In part two of our two part look at the career of alternative icons R.E.M. we consider posit that the bands 9th studio album, 1994’s Monster, is actually worthy of inclusion in our list of Classic Albums.
Determined never to repeat themselves, R.E.M. regrouped in 1993 to start work on the follow up to the multi-platinum selling Automatic for the People with the goal of making a loud, raucous rock record and to head out on the road for their first tour in six years. Best laid plans were severely tested in the making of Monster, as the relationship with the band members fell to an all time low, the deaths of close friends River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain severely affected the mindset of Stipe and, with the band being as close as they would ever get to legitimate mainstream celebrities, their relationship with fame confused and unsettled them. The result is an album of confusing, arch, ironic playfulness, that eschews the heart on sleeve approach of Automatic for the People for an album that is often brilliant and often unbalanced, but always interesting, as R.E.M. fucked with their own formula maybe more than they ever have or would. The critical reaction was one of confusion, the fan reaction was one of disappointment, but, 25 years plus down the line, does Monster actually stand up a great record that has been unfairly maligned and misunderstood? Spoiler…. Steve thinks so.
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