Ranked: R.E.M. Albums from Worst to Best

With the release of new album Collapse Into Now, Fluxblog founder and R.E.M. diehard Matthew Perpetua revisits the band's entire output.

By Matthew Perpetua

R.E.M.'s fifteenth album, Collapse Into Now, comes out this week. Wanting to rank their discography, we got in touch with the best qualified writer on the planet, Matthew Perpetua, who reviewed every single R.E.M. song for his blog Pop Songs 07-08. He also founded the world's first MP3 blog, Fluxblog, in 2002. Take it away, Matthew.

 

15. Around the Sun (2004)

There is no clear consensus on what the best R.E.M. album is, but pretty much everyone can agree on which one is the worst. Around the Sun isn't exactly a bad album, but it is well below the standard set by the band's body of work. It's a wildly uneven set of songs. A handful of strong tracks, like "Electron Blue," "I Wanted to Be Wrong," and "Around the Sun" are sprinkled in among uncharacteristically bland and mawkish tracks such as "The Worst Joke Ever," "Leaving New York," and "Make It All OK," the last of which may be the worst album cut in the band's history.

Listen: "Electron Blue"

MP3

 

14. Reveal (2001)

Reveal is only slightly less uneven than its successor, Around the Sun, but it's more successful in evoking a sustained mood. This is R.E.M. at their most languid and luxurious, but for every lovely, ornate track such as the electronic ballad "I've Been High," there's an overbaked, drowsy number like "Beachball" to drag down the album's overall quality.

Listen: "I've Been High"

MP3

 

13. Accelerate (2008)

Accelerate was a welcome return to loud rock and roll after a decade focused on muted, keyboard-centric studio pop, but in retrospect the album was a bit too narrow in its focus. The band certainly sounds lively, and tracks like "Living Well is the Best Revenge" and "Horse to Water" are among their very best rave-ups. But their obvious need to prove themselves as a viable rock band and the lyrical focus on Bush-era politics have made the album age awkwardly.

Listen: "Living Well is the Best Revenge"

MP3

 

12. Up (1998)

Up would rank a lot higher on this list if only the album were a bit shorter. R.E.M.'s first record without longtime drummer and co-songwriter Bill Berry finds the group doing their best to adjust to their new status quo, resulting in some successful experiments with electronica and atmospheric lounge pop. Even the weakest tracks are pretty good, but it just goes on for too long without many noticeable dynamic shifts.

Listen: "Hope"

MP3

 

11. Collapse Into Now (2011)

Collapse Into Now is the best R.E.M. record since the departure of Bill Berry, if just for its casual, relaxed tone. Whereas the other post-Berry albums sound like the band is either trying to solve a problem or prove a point, Collapse finds them playing to their strengths as songwriters and delivering a cohesive album without getting stuck on a particular musical theme.

Listen: "Discoverer"

MP3

 

10. Out of Time (1991)

R.E.M. broke into the mainstream with Out of Time, an oddball grab bag of mannered chamber pop ("Losing My Religion," their biggest hit), mournful dirges ("Country Feedback") and upbeat bubblegum ("Me in Honey"). KRS-One's cameo on "Radio Song" may be cringe-inducing and the aggressively cheerful "Shiny Happy People" is certainly not for everyone, but nevertheless, the record features some of the lushest, most lovelorn songs of their career.

Listen: "Country Feedback"

MP3

 

9. Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

Fables of the Reconstruction is the band's most "southern" album, at least in terms of atmosphere and lyrical content. Most of the songs are portraits of eccentric small-town loners; the rest deal with themes of isolation, escape, and imagination. There are a few minor cuts in the mix, but there is no question that "Feeling Gravity's Pull," "Good Advices," and the gleefully unhinged "Life and How to Live It" rank among the band's finest works.

Listen: "Life and How to Live It"

MP3

 

8. Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)

Lifes Rich Pageant marks R.E.M.'s first major creative shift, with the band downplaying its established jangle-pop and embracing a brash, lively rock sound better suited to the bigger rooms they had worked their way up to on the touring circuit. The most memorable cuts fall between those aesthetic extremes, such as the beautifully harmonized single "Fall On Me" and the folksy rockers "These Days" and "I Believe."

Listen: "These Days"

MP3

 

7. Green (1989)

Green is a transitional work for the band, caught between the politically aware arena pop of Document and the more delicate acoustic music that would follow on Out of Time and Automatic For the People. The album splits evenly between perky rockers and gorgeous ballads, but it's remarkably coherent as a whole, thanks in large part to Michael Stipe, who turns in some of the most impressive vocal performances of his career.

Listen: "You Are the Everything"

MP3

 

6. New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)

The band's final album with Bill Berry is an eclectic travelogue written and recorded mainly while on their troubled world tour for Monster in 1995. It's an ambitious, nakedly emotional collection of songs that touches on most of the band's established strengths while staking out new territory in experimental cuts such as "Leave," "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us," and the heartbreaking Patti Smith duet "E-Bow the Letter."

Listen: "Electrolite"

MP3

 

5. Reckoning (1984)

R.E.M.'s second album is full of references to storms and floods, but it sounds like wide-open bright blue skies. That's because Reckoning is basically a record about living in the aftermath of trauma and change (like, say, suddenly becoming a rock star after years of being a shy introvert). This is the R.E.M. jangle pop sound at its most elemental — Peter Buck would spend the rest of his career either trying to avoid repeating his guitar sound here or attempting to reconnect with it.

Listen: "Harborcoat"

MP3

 

4. Monster (1994)

R.E.M.'s most underrated album, bar none. Monster's detractors claim that it was a cheap attempt to cash in on the grunge zeitgeist of the early 1990s, but the truth is, the record sounds very little like anything from that era, much less anything that came before or since. All through the album, the band buries elements of glam and soul music under loud, super-processed guitar parts that evoke images of super-saturated colors and melting candy. It's a flirty, sexy record with a dark undercurrent — nearly every track is about obsession in one form or another.

Listen: "Crush With Eyeliner"

MP3

 

3. Document (1987)

Document is a strange yet totally natural synthesis of political folk-pop and arena-rock grandeur. The lyrics have a dark, cynical edge, but the melodies are vibrant and assertive, particularly on stand-out tracks such as "Disturbance at the Heron House," "Exhuming McCarthy," and "Finest Worksong." Document's balance of apocalyptic dread and manic energy reaches its pinnacle on "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)," a song that has evolved from a minor hit at the time of its release to one of the band's most iconic tunes.

Listen: "Disturbance at the Heron House"

MP3

 

2. Murmur (1983)

Much like Monster, the band's first LP is a distinct musical world unto itself, full of chiming, crystalline guitar arpeggios, unconventional harmonies, crisp percussion, and no shortage of foggy late-night ambiance. Stipe establishes himself as one of rock's most fascinating and inscrutable frontmen, mumbling his way through verses while dropping evocative references to mythology, dream worlds, and severe anxiety. Murmur ranks among the most confident and fully-formed debut albums of all time, and if R.E.M. had broken up immediately after releasing it, they might still be legends to this day.

