme Fatle") that are among the best performances here. Aerosmith's "Toys in the Attic" even gets a workout. The CD includes the contents of the band's 1981 EP "Chronic Town" as a (very considerable) bonus.
Overall, rarities albums don't get much better than "Dead Letter Office."
on October 20, 1998
This is, quite simply, my favorite REM CD for repeat listening. The only track I feel is even remotely substandard is the mangled rendition of "King of the Road", and even that track is pretty good listening compared to the filler most bands use to fill out an album. The inclusion of the Chronic Town EP as the last five tracks on the disc are an added listening bonus, as this album provides one of the longest-playing REM CD's I own, and I'm just as happy to start over again at the beginning immediately after listening to it.
on January 23, 2013
I love the songs on this disc. Along with the 'dead letters', which show interesting sides of REM's early journey, you get the EP nobody can get - Chronic Town -- with the songs we danced to live at the 40 Watt, "Gardening at Night", "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)" , etc. Really neat are some of the random recordings like King of the Road (read the liner notes...).
on November 26, 1999
This record is not for everyone. However, if you are like me and got into the band circa Green,you missed a lot of stuff! Like many, I went back and got all of the older albums I'd missed, yet my collection was still lacking. The Chronic Town EP had been out of print for years and tracking down the singles? HA! Anyone who was fortunate enough to glom onto one of these certainly wasn't letting it go. Not at a resonable price at least. Then I stumbled across this little gem. A virtual treasure trove of lost B-sides; drunken fun in the studio; covers that, many times, outshine the originals and they threw in Chronic Town to boot! No, not every song is solid gold, but this album isn't about "the hits", nor does it try to be. It's simply a compilation that showcases the many facets of a brilliant band growing, expanding, and trying new things, sometimes finding itself on the top of the mountain, sometimes tossed against the jagged rocks below, but always walking unafraid. But then again, maybe it's just a compilation of stuff you could never track down put together on on one CD, a smourgasborg of tasty treats offered up for your enjoyment from the fine folks at R.E.M. Either way, I'm diggin' it.
When most of my friends were sulking to Led Zeppelin, grooving to Kool and the Gang, or screaming along with the Dead Kennedys, I was listening to REM, Aztec Camera, INXS, and their ilk. Dead Letter Office is quintessential REM from the early years when it was a challenge to understand Michael Stipe's mumbles and the the music had a fresh, raw sound. Recently, I have been playing DLO in my car and reminiscing. The mix of covers and original material works well, and this album includes some of my favorite tunes. I love how REM does Toys in the Attic- it's a worthy tribute though it still maintains the REM feel. Femme Fatale is absolutely gorgeous- and no offense to Lou Reed, but I think Michael sings it better.
I saw REM in concert back when they were playing colleges, and this collection captures the energy, humor, and soul of the band perfectly.
on April 25, 2015
Dead Letter Office is what this is. The Dead Letter Office is where mail would go when it was undeliverable. In this instance, here are songs that didn't make it elsewhere. Oddly, an album dedicated to what didn't work, worked. DLO reached #52 in the US charts and slightly lower, at #60 in the UK.
Dead Letter Office allows us to hear the band at their worst - sort of. Wanna hear Buck and Mills yelling to each other on track? Try King of the Road, Track 15, as they attempt to hit the same key while drunkly singing the Roger Miller favorite.
Dead Letter Office was never made as an attempt to make more money. Well, it did. What's wrong with that? Sometimes we WANT to hear what a group sounds like when they're screwing around. If that doesn't make sense, try listening to Beach Boys singing Barbara Ann sometime.
on September 14, 2000
This is worth buying for the Chronic Town EP alone. This is worth buying for Gardening at night alone. If you are a serious REM fan you should buy this. If not start at Automatic and work your way down, this is not for you. It has fun covers by The Velvet Underground, Pylon(the best), Aerosmith! and also Roger Miller. Then a bunch of stuff that you could only like if you love them soo. Drunken Jingles for restaurants and U2 flag waving attacks-Bandwagon. Voices of Harold 4. 7 Chinese Brothers nil.
on September 20, 2013
This CD remains one of my favorite and most cherished collections of B-sides, out-takes, and other assorted tracks. They are all of good enough quality, in my opinion, to be tracks on "regular" albums. You have a diverse and brilliant assortment of covers, such as their take on Pylon's "Crazy," Aerosmith's "Toys in the Attic", or the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes," and even a wacky version of "King of the Road." Some wicked and weird intstrumentals in the form of "White Tornado" and "Walter's Theme", plus the amazing "Voice of Harold", which is an "alternate" version of "Seven Chinese Brothers". Those lyrics crack me up every time. Sheer Stipe brilliance. And then there is the breathless fury of "Wind Out", and of course the bonus tracks from the "Chronic Town" EP. Nothing but quality. If you like those essential early R.E.M. albums such as "Murmur", "Reckoning" and "Fables..", you need to get this collection too. A great "document" of a great band in their prime.
on February 23, 2007
I had nearly forgotten about this record when I started re-perusing R.E.M.'s catalog the other day, but this was one of my favorites by the band from Athens. Not only does it collect a large number of covers and b-sides that wound up on the cutting room floor of IRS, it also contains the hard to find Chronic Town, the band's debut Ep that never enjoyed formal release on Cd.
Chronologically speaking, that EP was a glorious beginning for a group whose vocalist was otherwise incomprehensible to his listeners. We wondered at length what Stipe was actually saying (even coining the term "Michael Stipe diisease" for any singer who mumbled too much), but in the end we had to content ourselves with great music, even if the vocals were little more than a melody of their own.
As for the rest of the disc... well, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Unlike other catch-all compilations that seem to cash in on the loyalty of fans while delivering little in the process, the b-sides and covers are infinitely listenable. When taking in these tracks it becomes quickly evident the affection REM has for such bands as the Velvet Underground and Aerosmtih. Other homages such as Roger Miller's 'King of the Road' communicate a deep connection to the south (and country music in general) and leave one wondering what other influences REM might be hiding.
Dead Letter Office may be the kind of Cd you would prefer to cut, paste, and burn onto a couple blank discs, but it stands on its own as a document of REM's early development and the bands they owe so much to. Well worth your time.
on January 14, 2002
Since I've only been a recent fan of REM's, it would be nearly impossibly to find an original tape of "Chronic Town". So, I love the fact that they included it on this album.
The rest of the album is not excellent. The covers are mostly good, but not all of them sound together. Of course, these are studio outtakes, so that is excusable
I would recommend this to ANYONE just because of "Chronic Town"'s Greatness