R.E.M. Lifes Rich Pageant on LP
2016 Vinyl Reissue of 1986 Classic!
Very few albums are regularly credited with changing people's lives. R.E.M.'s Lifes Rich Pageant is one of them. For a generation that came of age in the 80s, as well almost everyone that came within earshot of its contents, the Georgia band's 1986 landmark effort remains an utterly distinctive sonic blend of elegance and whimsy, seriousness and humor, artfulness and accessibility. It's here that R.E.M. evolves beyond its college-rock identity albeit retains its youthful innocence, here where Michael Stipe's enigmatic vocals finally attain the same level of prominence as the group's potent rhythm section.
Lyrically, R.E.M. hits upon more concrete themes, and while Stipe's occasionally mumbled singing still lacks clear enunciation – a trait that adds to the songs' mystique and surrounding textures – there's no mistaking the overt political and environmental sentiments in tunes such as the hit "Fall on Me" and gorgeous "Cuyahoga." Similarly, "Flowers of Guatemala" epitomizes R.E.M.'s hallmark ability to turn allegory into dreamy poetry, the counterpoint melodies, atmospheric guitar fills, and majestic bridges all enchanting devices of a band that manages to get its point across via spiritual performances and indirect suggestiveness.
Such qualities lie at the heart of Lifes Rich Pageant, on which subtle details and concerted purposes unite to make transcendent, lasting art. Bolder, more pronounced, refined, and immediate than that on previous efforts, Mike Mills' bass lines and Peter Buck's swelling guitar passages augment the hard-driving beats as well as Stipe's increasingly upfront vocals. Disposing with the intentional murkiness and subconscious approach of earlier records, R.E.M. goes in attack mode here, with even mellow numbers resonating with an attention-getting kick. It doesn't hurt that the band covers the field with expertly executed songs that comprise garage rock, jangle pop, rustic country, and more either.