Listen: "Pilgrimage"

MP3

 

1. Automatic For the People (1992)

Automatic For the People is often understood as being R.E.M.'s album about death and mourning, but it's really their meditation on living with the awareness of mortality. Stipe and the band touch on deep, elemental fears and existential dread with remarkable subtlety, while knowing enough to make the soulful anti-suicide anthem "Everybody Hurts" as direct and obvious as possible. The spectre of death hangs over every cut, but the album's most moving songs, such as the sentimental remembrance "Nightswimming" and the cautiously optimistic "Find the River," rejoice in the small moments that make life worth living. Automatic For the People is timeless and profound, and manages to be uplifting without ever seeming condescending or corny.

Listen: "Find the River"

MP3

Commentarium (215 Comments)

Mar 06 11 - 3:00am
Redd

Some surprising choices here but I definitely agree with your number 1. Automatic is one of the most listened to albums for me start to finish. I wore out that yellow cassette for my entire senior year of high school.

Jul 11 11 - 11:01pm
Robert Paulsen

Just like you wore out your yellow condom through reuse?

Jan 19 12 - 12:34am
Chad

I've been rivited by Matthew Perpetua's analysis. It's so authoratative, and yet he feels free to inpret it in his own way. While I love it and find it extraordinarily helpful, I also believe that in general the band--as individuals and a unit--chronologically improve as artists/writers/performers and that in the case of REM there's really no comparison between earlier and later efforts. What I mean is: of course for a wide variety of factors, any given album can be "lesser" in eveness than another, but for the most part, there is no question that these four (sometimes three) musicians improved dramatically (as much as any of us would want to improve from one efforrt to another), between their experiences.

Mar 06 11 - 3:45am
Kat

I was hoping Automatic would be your top pick! I just listened to it the other day and thought, "Damn, this stuff seriously holds up!" "Nightswimming" is in my top 10 favorite songs of all time.

Jul 19 11 - 7:25pm
Futz

Thanks for chiming in, boob.

Mar 25 12 - 11:13pm
Kat

No problem bitch-tit. Glad you enjoyed my comment so much.

Mar 06 11 - 9:22am
anonymousdoofus

Fables is their best record imo - none of their other records even come close. Love the murky psychedelic Joe Boyd production on it as well as the songs

The rest of my top 5 would go Murmur, Life's Rich Pageant, Reckoning, and Out of Time.

Mar 21 12 - 12:14am
Blueshark

Totally agree, Fables is # 1 in my book and my next 4 would be L.R. Pageant, Murmur, document and Automatic 5th.

Mar 06 11 - 12:16pm
Looking Back

There is a reason people rank "Monster" quite low. It deserves to be ranked that way.
I like "Out of Time" a lot more than you do, but life is good.

May 01 11 - 7:52pm
Booking Lack

Filthy elitist jerk.

May 03 11 - 3:30pm
Me,myself&I

i see wat u did there

May 08 11 - 10:29pm
Booking Lack

Truly, you exhibit the hallmark of genius.

Mar 06 11 - 5:00pm
Ted

Don't really agree on some of these. The less convoluted the lyrics, the more preachy Stipe became, and the worse the song. Which throws most everything post - Green on to the back of the list... Just IMHO of course

Mar 08 11 - 12:44am
Colin

There's a reason for that. REM jumped from IRS records to Warner Bros with Green, and downhill it went, I agree

May 11 11 - 10:25pm
Shaved Tight Lips

What rot.

Mar 06 11 - 8:42pm
The Baltimoron

REM is the worst band of all time. Get a high school sophomore girl to write trite lyrics for Hootie and the Blowfish fronted by a bleating goat, and you have REM. Why people I respect continue to embrace this trash will be the greatest mystery I take to my grave.

Mar 08 11 - 3:25pm
me

are you a used car salesman ?

Mar 10 11 - 11:54am
me2

your grammar is as bad as your criticism on R.E.M. - you are fool.

Mar 11 11 - 1:42am
rrrman

Ok Baltimoron, name your favorites and prepare for the backlash. we're not judging bands here, we're politely discussing one band's output.

Mar 18 11 - 10:31pm
Al

"Why people I respect continue to embrace this trash will be the greatest mystery I take to my grave."
They must know something you don't.

Apr 09 11 - 5:19am
Reveled

Maybe I am the only other human who perceived how horrible this band is. Stipe appears to me to be a psychopath spitting out garbage-garble with two lesbian henchmen. Somehow it is subconsciously crafted to be mass-appealing and collectively accepted by some poor people as a great art. The singer admits to never having lyrics or the intention of having lyrics when they were playing as a band but just mumbling. The band originally wanted to call themselves "Cans of Piss" or "Negro Wives;" how can I take their act without even a grain of salt for mockery? It does not surprise me that they can use their sneakily crafted celebrity as a flake for liberal plots. I hold respect for every type of music, and this stuff just scares the crap out of me.

May 01 11 - 7:22pm
Bert

If you hate REM so much, why are you trolling articles about them? I think that says it all about your personality.

May 08 11 - 10:30pm
Horace Goodspeed

@Baltimoron - hopefully you'll be making that trip real soon.

Jun 29 11 - 8:19pm
Baggins

Haters gonna hate.

Aug 17 11 - 3:01pm
storybooker

a cookie may taste different to everyone but a baker is still a baker ! I love R.E.M , whether 1 or 1 million agree ;) much love to everyone !

Aug 19 11 - 2:19pm
optimist

Completely agree with you there..REM is one of the greatest bands ever..

Oct 18 11 - 7:19pm
George The Sad Fish

Baltimoron, I hope you lose your mind and murder your family. Then, if not sentenced to death (which is preferred), you will go to federal prison and get raped up the butthole every day. You will die of AIDS and then I will find your corpse. I will take it and throw it into my trusty wood chipper, and I will feed your shredded, STD-infected remains to my cannibalistic neighbors. Then, when they shit you out, I will take the fecal matter and burn it. The fire will be a ceremony and my whole town will come to watch.

Mar 06 11 - 10:43pm
JD

I'd put the EP before Murmur really high on the list, too. And New Adventures might even be higher. What a glorious record.

Mar 30 11 - 2:39pm
BK

Agreed. Chronic Town is one of the best works for a beginning band that I have ever heard. I understand that people have their opinions on how these albums should be ranked, but they are just that, opinions. R.E.M. didn't sell out with Out of Time, nor did they go downhill after signing with Warner Bros., they just took their musical stylings in different directions. Each album has wonderful songs on them, but if you are looking for indie style college music like they had back in the Chronic Town - Murmur days, forget it. Stipe and co. are no longer in their early 20's. Their musical styling has grown with them as well. If you want consistency, start listening to hip-hop.

May 08 11 - 10:31pm
KB

@BK - well said, brother.

Mar 07 11 - 2:06am
finn

I think "Leaving New York" is one of the band's best singles...

Mar 16 11 - 10:07am
Robert

Totally agree. How it can be called "bland and mawkish" is beyond me

May 11 11 - 10:27pm
Drippin' Wet Box

Uhm... prolly cuz it IS bland and mawkish. Nothing inherently wrong with that. Still a good song.

Aug 19 11 - 2:22pm
optimist

don't agree with.."Leaving New York" is one of the worst REM songs ever..In fact REM should be ashamed of themselves for coming up with a crap album like Around The Sun..

Mar 25 12 - 11:31pm
Greg Formager

"Leaving NY" is their best song bar none.

Mar 07 11 - 2:06am
Gian

You have Monster before Reckoning? Dude. Hardly.

