R.E.M. began to move toward mainstream record production on Lifes Rich Pageant, but they didn't have a commercial breakthrough until the following year's Document. Ironically, Document is a stranger, more varied album than its predecessor, but co-producer Scott Litt – who would go on to produce every R.E.M. album in the following decade – is a better conduit for the band than Don Gehman, giving the group a clean sound without sacrificing their enigmatic tendencies. "Finest Worksong," the stream-of-conscious rant "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," and the surprise Top Ten single "The One I Love" all crackle with muscular rhythms and guitar riffs, but the real surprise is how political the mid-tempo jangle pop of "Welcome to the Occupation," "Disturbance at the Heron House," and "King of Birds" is. Where Lifes Rich Pageant sounded a bit like a party record, Document is a fiery statement, and its memorable melodies and riffs are made all the more indelible by its righteous anger.
R.E.M. abandoned the enigmatic post-punk experiments of Murmur for their second album, Reckoning, returning to their garage pop origins instead. Opening with the ringing "Harborcoat," Reckoning runs through a set of ten jangle pop songs that are different not only in sound but in style from the debut. Where Murmur was enigmatic in its sound, Reckoning is clear, which doesn't necessarily mean that the songs themselves are straightforward. Michael Stipe continues to sing powerful melodies without enunciating, but the band has a propulsive kick that makes the music vital and alive. And, if anything, the songwriting is more direct and memorable than before – the interweaving melodies of "Pretty Persuasion" and the country rocker "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" are as affecting as the melancholic dirges of "Camera" and "Time After Time," while the ringing minor-key arpeggios of "So. Central Rain," the pulsating riffs of "7 Chinese Bros.," and the hard-rocking rhythms of "Little America" make the songs into classics. On the surface, Reckoning may not be as distinctive as Murmur, but the record's influence on underground American rock in the '80s was just as strong.
Leaving behind the garagey jangle pop of their first recordings, R.E.M. developed a strangely subdued variation of their trademark sound for their full-length debut album, Murmur. Heightening the enigmatic tendencies of Chronic Town by de-emphasizing the backbeat and accentuating the ambience of the ringing guitar, R.E.M. created a distinctive sound for the album – one that sounds eerily timeless. Even though it is firmly in the tradition of American folk-rock, post-punk, and garage rock, Murmur sounds as if it appeared out of nowhere, without any ties to the past, present, or future. Part of the distinctiveness lies in the atmospheric production, which exudes a detached sense of mystery, but it also comes from the remarkably accomplished songwriting. The songs on Murmur sound as if they've existed forever, yet they subvert folk and pop conventions by taking unpredictable twists and turns into melodic, evocative territory, whether it's the measured riffs of "Pilgrimage," the melancholic "Talk About the Passion," or the winding guitars and pianos of "Perfect Circle." R.E.M. may have made albums as good as Murmur in the years following its release, but they never again made anything that sounded quite like it.
Originally released in 1985, R.E.M.'s 3rd album, Fables of The Reconstruction peaked at #28 on the Billboard charts and spawned two hit singles, Can t Get There From here and Driver 8. Breaking with their tradition of recording in Athens GA, the band recorded in England with producer Joe Boyd. This 25th Anniversary Edition features the classic album digitally remastered. The bonus disc is a complete run thorugh of the album done in studio in Athens, before the band left for London for the actual recording sessions. These demos have never before been released and feature three additional tracks, not on the final album, including "Throw Those Trolls Away, " a song the band has never released. The albums are packaged in a lift top box and include a poster and 4 postcards, as well as the CD booklet.