R.E.M. — Lifes Rich Pageant

Warning up front: this list will contain a lot of R.E.M. Given they’re my favourite band of all-time, it would be slightly strange if it wasn’t.

You can break R.E.M. into three periods: the first five albums on IRS, the Warner Brothers million-selling years, and then the post-Bill Berry era when it all went a bit rubbish. Turns out that as well as sporting the greatest pair of eyebrows rock music has ever seen (so good they star on the cover of this album), he was also the member of R.E.M. who would hear Mike Mills droning on a keyboard and have the foresight to unplug it before he was able to record anything.

This is album four of the first five, and is generally considered to be the one where Michael Stipe realised he could actually sing. Everything is clear on this one, windows wide open to blow all the murkiness and cobwebs of the first albums away. It has These Days, one of the best things they ever recorded, and joyous I Believe and, to boot, a strange Civil War song called Swan Swan H with lyrics about bone chains and toothpicks.

For whatever reason, they decided to mess with the tracklisting on this album, so it’s all in the wrong order, causing me to have to sit down and write out the correct on on a spare minidisc label. Which, considering we didn’t have the internet at the time, was quite difficult. At least I could marvel at Bill Berry’s eyebrows at the same time though.

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