Friday, July 29, 2016

R.E.M. – Dead Letter Office and Eponymous [Vinyl Reissues] (Album Review)

For the first time since their initial releases in the late-80s, two of R.E.M.’s classic compilation albums are getting pressed again on vinyl for a July 29 release. Dead Letter Office and Eponymous are being reissued with the original artwork and liner note insert sleeves for a sonic and aesthetic presentation that is beautifully faithful to the original releases.

Dead Letter Office was first released in 1987 and marks R.E.M.’s first collection of b-sides, rarities, outtakes, and covers. Showcasing both the band’s unpolished, quirky side, as well as their varied musical influences, Dead Letter Office is a must-have for die-hard R.E.M. fans and functions as an incredibly interesting audio artifact in their catalog for casual fans. The 15-track collection brings together many of the band’s early original b-sides and also includes their left-of-center takes on songs by Aerosmith, Roger Miller, Pylon, and Velvet Underground, the latter of which gets three separate covers (“There She Goes Again,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” and “Femme Fatale”). Dead Letter Office is also memorable for guitarist Peter Buck’s track-by-track liner notes.

Eponymous was first released in 1988 and functions as the band’s first greatest hits collection. The album covers the band’s time on I.R.S. Records and was their last release for the label before they moved to Warner Brothers. Eponymous was actually released just a month before Green, the band’s first album for Warner Brothers. Never known to do things by standard protocol, the band actually included alternate takes of the more well-known album versions of “Radio Free Europe,” “Gardening at Night,” and “Finest Worksong,” as well as “Romance” which was previously only available on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Made in Heaven. Anytime I’m trying to turn anyone on to R.E.M.’s greatness with just a single album at my disposal, Eponymous is my go-to introductory blind date every time (followed closely by Fables of the Reconstruction).

As an added bonus, the band’s fourth proper studio LP Lifes Rich Pageant is also being reissued on the same day to celebrate the album’s 30th anniversary. Lifes Rich Pageant provided the band with their first Gold record and produced hit singles (and stellar videos) for "Fall on Me" and "Superman."

All three vinyl LPs are available for preorder here.

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