Mar 15 11 - 12:28am
Rod

and Fables that low ?HUH? ...green doesn't even come close to fables/ monster is has two good tunes -but none were the big letdown for me as Out Of Time- that was a wholesale sell out that killed the fanbase

May 01 11 - 9:56pm
Shaft

Says you. Out Of Time was fantastic, albeit a product of it's time, which is why I love it.

Mar 07 11 - 2:07am
snewbo63

AFTP is correctly placed at #1. The trio of Reckoning, Fables and Life's Rich Pageant would all be in my top 5, with the 5th spot being a tie between Green and the much underrated New Adventures.

May 01 11 - 9:57pm
snowboy63

Glad AFTP met with your approval. Boob.

May 11 11 - 10:27pm
Snowboy63

Pompous ass.

May 27 11 - 6:23pm
defectos theatrical

Jackass.

Jun 29 11 - 8:20pm
Large Sac

Dilettante.

Jul 11 11 - 11:02pm
Robert Paulsen

Fucking scrotal tool.

Jul 19 11 - 7:27pm
Luben Haaker

Inbred anal-pumped pillow-sucking windbag.

Jan 29 12 - 6:52am
Tom Fitx

Hey Snowboy63 , I agree with defectos theatrical , Large Sac , Robert Paulsen and Luben Haaker ....we are not too happy with you...your a momma's boy wetnursed by your grandmother and she pampers your white hairy obese 50 yr old bot-bot with baby powder before she cuts up your din din and then reads you a story before beddy bye....No one give a rats about your REM choices...pompous smart alec!

Mar 07 11 - 10:03am
Garrett

I'd flip Document/ Lifes Rich Pageant and Monster/Reckoning, but overall a good list.

I haven't listened to the new album enough to say, but I wish they'd worked with someone besides Jackknife Lee. The sound fit the scorched-earth mentality of Accelerate well, but it's a bad match for a return to more varied sounds.

Mar 07 11 - 10:04am
Garrett

(Sorry — Jacknife Lee.)

Mar 07 11 - 1:35pm
deemster

yeah...no chronic town? FAIL.

also...fables is their "let it be." according to stipe and buck. it's a much better album than you think...because it documents a point when the band nearly fell apart, and the creative tension on that record is thicker than the london fog they recorded in .

but then, you really like monster. more than you liked pageant? dude.....

Mar 07 11 - 2:05pm
steve

Chronic Town is an EP, not an album.

May 01 11 - 7:54pm
Hugbard

Yah, Chronic and Dead Letter should be on here too.

Mar 07 11 - 2:19pm
profrobert

Automatic isn't horrible (aside from the vomitous Everybody Hurts), but it's probably the weakest of the Berry-era albums. Remember, Drive was supposed to be the big hit off of it, and it, well, dove. Nightswimming is a classic, though, and if it weren't on the album, I'd probably never listen to it.

Isn't it stunning how, apparently, Bill Berry was the lynchpin to R.E.M.'s quality? I agree that their worst albums all have come since he left. And that said, I'll buy the new album sound-unheard. R.E.M. is "automatic" for me.

Apr 26 11 - 1:45pm
richelieu jr

i couldn't agree more. Automatic was the first time i was ever disappointed by an REM record... i moped around ofr a week....

May 01 11 - 7:55pm
dickrobert

Everybody Hurts is actually an exceedingly meaningful song that touches me whenever I hear it reminding me of a loss I've had. Fine. You don't like it. Your personality is vomitous.

May 01 11 - 10:00pm
dickrobot

@profrobert - they music has simply changed over time, including when Bill left. It's you that's gotten worse. All that said, I'll buy the new album sound-unheard too, because REM is automatic for me too. I just appreciate every one for what it is. Oh alright, there have been a couple of songs that were rubbish. Never a whole album though.

Jun 29 11 - 8:22pm
proofrobert

If there's anything that's vomitous, it's your opinion. Snivelling pillow-biting peach-sucking intellectual dredge. Go wring out some kleenexes for us.

Jul 11 11 - 11:03pm
Alan Coffee

The only "vomitous" thing here is the drivel slinging forth from your cakehole, profrobert. Take a hike, you callow wallflower.

Mar 07 11 - 2:40pm
Ben

I'd put Fables higher and Monster lower, but mostly seeing that there is a list of 15 REM albums without including Chronic Town (which would be top 5 for me), Dead Letter Office, or any of the live stuff makes me feel really, really old.

Jul 19 11 - 7:28pm
Gump Worsley

The only thing that makes me feel old is seeing gorgeous young pussy at the office, and I have to scratch my balls to remember my name. (burp)

Mar 07 11 - 3:08pm
CB

I agree with your top two, but would move Monster down to between 12 -15. I would also move Fables & Lifes Rich Pageant into the 4 & 5 spots...

May 01 11 - 7:57pm
BeeGees

14, then 8 through 12, and of course 23, never to forget 2.

Mar 07 11 - 3:09pm
meola

Which REM album you like best depends on when you went to high school and/or college. For me, almost everything after Document is drivel.

Mar 08 11 - 8:32am
markobx

Well said...

Mar 11 11 - 12:41am
knower

Yup. Out of Time and Automatic are passable, Monster was kind of interesting, but none come close to Chronic Town and the first 5 albums.

May 01 11 - 7:58pm
aloem

Well, this blows your theory clear out of the water. I've been listening to them since Reconstruction and love them all. They all have a different flavour and purpose - who would want to listen to a band that makes the same record over and over again? Nonsense.

Jun 16 11 - 7:02pm
ryan

fully agree. The early albums were so intimate because you felt like you were in a small bar or they could pick up and do it all acoustically in a heartbeat (which they did). The more instrumentation, strings, and production and even mandolins, the more the felt like small arena rock, and the intimate attachment was gone. or it could be that I had sobered up by then

Jun 29 11 - 8:24pm
Labia Licker

Could also be that you'd developed some f'n GREY MATTER by then, you aged wallflower.

Feb 28 12 - 4:03pm
Labia Licker Master

Jesus Christ, you're a fucking bitch, Labia Licker.

Mar 07 11 - 4:20pm
julian.

Life's Rich Pageant is my own personal fav. But, I agree pretty much with the rest of the list.

Jul 11 11 - 11:04pm
Publius

Who fucking cares what you agree with?

Mar 25 12 - 11:26pm
julian

@Publius who the fuck cares about not caring about what the fuck I don't disagree with?

Mar 07 11 - 4:27pm
worldleaderpretend

Monster and Automatic for People are a little high. A well reasoned list other than those two.

P.S. I still think a shout-out, EP or not, to Chronic Town is called for. Gardening at Night et. al. are still a great listen.

Mar 07 11 - 4:34pm
mark

Totally with ya Ted. Stipe lost me when he started trying to have "meaningful" lyrics. Maybe it is just my college days, but there ya go.
deemster, you remind me of what Mark Twain once said about Wagner - "His music is better than it sounds."

May 01 11 - 7:59pm
y mark

I'll give ya kudos on the Wagner quote.

Mar 07 11 - 5:22pm
Sy Klops

Props for not being one of those people who only love the early stuff or the later stuff. Personally, they lost me with Out of Time. Very talented bunch of guys for sure, but Stipe's whiny over-indulgence just grates on me after while.

