PART NEW RELEASE, PART REISSUE
This career-spanning two-CD compilation became a much bigger deal when R.E.M. announced its breakup. And consequently, the set’s three new songs are the band’s official goodbye. The best of those songs, “We All Go Back to Where We Belong,” sure sounds like a farewell, with a warm, reassuring feel that recalls the first two albums — even though it features orchestration and an actual 12-string guitar, which R.E.M. never used back then. Sadly, the other two new tracks are a step down from this year’s underrated Collapse into Now, respectively catching the band in too-weighty mode (“Hallelujah,” not the Leonard Cohen song) and too-light mode (“A Month of Saturdays”). As for the compilation, it does fairly right by the first two-thirds of R.E.M.’s career, with most of the hit singles (minus “Can’t Get There from Here” and “Superman”) and most of the fan favorites (notably minus “Pretty Persuasion”). But the choices get stranger in the trio years, the only period not fully anthologized before. The single best song from those years, “Lotus,” is missing, as are quite a few tracks — “Daysleeper,” “She Just Wants to Be,” “The Lifting” — that might have shut up the “they lost it when Bill Berry left” crowd.
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