In Time: The Best of R.E.M 1988 – 2003

In Spite Of Some Omissions Like "Shiny Happy People" & "Drive" This Compliation Portrays The Band At The Peak Of Their Hit-making Powers

In Spite Of Some Omissions Like "Shiny Happy People" & "Drive" This Compliation Portrays The Band At The Peak Of Their Hit-making Powers

R.E.M. became an unstoppable force during their stay at Warner. This single disc compiles most of their ineluctable hits along with some rarities and previously unreleased tracks to keep collectors entertained.

All of their Warner albums are featured; “Automatic For The People” is the one that has more tracks in (4 in total), whereas the least represented discs are “Out Of Time” and “Monster” (only one track each – “Losing My Religion” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” respectively). And the remaining discs (“Green”, “Up”, “Reveal” and “New Adventures in Hi Fi”) are summarized in two songs per album.

Even someone who isn’t that well-versed on their catalog will spot some omissions that are bitter to swallow. Both “Shiny Happy People” (“Out Of Time”) and “Drive” (“Automatic For The People”) have been excluded. “Shiny Happy People” might be one of the stupidest songs since the dawn of time, but it was their one and only Top 5 hit both in America and in Europe. The band has professed its deep abhorrence for the song. Fair enough. But Radiohead does not omit “Creep” on anthologies, no matter how much they grew to detest it.  

And “Drive” was their biggest European hit. I would gladly take “All The Way To Reno” (one of the songs from “Reveal”, and one of the superfluous compositions here) off the compilation and add either.

Still, the fact that all the rarities that are included are good does tip the scales favorably. “Bad Day” was an old song (while Berry was still their drummer) which was revamped for release here. You can listen to the original version on the bonus disc of the best of the IRS years compilation, incidentally.

Then, you have two songs from soundtrack albums: “The Great Beyond” (from the biopic about Andy Kaufmann starring Jim Carrey – the song became the band’s biggest UK hit) and “All The Right Friends”, from the Vanilla Sky soundtrack. The song was also a new take on an old demo, again with Bill Berry sitting behind the skins.

Many will always lament that this was not a 2 CD set. However, I beg to disagree. Were it not for the two major omissions, this would have been pristine in every sense. The finished disc is excellent as it is. Not perfect, but it is one of the most encouraging compilations I have ever set my hands on. I am even partial to the non-chronological sequencing, because the disc would have lost a little oomph once two thirds were in otherwise. As it stands, the late-period phase of the band (when their sound became far more selective) blends in with their commercial pinnacle, and you get an absorbing overview of the fathers of Alt Rock as they somehow outgrew the genre. Others would tell you that the genre outgrew them. But we’ll save that for the “Comments” below.

Would I recommend purchase of this compilation: Yes
Do I feel like digging deeper into their catalog after listening to it: Yes