Jun 29 11 - 8:25pm
Psi Crops

...as do your pathetic posts.

Mar 07 11 - 6:42pm
Vinegar Bend

I haven't kept up with them much in the last decade. I thought "Up" was a real low point, except for the song "Lotus." Hard to believe it was the same bunch who did "Automatic for the People."

Mar 07 11 - 7:27pm
Derek

There are some bands I like to name-check, and one of them is R.E.M.

Mar 07 11 - 11:46pm
unseen power

Time After Time was my least favorite song/ Time After Time was my least favorite song

Mar 07 11 - 9:59pm
You, not we

Is REM the longest-standing band with no 'new' members, ever? The Dead kept adding and killing keyboard players, the Kinks replaced bassists, Roxy Music did too, the Stones made plenty of replacements... Anyone else keep going as long as REM without officially replacing anyone?

Anyway, 'LRP' remains my #1, followed by 'AFTP', 'Murmur', 'Reckoning', 'Up' (which i think is a lot more successful that others do, although it probably is 2 songs too long -- that's the problem with CDs, they removed the element of self-editing that the LP enforced on everyone but Todd Rundgren to keep a record down to 35 minutes, max), 'OOT', 'ATS' ('the ascent of man' is one of my all-time favorites), 'FOTR', 'Green', 'Document', 'NAIHF', 'Monster', 'Reveal', and 'Accelerate' (which isn't bad, but is sort of a one-note charlie). Haven't heard CIN, but am sure it's hard to keep at this and keep it fresh for >30 years.

Mar 07 11 - 10:48pm
Matthew Perpetua

They never got official "new" members, but Scott McCaughey has been the band's second guitarist consistently since 1994 or so, and Bill Rieflin has been the band's drummer since 2003. They aren't part of the songwriting process and aren't considered full members, but they may as well be.

Mar 08 11 - 2:31am
DRS

U2 hasn't had a line-up change since, what, 1978?

Mar 09 11 - 2:46pm
The Mister

REM has 15 studio albums, U2 have 12 . Biggest band in the last 30 years

Mar 09 11 - 8:54pm
You, not we

But @DRS raises an interesting point. U2 really has stayed together as an unchanged quartet for a longer period of time. It seems so obvious that my original question/comment seems dumb now.

They're in the stupid hall of fame and all, but I think REM (who were, pre-crooked rain crooked rain, my favorite band ever) owes it to themselves to produce one more inarguably great record. I love REM and would be happy for them to release records for the next 20 years. But, for their own sake, I almost believe they should put a ridiculous amount of pressure on themselves, announce that they're recording their final album, maybe even see if Bill would want to play on it (not tour), and with everything on the line, try to knock one out of the park. It would be one of the bravest musical statements, even if it failed, since 'abbey road'. Even if they sort of know it, how often does a band know going in that they're making their last record. Not a contractual obligation album, but just a 'we are going out in a blaze of whatever, and putting it all on the line right here, right now.'

May 01 11 - 8:00pm
Oui

Hooray!

Mar 07 11 - 10:50pm
rex

I first came across REM in the Green era and totally agree with the idea that your ranking of REM albums is highly age dependent. That said, I'd say the older albums are best and would revise the list such that Murmur #1, Reckoning #2, Monster #14, Up #15. "What's the frequency Kenneth?" -- not good. Good list otherwise.

May 01 11 - 8:01pm
T

Monster, Kenneth - LOVE THEM.

Jun 29 11 - 8:27pm
wrecks

What's the frequency Kenneth... what a fantastic song! You suck.

Mar 08 11 - 12:11am
ted

No way - first time i've ever seen 'Monster' get its critical due. There's some choices in there that raise an eyebrow or two but the list is worth it alone to see someone else stick his neck out for 'Monster.' Bravo.

May 01 11 - 7:24pm
Baggins

Ya man! I love da Monster!

Jul 11 11 - 11:05pm
Roy Lee Harwell

Monster is, bar none, their best album. Full stop.

Mar 08 11 - 3:38am
Cporn

Is it over excited to say that CIN ranks hire... And I don't agree with putting monster at four, bu it's a gutsy call, nd will make more than one of us go back and give it a spin, I'm sure.

Mar 08 11 - 3:38am
Cporn

Higher, of course, said the autocorrect.

Jul 19 11 - 7:29pm
WTF

What are you talking about, retard?

Mar 08 11 - 3:43am
Buddy h.

And for Perpetua, much love for your continued, quality musical journalism on this band... the blog was epic enough, but you've been great at keeping them in the conversation, even when I think their contributions are getting glossed over.

Mar 08 11 - 8:33am
markobx

I'm not sure what you folks are smoking @ nerve, but I want some if you rank AFTP ahead of Murmur... jeezus.

May 01 11 - 8:02pm
Phil O'Stine

I want some regardless of how they rank AFTP!

Mar 08 11 - 9:26am
Pony

Only a few spotty rare gems in the "Post-IRS" years. As far as overall albums go...
#1 - Life's Rich Pageant, #2 Murmur, #3 Reckoning, #4 Fables, #5 Document. The rest may have a tune or two worth a mention (i.e. "Losing my Religion" or "Imitation of Life") but not great albums.

Mar 08 11 - 2:56pm
Grant

Reveal is much, much better than you are giving it credit for. Even with Beachball, which I can't defend.

May 01 11 - 8:02pm
Revoke

No, but you could poke it with a sharp object.

Aug 19 11 - 2:33pm
daysleeper

Beachball is not that bad as everyone is pointing out here..It is far better than any song from dreadful Around The Sun..

Mar 08 11 - 5:12pm
Craig

Let's just call the top three (exactly the right three) a three-way tie for first and be done with it.

Mar 08 11 - 5:15pm
Craig

I should add, however, that I'm also one of those weirdos who thinks "New Adventures" was better than "Monster", so I'd flip those two. I'd also bump both "Out of Time" and "Lifes Rich Pageant" up, and "Green" down, from where Matthew has them ranked. But that's the beauty of music: we all have different opinions and tastes.

Mar 08 11 - 11:10pm
alexbyname

right there with you. NAIHF is my favorite R.E.M. disc, and favorite album of all time, period.

Mar 11 11 - 2:37am
rrrman

sorry to imply or ask, as a brand new blogger at Nerve, alex, but what're your other top 5?

Mar 08 11 - 5:25pm
chuck schick

no dead letter office? granted all b-sides but outweighs half these choices.

May 01 11 - 8:03pm
chick schuck

Chronic Town too, Chuckster.

Jul 01 11 - 3:55pm
shick fuck

"outweighs half these choices"

What unadulterated drivel from the mouth of a inbreed retard chimp.

Mar 08 11 - 7:00pm
can't get there from

holy crap

Jun 29 11 - 8:28pm
can't get holy crap

from there

Mar 08 11 - 7:13pm
Simon

I am as big of a fan as they come....I think its too early to be able to rank CIN...and I may be the only fan who really love ATS,

Mar 09 11 - 3:33pm
Steve

I like Around the Sun too. And it is too early to rank CIN at this point...but I do love it.

Mar 08 11 - 7:44pm
Palinode

Where is Dead Letter Office? Where?

Never mind.

Jul 19 11 - 7:30pm
Willy's Wonka

Well then, why'd you hit the Return key, imbecile?

