R.e.m. - Monster
Musically, they appeared to take a leaf out of Nirvana's book. They ramped up the guitars, muddied up the vocals and tried to produce an album of rock and grunge combined. Michael Stipe and Kurt Cobain had been mates and this may even be Stipe's attempt at a tribute album to his dead pal. Indeed, "Let Me In" is very much a tribute to Cobain. There can be no doubt, however, that Cobain had a musical as well as personal influence on Stipe. The anomalous effect of this change in direction, in comparison with the more acoustic, almost folk ambience of the album's immediate predecessor, Automatic for the People, was not lost on fans of R.E.M. grunge-heads alike.
The result is often seen as a disaster, and it is an opinion with which it is hard not to agree. Stipe's vocals have become indistinguishable from the morass of sound which hits you as soon as you put this on. "What's the Frequency Kenneth" has some merit and "Crush with Eyeliner", with its heavily echoed reverb guitar, has a curiously infectious quality about it which is hard to pin down. But R.E.M. don't do traditional rock at all convincingly and much of the rest of the album can be classed as disappointing rock filler with "Star 69" being quite the worst song I think R.E.M. have ever done.
R.E.M.'s apparent sudden discovery of distorted guitars underpins a lot of the music on the album, with mixed success. At times they sound like a pale copy of the early Jesus and Mary Chain while at others, Stipe's influence seems to have been drawn from the shoegaze which was beginning to draw to a close across the Atlantic. There is a deliberate attempt to try to bury every melodic tendency amid a wall of noise. It is not what you might expect from R.E.M. and most of the time it does not work as well as it could, or as well as it was probably intended.
The net result is an album which at the same time confuses and fascinates me. I can admire the attempt of the band to break out of the stereotype that they felt they were sinking into, but in so doing they slipped easily into the ill-fitting clothes of a different musical stereotype. Most of the tracks I can easily skip over if I feel like it, and yet I am still drawn to the musical expression and experimentation combined within them. I could not at the time, and still cannot figure out what the band were trying to achieve and wonder if they had used the space provided by this album to experiment as well as consolidate. If so, they failed.
But for me the standout track is "Bang and Blame". Not necessarily for any great intrinsic merit it has, but mainly because when I put this album on, my daughter, then aged 1 1/2, would leave her toys and get up and dance to this. This song, the theme music to an Italian football show and watching a Neil Diamond impersonator sing "America" on a Waikiki corner were the only times she ever did that as a young child. That makes "Bang and Blame" cool - officially. No arguments or contradictory views tolerated.
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on 2012-09-05 hstisgod Said:
haha, classic album fo sho