Album #294: R.E.M. – Up

  • Released: 1998
  • Origin: Athens, Georgia, USA
  • Label: Concord
  • Best Track: Hope

I read that this week marks the 22nd anniversary of the release of Up. I remember it being released, but it’s one of the few R.E.M. albums I haven’t heard.

The album reminds me of Britannia Music Club, a company that would hook you in by offering you five or six CDs for the price of one, under the proviso that you then had to buy something like six CDs from them over the next two years at full price (and full price for a CD in the late 1990s was the best part of £20). They would also recommend an album for you every month, and if you didn’t physically post the form back to them to say no, they would assume you wanted the CD and charge you for it. I think Up was one of the ones they tried to flog me since they knew I liked “indie”.

Anyway I’m going off one. Regarding R.E.M., it’s not very fashionable to name Automatic for the People as your favourite of their albums, but it’s probably true for me. It has the right balance of the drive and rawness of their early college rock years, and the more meticulous arrangement of their later, radio-friendly material. Plus it’s full of simply phenomenal songs – Everybody Hurts, Try Not To Breathe, Nightswimming, Man on the Moon, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, the list goes on…

The more electronic-influenced Up came six years later and, for my liking, it strays a little too far from the alt-rock sound I associate them with. They probably didn’t really recapture that spirit until 2008’s Accelerate, in fact.

Still, it’s R.E.M., so it goes without saying that the songs are lyrically intriguing (see ‘Hope’ for the best example) and carefully crafted, with ‘Diminished / I’m Not Over You’ standing out.

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