Mar 08 11 - 11:09pm
alexbyname

Thank you, thank you, thank you for setting the record straight on Monster. Sorry, but I am sick to death of the whole "failed attempt at grunge cash-in" argument coupled with seeing a full row of orange when I go into a used record store. At the risk of sounding elitist, people obviously didn't get it. It's R.E.M.'s beautiful dark twisted fantasy.

Mar 15 11 - 12:45am
Rod

disagree,stipe is too damn promanent in monster ( i mean "she a sad tomato" huh? I don't sleep i dream? oh boy ) too drunk on Nirvanna punch at the time of this record,albiet 'Kenneth' is a great song

May 01 11 - 7:26pm
Staff

agree, monster rulz - so tired of the bitter, critical grunge arguments against it.

Mar 09 11 - 2:07am
jontv

A pretty reasonable ranking. Lifes Rich Pageant and Fables are too low, I think, and Monster is too high. At the time it came out, they just seemed kind of bored, like Michael had run out of things to write about and become obsessed with fame. I do like Automatic a lot, but probably wouldn't make it #1. I agree about New Adventures being good, but maybe not that good. I haven't heard the new one yet.

Mar 09 11 - 10:35am
JN

Please rate Fables (and Up) higher and I may exonerate you... And I think you may rank 'Collapse Into Now' lower than this in the near future. It's early to say, of course, but I remember the almost universal praise for Reveal at the time of release.

Mar 09 11 - 12:38pm
Zeit

Don't agree with any of your choices...Monster was always a non-starter and it was totally a gambit to attach themselves to the grunge scene. At that point, they were the 'old guys' and it was a lame move to remain relevant. After that album they really never recovered...sure they had their fans as they still do, but they lost that MEGA band status and they were never able to get it back. U2 did too with pop, but they amazingly were able to get back on top with their efforts in the 2000s which although completely banal, managed to connect with audiences...

May 01 11 - 7:28pm
Geist

Yadda yadda. REM continues to make the art that they want to, and you can be damned if you don't like it, cuz they don't care. Monster is a great disc.

May 03 11 - 6:43pm
Scrotum

@Zit - maybe they never CARED for the MEGA band status, never tried to get it in the first place, and never tried to get it back. It's not all posturing for money and mass appeal like you seem to think it is. Tadda. Zit popped.

May 08 11 - 10:36pm
Tuggy Bottoms

@Zeit - you are a backwards inbred retard walking a goosestep in sync with the lobotomized pundits of the music critique clique. Wake up and smell your burned toast.

Jun 29 11 - 8:29pm
Dear Zeit

The better part of you was left on the inside of your mother's thigh.

Jul 19 11 - 7:32pm
Shaft

I'm so tired of the dead, bitter, exhausted arguments about Monster because it's "grunge". Get a fucking life.

Mar 09 11 - 1:36pm
Ludophile

This is a bit like ranking oatmeal from most to least spicy.

Mar 11 11 - 2:34am
rrrman

right on, I get your point, but as I've said, if the implication is "REM's output is oatmeal', then you have some "'splaning " to do about oatmeal.

May 01 11 - 7:29pm
Haggisman

Aye, laddies, I love oatmeal!

Mar 09 11 - 2:08pm
M.A.

I would put Up way way higher...like #2 after Automatic. I disagree on your ranking but I loved your interps on popsongs so I can forgive you :P

Jul 01 11 - 3:51pm
Perpetua llyyours

Your forgiveness means as much to me as a nicely buttered rock to a black bear in the woods.

Mar 09 11 - 3:32pm
Steve

I think it's so cool how Green is finally garnering the respect it deserves. I used to always see it where Around the Sun usually is, dead last. It seems these days it's higher on these lists, which is good because I always thought of it as the "real" departure for the band after Document, and that Out of Time was just an extension of it.

And it's always good to see New Adventures so high. Excellent.

I think Collapse into Now should be higher. I think it's fantastic. We'll see if time treats it better and it climbs up as it ages.

And I agree that "Make It All Okay" is truly the worst song in R.E.M.'s catalog.

Mar 09 11 - 5:49pm
gringomaclure

'The Worst Joke Ever' is the Worst Song Ever by REM. On ATS - I think Make It All Okay is positively in my top half of songs.

Mar 09 11 - 5:53pm
gringomaclure

Like people have said - this depends on when you were at High School. The release of WTFK? in 1994 was HUGE for me.
15-ATS, 14-Reveal, 13-CIN, 12-Reckoning, 11-Document, 10-Accelerate, 9-Murmur, 8-Fables, 7-Up, 6-NAIHF, 5-Green, 4-OOT, 3-Monster, 2-Automatic, 1-LRP

May 01 11 - 8:05pm
dingomaclure

Poppycock. I finished high school before they recorded an album. Ha!

May 01 11 - 8:09pm
tsuru

@gringo - what a hack & cliche list.

Mar 09 11 - 5:56pm
ian

murmur
reckoning
(chronic town)
lifes rich pageant
fables
document
(rest in peace IRS years)
monster
green
new adventures (although I couldn't be bothered to buy this one)
automatic
out of time

Automatic disqualification for all post-Berry; they should have broken up.

Mar 10 11 - 12:05pm
me2

Is this not in the order of release date? c'mon dude.

Mar 11 11 - 2:43am
rrrman

fine call, REM fan.
you're no "cinderella boy", per Patti Smith

May 01 11 - 8:09pm
tsuru

@ian - what a hack & cliche list.

Mar 09 11 - 7:29pm
Gert

Collapse into Now should be higher in the list imo, maybe it should change places with monster. Out of Time should be higher as well. My list would be:
1. Automatic
2. Lifes Rich Pageant
3. Green
4. Document
5. Out of Time
6. Collapse into Now
7. Reckoning
8. Murmur
9. NAIHF
10. Fables
11. Accelerate
12. Up
13. Around the Sun (yes, I do not hate it)
14. Monster
15. Reveal

This is just my personal taste. I can see that Murmur is more a unique album, but I'd rather listen to Out of Time.

Mar 21 11 - 4:46pm
Doug

Agree that the new album is better than it is ranked! Good work Gert!

May 01 11 - 8:07pm
Bob

Agree that the albums are better than they are ranked! Good work Gertrude!

May 01 11 - 8:10pm
tsuru

@Gert - what a hack & cliche list.

Mar 10 11 - 8:01am
tsuru

@perpetua - what a hack & cliche list.

May 01 11 - 7:30pm
tsuru

@Gert - what a hack & cliche list.

Jul 01 11 - 3:50pm
Pikey

@tsuru - what a hack & cliche comment.

Mar 10 11 - 10:03pm
Frank

I personally prefer the Warner Bros period albums with Bill Berry. The IRS years have some excellent songs,but I can't really listen to these albums from beginning to end. The after-Berry production has been hit and miss for me - and I put it all on the production. I wish the band was going back to work with Scott Litt. Or someone like Rick Rubin.

Mar 11 11 - 1:58am
rrrman

As an older REM fan, I think of it as I experienced it - album by album, from Chronic Town EP to my current (right now) listen of Collapse.

Point 1 is that the early stuff was so different and cool, and if you saw them then you'd understand.

