As it stands, the R.E.M. nostalgia/reissues campaign hasn’t slowed a bit, although this is definitely one for the completist/hardcore fan – and I should preface this by saying I certainly am one (I do have my original I.R.S. purchases of “Radio Free Europe”, “So. Central Rain” and “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” – not counting the three 12-inch U.K. singles I have as well…). So it is that the people at I.R.S. have reissued the 45’s released by R.E.M. during their years on the label in their original picture sleeves and labels. They’ve sweetened the pot a little by including the U.K.-only double pack single of “Wendell Gee” (which I always thought was an odd choice for a single release overseas). Credit for that inclusion. BUT… because I am a traditionalist, they lose points for the simple lack of getting the color correct on the sleeve for the single of “Radio Free Europe” which was brown/tan, not black & white/grey. If you’re going to do it, do it 100%, you know? That oversight seems a tad lazy.
Nonetheless, it’s a nice piece to have in the collection and up to the releases from Lifes Rich Pageant, what a great reminder of how fine a singles band R.E.M. were. More importantly, from that period, the flipsides were of equal curiosity and joy, especially upon first hearing. Case and points: “Burning Down”, “Crazy”, “Bandwagon” (all Fables Of The Reconstruction-era). If you’re like me, you remember hearing these songs for the first time and saying “well, why wasn’t this on the album as well” because they were that good.
I’m not keen on nostalgia, but when it comes to the early years of R.E.M., I do have a very emotional place in my heart for them and the time. And these wonderful 45’s are the perfect catalyst to bring me back to it. And as I’ve said previously, it’s also a perfect way to introduce the next generation – especially in the format it was originally presented.
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