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Reckoning (Deluxe Edition)

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Album Review

R.E.M. abandoned the enigmatic post-punk experiments of Murmur for their second album, Reckoning, returning to their garage pop origins instead. Opening with the ringing "Harborcoat," Reckoning runs through a set of ten jangle pop songs that are different not only in sound but in style from the debut. Where Murmur was enigmatic in its sound, Reckoning is clear, which doesn't necessarily mean that the songs themselves are straightforward. Michael Stipe continues to sing powerful melodies without enunciating, but the band has a propulsive kick that makes the music vital and alive. And, if anything, the songwriting is more direct and memorable than before — the interweaving melodies of "Pretty Persuasion" and the country rocker "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" are as affecting as the melancholic dirges of "Camera" and "Time After Time," while the ringing minor-key arpeggios of "So. Central Rain," the pulsating riffs of "7 Chinese Bros.," and the hard-rocking rhythms of "Little America" make the songs into classics. On the surface, Reckoning may not be as distinctive as Murmur, but the record's influence on underground American rock in the '80s was just as strong. [In 1992, the British division of IRS reissued all of R.E.M.'s albums with bonus tracks. Many of these cuts were featured on Dead Letter Office, but others were rare flexi-discs, fan-club singles, compilation contributions, forgotten B-sides, live tracks, and outtakes. Reckoning boasted a number of previously unreleased alternate takes and outtakes. There are alternate live-in-the-studio versions of "Pretty Persuasion," "White Tornado," and "Wind Out," which features Jefferson Holt and Bertis Downs on vocals. There are also two covers: "Moon River" and a silly version of Archie Bell's "Tighten Up," which features Mitch Easter on keyboards, that was only released as a flexi-disc with the Bucketful of Brains fanzine. There are no great revelations here, but hardcore fans may want to hunt these reissues down, even if R.E.M. themselves were reportedly unhappy with the bonus tracks on these reissues. However, keep in mind that many of these bonus tracks — the ones that weren't originally on Dead Letter Office — later appeared on the limited-edition U.S. rarities collection In the Attic, which means that these imports aren't necessarily worth the search.]

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Athens, GA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

R.E.M. marked the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional...
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