On Music

The band R.E.M. is easy to love—and hate. In the 1980s the group from Athens, Georgia, defined college and indie rock. It grafted locomotive Rickenbacker guitar and bass onto the no-nonsense beats of Bill Berry and the barely audible but alluring vocals of Michael Stipe. Automatic for the People (1992) ranks as one of the most beautiful, plaintive pop albums of its time. Document (1987) remains a quirky gem. Yet there is also Monster (1994), an embarrassing exhibit of a group trying to sound younger and hipper than it is, as well as Stipe’s barely forgivable slam of the Beatles as “elevator music.” (To which the witty Ringo Starr replied: “If it weren’t for the Beatles, Michael Stipe would still be taking the stairs.”)


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