Saturday, June 8, 2013


Monster (R.E.M) (1994)

R.E.M’s ninth and most controversial release inches towards its twentieth year of existence with no apparent ease in sight. The band had been at the heights of its powers and, like Dylan before them, changed direction and plugged into a harsher rock sound and fans were stopped cold in tracks. Maybe lead singer Michael Stipe felt out of place amidst the grunge love-fest that was permeating the air but history will prove eventually that this is the band’s best album.

It sure is the loudest: the twelve songs that make up Monster are all jarring, disorienting yet shockingly human. Stipe and company had reached a frustrated point with their celebrity and it had started to affect their personal interaction. One can hear it in the hiss that singles out Stipe on the brilliant King Of Comedy to the point where he lashes out towards the end, “I’m not commodity” repeatedly. The album also touches on sexual frustration quirkily on I Don’t Sleep, I Dream, where he ponders if he gives good head and mother envy on Crush With Eyeliner. And no R.E.M LP could be complete without Stipe stretching his gorgeous vocals over some geeky, intense emotion and one listen to Strange Currencies reinforces the fact that no band has done emo-rock half as well since. No introspection could ignore the album’s centerpiece though, the touching Cobain tribute, Let Me In. It’s a mere three minutes of guitar shards and a solemn Stipe berating that other superstar for not letting us into his life. After all these years it remains one of rock’s most harrowing moments.


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