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R.E.M - Monster 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe (Craft Recordings)

31 October 2019

A band as powerful as R.E.M. were, they are sadly missed since their last hurrah in 2011. Their career over thirty-one years has seen some of the most incendiary music of the 21st century. The importance of course lies in what they did, as a working unit they propelled what was post-punk and transformed it into alternative rock. R.E.M. were the inspiration for many from Radiohead, The Replacements and the grunge product, laced within Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Although arguably some of their best work came in that influential period with Murmur (1983) to  Document (1987). However, it was the period from Green (1988) to Automatic For The People (1992) when R.E.M. became the biggest band on the planet. Shifting over 30 million albums, with of course the mainstream number-one album Out Of Time, hitting the top of the charts in the US and UK, along with five other countries. This was a band who could do no wrong. 

Then it changed, or rather the bands approach to an album did. For their ninth long-player they turned the volume up, made a recording based on sonic delivery instead of passionate intensity, the result was Monster. A quarter of a century since its release it remains one of the most curious albums in their catalogue, and this reissue proves that there was more than just a noise driven idea behind the release. 

Monster came from the result of circumstance, the deaths of Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix, the uncertainty within the band itself and the fact they needed to project the anger and frustration felt around the globe in the early nineties. Activism was on the rise, the first vibrations of what has become a tsunami of outspoken awareness in what we are doing to the planet. All these factors created the incubator for Monster which is why a quarter of a century later, an overview of a critical album by a band who are no longer active is welcomed, and a beast that has mutated across six discs of glorious angst. On the face of it, it is another view into the inner workings of a modern classic. One which gives fans a more stripped back and raw feel to R.E.M.‘s most curious set of tracks. 

The first disc is the album as we know it, remastered but reminiscent of the compact disc or cassette even we bought when it originally landed (vinyl was on the decline). Then there are the fifteen demos which take up all of disc two. This is the hit or miss section of any reissue such as this, but they do add something to the overall scope. “Harlan County with Whistling” perhaps the best of the bunch with “Mike’s Guitar” a close second. 

One of the reasons for parting justifiably with your hard-earned bucks is for the new mix done by original producer Scott Litt, apparently the maestro struggled with the original mix and waited for another crack at it. The whole of disc three is that new mix, a different perspective on the overall sound. The basic structure is simply scaling back on the guitar drench and honing in more on the vocals of Michael Stipe, making the lyrics stand out more. Although preferable to some ears, and others will have preferred the assaulting sound on the original, either way it is certainly a new way to view the album.

Discs four and five contain the Live in Chicago 6/3/95 – Monster 1995 Tour live set, a time capsule moment of a band at the very top of their game. The sixth is the Blu-ray edition, containing the remastered albums and videos with the added Road Movie concert film. Overall a worthy celebration of what remains an album which has taken on a cult life all of its own. 

Full Tracklist; 
Disc 1 – Monster (Remastered)
1. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
2. Crush With Eyeliner
3. King Of Comedy
4. I Don’t Sleep, I Dream
5. Star 69
6. Strange Currencies
7. Tongue
8. Bang And Blame
9. I Took Your Name
10. Let Me In
11. Circus Envy
12. You

Disc 2 – Monster (Demos)
1. Pete’s Hit
2. Uptempo Mo Distortion
3. Uptempo Ricky
4. Harlan County with Whistling
5. Lost Song
6. AM Boo
7. Mike’s Gtr
8. Sputnik 1 Remix
9. Black Sky 4-14
10. Revolution 4-21
11. Rocker with vocal
12. Time Is On Mike’s Side
13. 1Experiment 4-28 no vocal
14. Highland Fling 4-29
15. Cranky 4-29

Disc 3 – Monster (Remix)
1. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (2019 Remix)
2. Crush With Eyeliner (2019 Remix)
3. King Of Comedy (2019 Remix)
4. I Don’t Sleep, I Dream (2019 Remix)
5. Star 69 (2019 Remix)
6. Strange Currencies (2019 Remix)
7. Tongue (2019 Remix)
8. Bang And Blame (2019 Remix)
9. I Took Your Name (2019 Remix)
10. Let Me In (2019 Remix)
11. Circus Envy (2019 Remix)
12. You (2019 Remix)

Disc 4 – Live in Chicago 6/3/95 – Monster 1995 Tour (Part One)
1. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
2. Circus Envy
3. Crush With Eyeliner
4. Near Wild Heaven
5. Welcome To The Occupation
6. Undertow
7. I Took Your Name
8. Strange Currencies
9. Me In Honey
10. Revolution
11. Tongue
12. Man On The Moon
13. Country Feedback
14. Monty Got A Raw Deal 

Disc 5 – Live in Chicago 6/3/95 – Monster 1995 Tour (Part Two)
1. Losing My Religion
2. You
3. Departure
4. Orange Crush
5. Get Up
6. Star 69
7. Let Me In
8. Everybody Hurts
9. So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)
10. Pop Song 89
11. Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Disc 6 – BluRay
7. Monster – 5.1 Surround Sound
8. Monster – Hi-Resolution Audio
9. Road Movie (concert film)
10. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (music video)
11. Crush With Eyeliner (music video)
12. Star 69 (music video)
13. Strange Currencies (music video)
14. Tongue (music video)
15. Bang and Blame (music video)