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Lifes Rich Pageant

Alternative Rock album by R.E.M.

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Bury magnets: falls in a crevice between peaks and valleys?

  • Oct 17, 1999
Rating:
+3
A maddeningly difficult album to pin down; some of it sounds as casual as parts of Reckoning--"These Days" "What if.." "Just a Touch,"; some of it as complex as Murmur--"Fall on Me," "Flowers," "Hyena"; some of it as direct as Document--"Begin," "Cuyahoga," "I Believe,"; one as off-the-wall as Fables--"Swan". Plus the added novelty goofs of "Superman" and "Bunker," to lighten the mood. A fitting farewell to their early insular, regional, quirky slumbers. Some early reviews of this album were harsh; see the 4th ed. of the Trouser Press Guide for Ira Robbins' dissection, or the RS Guide. After Fables, LRP got lumped with its predecessor's introversion. Listening to it 13 years on, it does anticipate the expansive, carefully integrated, and separated sound of their later records of the next decade. Radio friendly, hmm? But "These Days," What If" and "Just" fail to rise above the simply good--they sound too rushed. They leave an overall whoosh, but little substance. "Swan" is a love-or-hate it song; "Flowers" and "Cuyahoga" improve with age; "Begin" and "Hyena" anticipate their arena-rock forays. So, while I'd disagree with those who rank LRP among REM's top two or three albums, it'd place respectably. Many moments are redeemed even in their sluggish moments by filigrees of a harmonium, pings of percussion, haunted vocals; inverted harmonies compete with beefy guitars and that booming mid-80's drum sound (remember Don Gehman produced--of John C. Mellonball fame). So, a fine performance that reveals more upon repeated listenings. Even the radio saturation of "Fall" hasn't diminished its beauty, and "I Believe" stands among their very best songs, propelled along like one of their old live sets into swirling, jaunty, spinning threads of joy. Gospel for those of us who don't quite believe. P.S. : In my REM reviews on amazon.com, I've voted as critics do in the All-Music Guide or Colin Larkin's Encyclopedia of Popular Music: I rate a group's records against each other. Two stars for REM doesn't equal two stars for Flock of Seagulls, ok? Got it? Murmur=5 stars, Monster=1 1/2, all else falls for me in between, and I wish half-stars counted here in our individual ratings...thus: 3 1/2 stars

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More Lifes Rich Pageant reviews
review by . September 03, 2006
'Life's Rich Pageant' is the fourth R.E.M. full-length album, and like the predecessors, is accomplished. This album, like the others, has a trademark. Here it contains their most unconventionally conventional pop and rock songs. "...Pageant" contains propulsive anthems and some of their most pop-pleasing songs of any album. Their accomplishments were enough to propel them to the top ten next time around.    The anthems are positive pieces of power pop. "Begin the Begin," "These …
About the reviewer
John L. Murphy ()
Ranked #12
Medievalist turned humanities professor; unrepentant but not unskeptical Fenian; overconfident accumulator of books & music; overcurious seeker of trivia, quadrivia, esoterica.      … more
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Wiki

R.E.M.'s early recordings purposefully bury Michael Stipe's vocals, allowing them to dominate the audio mix no more than Peter Buck's jangly guitar figures or Mike Mills's bass.Lifes Rich Pageantrepresents a subtle shift in the program, with clearly audible lyrics (though they remain obscure in meaning) on most tracks. The band still has a bit of fun with its audience, listing the songs out of order on the album sleeve and leaving a couple of them ("Underneath the Bunker," "Superman") off entirely. As good as it is to hear Stipe enunciate while he sings, the music is equally revelatory and forward-looking on the radio-friendly "Fall on Me"; harder-rocking songs like "Begin the Begin," "These Days," and "Superman" (the latter tune sung by Mills); and the haunting, folkish "Swan Swan H."--Daniel Durchholz
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Details

Label: Capitol
Artist: R.E.M.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Release Date: January 27, 1998
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