Thursday, October 20, 2011
Monster Is REM's Acthung Baby
Why does REM's 'Monster' get so little love? OK, it gets some here, but it's generally seen as the tipping point for REM's popularity. Certainly it's a departure from their previous records, but that shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. I bought it on CD recently and listening to it again after the space of over 15 years I was struck by how much it reminded me of U2's 'Achtung Baby', widely considered one of the Irish band's most accomplished and inventive records. Both have a sense of irony and dirtiness after the clean, earnest soft rock of the albums that took them into the big leagues ('Automatic For The People' and 'The Joshua Tree') yet both still contain some of their band's most moving tracks ('Strange Currencies' and 'Let Me In' on 'Monster' and of course 'One' on 'Achtung Baby'). And the distorted glam-rock guitars on 'What's The Frequency Kenneth?' and 'Crush With Eyeliner' can match it with those on U2's 'Even Better Than The Real Thing' and 'The Fly'. Yet 'Achtung Baby' sold bucketloads and 'Monster' ended in the bargain bins. Maybe 'Monster' was just a little too murky for to garner mass appeal, or maybe it just didn't have the hits that U2's album had. Nevertheless it deserves to be remembered in a better light than REM's retreat from the mainstream.