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R.E.M. - Chronic Town (I.R.S.)

23 August 2022

A landmark release in the annals of indie rock and incalculably influential on generations of indie and alternative rock, it’s hard to believe that R.E.M.’s debut 12” EP Chronic Town has never seen a standalone CD release before this reissue, although it’s notable to mention that this material has been reissued previously on the Dead Letter Office collection. As such, the only thing that’s really changed here when revisiting this classic (besides not having to flip over the sides and producer Mitch Easter‘s detailed, informative liner notes) is the slightly altered cover art, a minor drawback to what is otherwise a fantastic reissue. The 5-song EP starts out with the enigmatically titled but catchy “Wolves Lower” and then immediately, there is a version of “Gardening at Night” that differs from the alternate vocal mix version released on 1988’s Eponymous.

The EP’s greatest moment is “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars),” one of their finest early songs and one so good that it’s been consistently covered live by The Feelies, one of the band’s musical heroes. In fact, guitarist even produced their 2nd album, 1986’s The Good Earth. R.E.M. even played it on a short-lived Nickelodeon show called Livewire back in 1983. Suffice it to say that if you have any passing interest in indie or alternative rock or if you are a R.E.M. fan who’s somehow missed it all these years, you need to hear this.