Their eccentricity carried the studio sound, but the key was how they sounded live. That summer that LRP came out was it - that's how they sounded live, and with a connection to their early writing (I'd give a nut to know what those "four songs before we had a band" or whatever Peter Buck said in Behind the Music about the band's origins" were. I'll bet "All the Right Friends", "Mystery to Me", and "Just a Touch" or some variations therein were on the table, and that's where the genius begins.
So I love the really early stuff, and Document/LRP is a transition point from my perspective. Automatic has beautiful music, but if you like "thrashy" REM then Monster and Accelerate have to rank up there. I wonder is Scott McCaughey peed his pants with the offer to play with REM, and I sometimes wonder why they picked that Young Fresh Fellow for the supporting guitarist. Anyway, that's it - all the early stuff, DLO, LRP, then snippets of everything after, including but in no way extensive list: World Leader Pretend, Nightswimming, and today, Mine Smells Like Honey. I love this band. Search youtube for the Athens in/out acoustic version of Driver 8 and you should be sold.

Mar 11 11 - 2:30am
rrrman

sorry forgot points beyond point 1.

assume that you've never seen them live, and only have the beauty of youtube to experience that. type in "REM college" and you'll get a pretty good feel for what I'm talking about. another point about my personal point of reference - I was a huge Police/costello/cars fan in the really early 80's, and REM opened for the Police at the Cap Center in DC, and I went not so much 'cuz I thought REM was good, but because I wanted to see the battle of the drummers. In terms of hot drummers 1981 we had Stewart Copeland and Bill Berry, and that's what I focused on, and that solidified a part of my REM love.

Mar 11 11 - 3:39pm
Neil vN

Monster is a better album than Lifes Rich Pageant ? Monster was the sound of a band afraid of their own greatness after the success of Automatic. It's crap.

May 01 11 - 7:31pm
Nv Lien

@Neil vN - bloh me mon.

May 01 11 - 10:08pm
tsuru

@Neil vN - what a hack and cliche comment.

May 03 11 - 6:46pm
Scrotum

You're crap.

May 08 11 - 10:38pm
prof robert

@Neil vN - you're a dildo sucking pillow biter.

Jul 01 11 - 3:49pm
Oral Roberts

You're crap, you fecal artist.

Mar 13 11 - 8:44am
Benjamin James

I know that Monster would not make number 1, but it is my favorite. Lyrically it is glamorous, and there are great moments of musical diversity. The album is a great piece of work if only for the inclusion of Tongue, which i simply adore. Being a song writer myself, I look to 'Let me in' as a raw and creative way of writing a ballad. Fair play, Monster is still top of my list.

Jul 01 11 - 3:47pm
Bunjiman Jones

Monster's the top of my list too, followed closely by New Adventures. But ya know... it's ALL good shit.

Mar 13 11 - 8:22pm
sj

Monster and Green and New Adventures better than Lifes Rich Pageant and Fables???
How could anyone take this seriously after reading that.
Monster and Green may be the two worst. Green is where everything started to go in the crapper.

May 03 11 - 6:48pm
pj

Green is where everthing started to go in the crapper???
How could anyone take your comment seriously after reading that.

Mar 14 11 - 3:39pm
dan

Ranking is a funny thing. I always thought Green was inspid except I Remember California." That TV show kind of killed it for me. Hi Fi stands out for me as a nice blend of what came before it. The new record plays like a greatest hits album. Putting AFTP first is a Greg Kot critic move. It is a good record, but you can't listen it to it all the time without feeling like killing yourself.

Mar 18 11 - 7:49pm
Keller

Mr. DiTrapano took your idea and ran with it. In his own way. It's funny. Go read. http://www.viceland.com/blogs/en/2011/03/18/friday-tyrant-more-last-word...

Mar 20 11 - 5:50am
KM

Wow, Out of Time is really low. I really appreciated this one more than most of the others because Mike Mills actually sang lead on Texarcana and Near Wild Heaven, I love his voice and I wish he sang more songs as lead.

Aug 19 11 - 3:09pm
daysleeper

I love Texarkana and Near Wild Heaven..Very much under appreciated songs...The video of Near Wild Heaven was also nice...

Mar 21 11 - 5:13pm
DaveInYoFace

This list was going pretty well until you put Automatic for the People in the #1 spot. I know that this is all subjective opinion but on that particular point your opinion is both wrong and insane. Any 80's album is better than Automatic for the People...any one of them. You did pretty well and even gave New Adventures in HiFi the respect that it, surprisingly enough, does deserve...but Automatic for the People...just NO. I don't hate it, but it's not even in the neighborhood of being the best.

May 03 11 - 6:49pm
AssInDave'sFace

Guess you didn't listen to much 80s music.

Mar 22 11 - 9:43pm
Jorge Reyes

Hello Matthew,

The Ascent of Man was (is) actually worst than Make it all Okay...

Jul 01 11 - 3:40pm
tsuru

Hello Fat Stuff,

Your comment was (is) actually worst [sic] than The Ass End Of Man...

Mar 24 11 - 9:46am
happydog1960

As you might think, I disagree w/you about Monster: absolutely their weakest overall release and the album that made me feel they were running out of ideas. I would also rank New Adventures in Hi-Fi lower. I was so disappointed by that one, coming right after Monster, that I no longer bought REM albums until I'd heard them through at least once. This coming from a guy who was (is still, sometimes) a huge fan, since Chronic Town days. I agree with the other poster - it's interesting that Bill Berry's departure is a major marker. Of course Berry contributed a lot more than just drums to the band musically. They never have seemed to find their footing again without him.

May 08 11 - 10:40pm
beagle brothers

That's OK, happydog1960. We're all pretty disappointed in you, too.

Mar 30 11 - 10:40pm
AB

Interesting list. Regardless of your opinions, I think you present a discerning list and, while I may not agree with your selections, you have placed a lot of time, effort and detail in making your selections.

I will keep this brief.

I think their albums, post-Monster, have been weaker than the content before. Regardless of the reasons, this is my conclusion. That said:

"Accelerate" was a great redirection back to the high energy, fun rock that REM gave us in such albums as "Document", "Green" and "Lifes Rich Pageant". This is one of the higher ranked albums on my list.

"New Adventures in Hi-Fi" has been one of my top three albums. I love the melodic tones just as much as I love the heavy guitars that flow through the album. I was happy to see this high on your list. For me, it would be higher. I love REM but I find that their albums are difficult to listen in their entirety in one sitting. I can hit play with album and let it fly.

"Automatic for the People" is a classic album but it is what I expected to see as number one. Honestly, I think "Murmur", "Green" or "Document" should have taken the top spot when comparing the songs offered on each album. "Automatic..." was REM being restrained. It was good but it did not possess the true energy that earlier and later albums had. It might be personal, but it just does not do it for me.

"Monster", and this is the pink elephant when it comes to REM albums, should have been number one in my opinion. The heavy guitars, the flow of the album and the diverse array of songs in the album's arsenal make this the REM gem. Yes, the last six tracks diverge greatly from the opening tracks but the mix works. This is one of three albums ("NAIHF" and "Document") that I can hit the play button on and forget about the skip. It is a combination of high energy, intelligence and experiment.

Best band ever.

May 01 11 - 10:09pm
tsuru

@AB - you didn't keep it brief.

