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The first post Bill Berry album finds the (now) trio in an experimental mood. From the first hypnotic synthesizer tones of Airportman to the subdued ballad closer Falls to Climb, Up is a maudlin, slow paced effort. It also contains some of the most ambitious music this amazing band has made to date.
Only Daysleeper (the already failed single) and Lotus recall earlier work by the band. The driving Bill Berry beat has been replaced by drum machines and occasional real drums. Outstanding tracks include the Beach Boys tribute "At my most beautiful", the driving Hope (to the tune of Leonard Cohen's Susanne) and the almost positive "Walk Unafraid".
One final warning. Unless you are prepared to sit down and spend some time absorbing this album, don't expect it to grab you by the neck like Out of Time. However if you do love this band and appreciate their past uncommercial efforts, you will find a cornocopia of amazing music on Up.
But if you really LISTEN to this all the way thru and pay attention to the lyrics, backbeat, and subtle genius of the musicianship, you will learn what many already know: It is another REM masterpiece.
Most bands don't take the chances that REM does. It would be so easy for them to crank out radio-friendly jangle pop that they essentially wrote the book on. But this a band that believes you have to take risks to grow artistically. We should all be grateful they have this integrity.
So take 55 minutes out of your busy day, turn off the idiot box, stop multitasking, grab something cool to drink, and do something seriously lacking in our current culture: Listen.
No, this isn't your older brother's R.E.M.; nor is it even your R.E.M. of a few years ago. They seem to have followed a musical evolution that seems quite logical from a distance: they began as cult college-radio favorites, then emerged into the mainstream and swam there for a while. But that grew old, and to completely befuddle their top-40 audience and test which fans were loyal they created a "Monster". Anyone who was left hanging on after such a radical departure from their typical sound was treated to an awkward, adolescent-souding transition album, the "mid-life crisis" in R.E.M.'s career. Now they have emerged quieter, older, wiser--and undeniably, hauntingly GOOD. Each of these songs is as unassuming yet unique as a paper snowflake, and they have the same fragile beauty. "Hope" borrows the tune of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", a masterpiece in itself, and reinvents it as an allegory-filled, bouncing piece of prophecy as simultaneously serious and lighthearted as "It's the End of the World As We Know It." "The Sad Professor" draws a character sketch almost cinematic in its precision. The lone single "Daysleeper" is deceptively poppy and catchy, but the lyrics' message of blue-collar sympathy for those on the night shift is meant for an entirely different audience. And who doesn't sympathize with the eyelash-counting moment described in "At My Most Beautiful"?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
They should have quit recording after losing Bill, they were never the same againPublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
An under-appreciated R.E.M. album that is great for both active and passive listening.Published 13 months ago by Matthew J. Dalius
This is easily one of REM's best records. At the time there seemed to be some discontentment with this LP,mostly cause Bill had left and nobody really knew if the band would still... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Richard L. Baybusky
The departure of Bill Berry has nothing to do with the musical change on this album. It has to do with the year of the album was released. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Zen
I bought this because ALL of my R.E.M. had been stolen by a "friend". R.E.M. is my favorite band of all time. Even though they called it a day back in 2011. Read morePublished on February 1, 2014 by George Klavins
This is an often overlooked album and I believe some people give it an unfairly low rating simply because of the fact that this is the first album released post Bill Berry. Read morePublished on November 14, 2013 by M Jurgensen