In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album Murmur, I’ll be ranking R.E.M.’s discography. (Since I don’t normally include EP’s, I’m skipping Chronic Town.)
R.E.M. was formed in 1980 when the four members were students at the University of Georgia. Peter Buck met Michael Stipe in Wuxtry Records, where Buck worked. They discovered they had similar tastes in music, and met Mike Mills through a mutual friend. After their first gig, they brainstormed such names as Cans of Piss and Twisted Kites, before Stipe suggested R.E.M. after a dictionary search. After dropping out of school, they eventually recorded Chronic Town, their debut EP, with Mitch Easter. They signed a deal with I.R.S. Records, and then began work on the full-length debut.
Murmur has received several accolades. It’s in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and it’s on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list, at #165. Rolling Stone also listed it at #18 on their Best Debut Albums of All Time list. It had two singles.
Michael Stipe: vocals
Peter Buck: guitars
Mike Mills: bass, backing vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, vibraphone
Bill Berry: drums, backing vocals, percussion, bass guitar, piano
- “Radio Free Europe”: Stipe has admitted that this song was intended not to be understood, and the title was purely selected for its appeal. It’s taken a long time to grow on me.
- “Pilgrimage”: I like the vibraphone and bass on this track. The rhythm is nice.
- “Laughing”: the guitars and vocals are good on this.
- “Talk About the Passion”: this song is about the plight of homelessness. The bass and backing vocals are great.
- “Moral Kiosk”: This is one of the few songs that don’t work for me.
- “Perfect Circle”: this song was written by Berry and has some great instruments. I like the longing sense of the lyrics.
- “Catapult”: I like the bouncy feel of this track.
- “Sitting Still”: This has a more traditional feel to it, with a very good mix of folk and punk.
- “9-9”: I’ve never been able to get this song.
- “Shaking Through “: This has some good energy to it.
- “We Walk”: This has a good rhythm to it.
- “West of the Fields”: This has a good fast pace.
Final Verdict: When I first listened to this album, it didn’t grab me. Several years later with repeated listens, I’ve come to accept its charm. It’s not an accessible album at first, but give it a listen. It does deserve its many accolades.