Apr 06 11 - 4:27pm
Rubes

Thanks for the great article. You provide amazing clarity and insight into the individual albums and I am greatly appreciative of it. I really like their newest album, and I'm probably not the only one hoping that some of REM's most brilliant work is still yet to come.

I flip flop between Murmur and Automatic for the People as my top choices. I started listening to REM when I was in high school (20 years ago) . I picked up on them primarily because of the Dream a little Dream soundtrack that had End of thre World on it. Out of Time has just come out, and while Losing my Religion was the big song at the time and getting overplayed to much, but I absolutely loved everything else on the album especially Belong. After that, I picked up a few older albums like Document and eventually got EPonymous.. which turned me onto a ton of other work. Then.. Automatic for the People came out and I was stunned. AFTP is probably the strongest for me in terms of nostaligia.. highlighting for me all those turbulent emotions wrapped up in the teen years.

Thanks agian for the trip down memory lane!

May 01 11 - 10:11pm
Pubes

Thanks agian for the trip down mammary lane!

Mar 25 12 - 11:16pm
Rubes

And thanks to you for the trip down dick face lane!

Apr 18 11 - 9:39am
Brian

Not a bad list at all...especially how you rank the post Bill Berry albums...yes Collapse Into Now is the best since he left but not as good as past efforts...Around the Sun is the worst but when I play R.E.M. on a Random list, most of those songs mix well...it is just hard to sit through that album straight through...Ascent of Man is very underrated from that album. And agree, even though it is an EP, Chronic Town deserves a mention.

Jun 29 11 - 8:33pm
Brain

Well then maybe you oughta to stop sitting and start dancing! Get off your fat arse, putz!

Apr 18 11 - 3:58pm
Rod

Finally, a review that gives Monster its due! I would even place it above Document and possibly on par with Murmur. Simply one of the best and most complex progressive rock albums ever made. Its gets better every time I hear it.

May 01 11 - 7:21pm
Bert

Ditto.

Apr 22 11 - 2:01pm
dc

automatic is an amazing album. 15 years after their heyday (during which I was a big fan), it is really the only album that I still listen. It resonates. It's a classic near the top of any top 100 rock albums list.

May 03 11 - 6:50pm
Hugo Wretch

@dc - that's not Automatic resonating, it's the belt drive in your turntable.

Apr 22 11 - 11:49pm
Andrew

Reading the list, then reading all the comments, has been fun. Most of their albums were recommended for number one, and most of them were recommended as "worst." Reckoning was my introduction to the band. Yep, that's when I was in high school.

For the heck of it, mine:
1. Murmur/Reckoning/Green/Automatic (Tie)
2. Chronic Town/Lifes Rich Pageant/Fables/Document (Tie)
3. Out of Time / Dead Letter Office
4. Collapse Into Now
5. New Adventures
6. Accelerate
7. Up / Reveal / Around the Sun (I've only heard each of these once, so it's hard to rank them fairly...they haven't caught on for me, and I need to spend more time with them)
8. Monster (Love it or hate it I guess. Actually, I just think this album is boring, not bad.)

May 01 11 - 8:10pm
tsuru

@Andy - what a hack & cliche list.

Mar 25 12 - 11:22pm
Andrew

@tsuru - thanks for the insult bro!

Jun 05 11 - 9:18pm
TheWongaMan

I wasn't in college for any of their releases, I heard the albums at different times, but that doesn't affect how I would rank them at all

My list

1. Murmur
2. Reckoning
3. Lifes Rich Pageant
4. Document
5. Fables Of The Reconstruction
6. Automatic For The People
7. Green
8. New Adventures In HiFi
9. Out Of Time
10. Monster
11. Accelerate
11. Collapse Into Now
12. Up
13. Reveal
14. Around The Sun

Making that list was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do (clearly I don't do much), not sure I even agree with it 100 percent, usually depends on my mood.

But hands down my no.1 is Murmur
listening to it while making this list (on vinyl), it doesn't get much better than that.

anyway I've been reading posts here of people arguing about which is better, to be honest its pathetic, everyone has their own opinions and their favorites, arguing is pointless, most of these albums are great anyway

Jul 01 11 - 3:38pm
tsuri

What a hack and cliche list.

Jun 16 11 - 10:39pm
Garth

Awesome, Monster makes #4. It truly is an underrated and misunderstood beast of a record. maybe not better than Fables or Life's Rich Pageant. But, they couldn't keep doing what they did with Automatic (their finest hour), so they started something new. It's a meaty, fuzzy album, very consistent, and Peter Buck just owns this record.

I love them all through New Adventures; any order. IMHO, when Bill left, they should have broken up. His position and contributions within the group can't be overstated enough-- the evidence is with their last five records.

Jun 29 11 - 8:34pm
Darth

Life goes on, Vader. Deal with it.

Jul 10 11 - 11:05am
BigIslandDave

"Lifes Rich Pageant" is the band's best album, followed by "Automatic for the People." The worst? "Reveal." It's nothing but sonic mush. Use it as a coaster or a Frisbee.

Jul 11 11 - 11:07pm
Roy Lee Harwell

Blow me, asshole.

Jul 10 11 - 11:30am
BigIslandDave

By the way, "New Adventures" isn't as good as advertised. "Leave" -- the one with the annoying siren -- is particularly bad.

Jul 15 11 - 8:41pm
Robert Paulsen

New Adventures is one of my favorite R.E.M. albums. Maybe you need to revisit your Britney collection, BigIslandDave.

Jul 19 11 - 7:33pm
Jesus

What a rectal artist. "BigIslandDave" needs to gie his head a shake.

Jan 29 12 - 7:04am
BigIslandDave

What did I ever do you...leave me alone!!! My opinions are just that....you're are not nice people. I will say that my opinion is as worthy as yours.

Jul 15 11 - 9:36pm
jonny quest

When 'Chronic Town ' came out, i went out and bought it the day after hearing it on the radio.
A week later, I sent a personal letter to R.E.M. at their fan club. I said that this was the most original music I had heard in my 18 years, requested a lyric sheet and received a personal reply from Mike Stipe.
He stated that R.E.M. had no lyric sheets," because every time they performed, he made up different words to go with the music " ! Mike encouraged me to make up my own words to their songs as well.
I've been a fan ever since and really loved the Live in Dublin tracks as they are so close to the original recordings that they just blew me away. Sadly, the last 5 albums have disappointed me immensely.
You can't have your cake and eat it, too !

Oct 31 11 - 4:05am
dkomjath

I like this ranking a lot. I'm a big fan of R.E.M.'s sun-pop surface, so I love Out of Time and Dead Letter Office the most, prob'ly. Even if no one agrees, DLO should absolutely be counted as an original album in its own right. I say this because in the '80's, sans internet, I think the vast majority of us fans heard all those b-sides FIRST on DLO. Thus, they were new songs, as far as we were concerned. Speaking for myself, I know that even if I had the money to buy all those '45's as they were cranked out, it would've been nigh onto impossible (unless I'd have liven in Athens and shopped @ Wuxtry). Of course, these days, it's just a few clicks of the keyboard...
My vote for WORST (I'm listening to these traxxxxx now as I type this and this act confirms my overriding fear: REM has made a couple'a bad ones! Diminished, UP, with the opener "I watched you fall, I think I pushed..." Yow!! That's not what REM are to me. Yikes. Why not smile, and the coup de grace, Parakeet. Not an organ fan when it's used by itself, the fact that I actually like Brian Wilson be damned! - and this song is flush w/ it.
Finally, I remember reading the latest issue of "Uncut", the very well-made British rock/pop periodical (hideously overpriced here, though, a true indulgence) when Around the Sun came out, and the editors, the CHIEF editors, even, going on about how "Leaving New York" is an INSTANT CLASSIC! How could that be?
To finish, my laptop just played my all-time least favourite lyric. Lemme look the UP song they's on: Oh, yeah. It's "Falls to Climb" from the aforementioned. The offending lyrics: "I'll be pounce pony, phony baloney...". Sure, Michael. Then the first verse where Stipe talks about assuming the Missionary Position (me thinks). Shudder shudder. Document/Murmer/Chronic Town Stipe would NEVER put a lyric like that in any of those albums. Its inclusion in this song is the opposite of evolution. RIP/REM.

