R.E.M. – Reckoning

r.e.m.R.E.M. have always been a special band for me. “Losing My Religion” is my favourite song ever and opened my ears to the wondrous potential of music. But what set them aside from a lot of other bands was the fact that they had a ten year independent recording career before they entered my life. The years after hearing “Losing My Religion” were spent listening to their 90’s albums (Automatic For The People, Monster), whilst discovering their earlier works (the bands seminal debut Murmur, Document, Fables of the Reconstruction). The first I bought (for the princely sum of five pounds) was Reckoning. Released a year after Murmur in 1984, Reckoning harked back to the rawer, poppier sounds of R.E.M.’s earlier EPs, rather than the subdued and mysterious sounds of Murmur.

Slightly more “rockier” than Murmur might be an exageration, but there is a definite toughening of the drum sound and the album is quicker as a whole. There’s nothing as melancholic or gentle as “Perfect Circle” off Murmur, but that’s no bad thing. Reckoning is consistent and has a strong selection of songs. “Pretty Persuasion” is a great song, with a fierce middle section. “Time After Time (Annelise) shows their budding knack at the anthemic sound that would define R.E.M. in the 90’s, with a layers of percussion adding impetus to each chorus.

Best song is “Harbourcoat”, a pacey, jangly guitar track that shifts pace a couple of times but is so rock solid. The harmonies by Mike Mills are perfectly judged, if a little hard to make out. There’s nothing of Reckoning that’s as moving as something like “Everybody Hurts”, the band are too taken with crafting a good tune and Michael Stipe’s vocal range isn’t at the same standard as his later works. But Reckoning, like all the early R.E.M. albums is more than just a document of the band’s early career. It’s a vibrant album with some great songs on it, and demands inspection.

R.E.M. – Harbourcoat:

R.E.M. interview from 1983 (shitty video quality, but what are you gonna do?)

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