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R.E.M. “And I Feel Fine: Best of the IRS Years 1982-1987″ Review

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Had you told me that R.E.M. was an established band when I first heard them I wouldn’t have really known what to make of them. They had just released the reverb-strong, grungy knock-off Monster and were fueled by airplay from their tracks “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” and “Strange Currencies.” Once my young ears began putting the connection together between the “It’s the End of the World…” band and this new, stylish R.E.M.I began finding a grown appreciation for the band and its music. I feel like somewhat of a shy recovered junkie, saying that I started with crack instead of something more fashionable as cocaine, but in 1994 Monster was my crack. Unfortunately I was too young to have been hip during the band’s Murmur days but slowly over time I’ve come to accept the band for being something more than classic rock radio hipsters.

It started for me not too long after the Monster days and I can attribute my deeper enjoyment of R.E.M. to two sources. One is the renowned Trouser Press who introduced me to the band’s longtime standing as (shockingly underground) rock idols. For a young boy, starving to find music outside of the realm of his local rock station’s playlist, the book Noise from the Underground: A Secret History of Alternative Rock served as a musical wet dream. Its pictures were amazing and its pages were full of bands that were crass, daring and unbeknownst to me, had already begun to change the face of music. It was in the Selected Discography, between Lou Reed and The Replacements that R.E.M.’s Murmer first peaked my attention, and where I was further introduced to the lasting impact of the band. But after finding the tape at a local used record store, I lost interest as it really didn’t have the same effect on me as the band’s modern music did at the time.

Then as New Adventures in Hi-Fi was released and each album after it subsequently found itself being accepted by an increasingly smaller audience. Best of the IRS Years proves to be the link creating a full circle for all of R.E.M.’s fanbase. It is a refreshing reprise for those who lived through it and an interesting historical reference to those who may have crossed paths with the band at later stages in its career. Much of what is on the double CD set is absolutely timeless material. There are classic tracks such as “Radio Free Europe” and longtime cult favorites such as “Superman.” As the songs progress the album becomes increasingly contagious and nostalgic with there being far too many “Oh, I remember that song” moments to mention, but what comes as the exclamation point to the collection is that after listening to the songs the listener realized how truly vital R.E.M. is to modern music; even without a solid release this Millennia.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]