Nov 04 11 - 11:44pm
ross

i agree with this almost 100% completely

Nov 15 11 - 10:01pm
Tucker

Great rationales for each of the albums and their placements. While I don't fully agree with the order, I get and appreciate the logic. I also liked the comment about 'Around the Sun' that it's not a bad album just bad R.E.M. in context. I think that describes perfectly their post-Berry era albums. I still find them all instantly playable, even if they don't reach the same heights as their previous work. Funny enough, I actually find 'Accelerate' to be my least favorite of this latter era. I appreciate the return to a gruffer, charged sound but the lyrics and focus of the album not only horribly date the album but also make it a rather ugly experience. I don't have a problem with political R.E.M. but this felt like all of the petty pop commentary that was far too prevalent at the time.

I, too, would move 'Monster' down on the list as I've always found myself put off by the album. And 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi' would actually top the list for me, which I guess makes me a Philistine.

For those asking about 'Chronic Town' and 'Dead Letter Office', both aren't considered studio LPs. 'Chronic' is an EP and 'DLO' is a b-side/rarities comp. This list is only covering the studio albums, which is why 'Eponymous' or 'In Time' - granted, they're best-of comps but still - or the live albums aren't included either.

Nov 18 11 - 4:54am
Daniel

Automatic for the People is life affirming, but oddly enough, it's also a record good enough to end your own life to.

Nov 21 11 - 1:57am
Justin H

You're right about Monster -- that has to be one of the most underrated rock albums of all time.

Jan 12 12 - 5:35pm
Nessa

As somebody previously said interesting,but totally oposes the way I think..I can't believe that "reveal" is one of the worst on your list..I think it's brilliant..also I disagree with your choice of songs singled out as the ones that should be heard..

Jan 12 12 - 5:48pm
Nessa

Also.."around the sun " is so underrated..the album is better than general public thinks.."Leaving NY" is amazing and meaningful..I'm sorry if you fail to recognise that..

Jan 29 12 - 7:15am
BETTINA

I LOVE HAVING SEX TO REM....IN FACT THE SOUND OF A BLEETING LLAMA OR A CHATTERING MARMOSET WOULD MADE ME MOISTER THAN NIAGRA FALLS AS WELL!!!!

Jan 29 12 - 7:24am
BETTINA

I did not say this...boyfriend is been very stupid!

Feb 10 12 - 2:09pm
otter

1. Murmur
2. Life's Rich Pageant
3. Automatic For the People
4. Chronic Town/Dead Letter Office
5. Reckoning
6. Green
7. Document
8. Fables of the Reconstruction
9. Out of Time
10. Monster
11. New Adventures in Hi Fi

That's ten really good to great albums that R.E.M. made (New Adventures is okay, not up to par with the ohers listed above it). Not too many bands can lay claim to that kind of output. Unfortunately they kept making albums after the departure of Bill Berry (and unfortunately for me, I kept buying them). How they went from so brilliant to so medicore because of the loss of their drummer is kind of baffling. I know Berry was a good drummer and contributing songwriter, but I think his leaving upset some kind of balance that his presence maintained. Michael Stipe was probably given too much control over musical direction when Berry left. My guess is Peter Buck's drinking problem also sent more power Stipe's way. I'd still like to hear some new music with Bill Berry and Mike Mills, but Stipe's ego and Buck's drinking took down what was once the best rock and roll band in the world.

Mar 03 12 - 9:25pm
EJACULATE

I AM THE GREATEST

murmur

Mar 16 12 - 6:08pm
BillC

Nothing they put out after they left IRS is worth listening to, and you can probably rank those albums from first to worst in chronological order. If there's anything at all of value on their later albums I haven't heard it and I seriously doubt it's worth wading through their catalog of adult contemporary pop ballads to try and find it. If there was ever a band spoiled by pride and false illusions of their own talent, this is it.

May 08 12 - 4:49pm
BellaRudi96

out of time,automatic are great but the rest i can do witout,i seen them live 3 times one with 80,000 others,brillant on the ear but stipe must take joe jacksons prize as the ugliest man in rock.

May 14 12 - 10:18am
TheGynn

I've been an REM fan since I was about 14 (I'm now 33). I'm a professional musician and have listened to and played thousands of songs over the years but still no band reach REM's standards in my eyes. My top REM albums......1. Murmer 2. Automatic 3. Life's Rich Pageant 4. Green and 5. I wanna give a big shout out to Accelerate which I just can't believe didn't do better commercially and in the eyes of true REM fans!!! And also I wanna say I don't get the hype about Reckoning......never really rated that album....... Anyway big up REM!!!!

Jun 14 12 - 8:33pm
attaboy

Why is Reckoning great? Pretty Persuassion, Harborcoat, Southern Central Rain, Rockville, Second Guessing & Seven Chinese Brothers. That's why. Accelerate doesn't have one song on it as good as any of these six. If only R.E.M. had not made another album after Bill Berry quit. Oh, well we can try to ignore all of the bad music they made after he left and listen to the earlier great stuff.

Jun 16 12 - 10:51am
Collier

I think Reckoning is R.E.M.'s monumental album from their IRS days, but it's definitely a grower. It's quite different from Murmur, but keep listening and one day you'll realise it's nearly as good. Oh, and Little America is also a great track.

May 23 12 - 9:44am
Lucas Corso

Dead Letter Office deserves a mention. Voice of Harold and Crazy are among my REM faves.

REM was a great band in the 80s and 90s. They should have shut it down when the millennium ended.

Jun 22 12 - 6:26pm
tommy

Wow, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for you to rank Reveal as second to worst album... you ought to be ashamed of yourself. YES, Beachball is a joke song, but all the others are amazing. Saturn's Return is by far one of the top 5 Greatest songs REM has ever created. It's haunting and brilliant.

Jun 27 12 - 10:45pm
Mask

It's near impossible to judge a band in any objective sense, but this list is pretty good. I would rank New Adventures in Hi-Fi as their best though, personally.

Aug 28 12 - 10:28am
me

UP and Around the Sun are the best their albums. Man, do you use your ears sometimes?

Sep 02 12 - 2:04pm
Mark James

AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE was the best "album rock" album since the late 1970's. The music was almost completely perfect. The only thing that doesn't keep up is Stipe. He killed it with his usual bad & mumbled lyrics. You can really hear the clash between Stipe and the rest all through the album. For the group, it just wasn't the same after that and eventually radio dropped them after they signed that huge contract.