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R.E.M. Album by Album (ePub)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Music P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History

By Max Pilley
Imprint: White Owl
File Size: 4.6 MB (.epub)
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399017633
Published: 6th March 2023


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From cowering, introverted founders of the alternative rock movement to one of the twenty best-selling American bands of all time, the story of R.E.M. covers three decades, two generations and the passions of millions. First, they lifted a humble, Southern college town into myth, re-calibrating rock music at the moment that it threatened to reach the point of terminal excess, and then, unsatisfied, they carried their progressive ideology right into the heart of mainstream popular culture, selling over 85 million records and winning universal acclaim along the way, totally without compromise.

R.E.M. Album by Album tells that story, tracing the band from its formation in 1980 when four young men sought respite from the difficulties of real life by starting a covers band, right up until their eventual split in 2011, shedding new light on the lyrical and musical development of the band as artists, from their esoteric early masterpieces to the moment that they signed the world’s largest ever recording contract. For the very first time, too, we examine the first decade after the band’s demise, scrutinising the shifting sands of their legacy as the dust settles on one of pop music’s most extraordinary careers.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Anyone who enjoys the music of REM will find something in this book of interest. I expected a superficial review of the singles and albums of REM but this book provides a whole lot more. A truly comprehensive account of how the band came about, how they recorded their songs, toured, and became successful; much loved, respected and admired in the music world.

The book provides abundant detail of the early years of the individuals who came together in Athens, Georgia and eventually became REM. It then describes initial shows, original songs, recording sessions, various management & contacts, side projects and so forth. And this is even before the band releases a record and begins the journey towards worldwide success and fame.

The author provide a depth and richness to many of the early aspects of the band and their music. This in-depth reporting and discussion continues throughout the book, covering touring, recording, albums and so on, generally in a chronological sequence. In addition to the music of REM, the author covers relationships, influences, side-projects, lyrics, record production and much, much more.

I was expecting this book to be mainly a catalogue of sorts, discussing each album in detail and maybe some references to other recordings. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more. It is a comprehensive and rich history of a band by someone who has work hard on research, documenting the journey REM has made from pre-band days to post-band activities. An ambitious book; a successful book. This is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who grew up listening to the music of REM and also to those who have rediscovered them in recent years.

NetGalley, Lachlan Finlayson

I hope that this book encourages readers to seek out the songs, to mine the treasures of the band album by album, and to take R.E.M’s creations to their hear

NetGalley, Leona Mudie

R.E.M. is undoubtedly one of the finest bands I have ever heard. This book was always going to be on my to-read list for that reason alone.

In an album-by-album journey, Max Pilley tells the story of R.E.M. and their unlikely journey to global music domination. A band that never compromised on their principles, turning out songs with catchy hooks and lyrics that were utterly unique.

Michael Stipe was a shy young man who became one of music's iconic frontmen. With Bill Berry (drums), Mike Mills (bass), and Peter Buck (guitars, mandolin), the four young men from Georgia who started out as a covers band were standout from pretty much day one.

Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) has published his lyrics in a book and Stipe's lyrics would also translate well to this format. Their meaning can be subtle, in your face, or simply impossible to pin down. Whichever way you cut it, R.E.M. songs stand the test of time.

R.E.M. left the music world in 2011 - on their own terms, not because they fell out of favour or with each other. Not many bands can say that.

Whilst the narrative runs pretty much chronologically, it didn't cover every song in detail. That is understandable as the band has an impressive catalogue, including some songs that never made it onto any album. The book also managed to shed new light on some songs - for instance, I wasn't aware that one of the songs on 'Monster' was written for and about Kurt Cobain.

I also enjoyed reading about the band members' individual collaborations with other musicians.

Anyone with an interest in popular music culture should read this book. Fans of the band will probably already know much of its content, but the book is well worth adding to their collection and will provide a useful reference for some of the band's lesser-known output.

NetGalley, Alison Starnes

I love love love REM and miss their music. This is an amazing trip down musical memory lane. It’s a storyteller’s journey, a musical odyssey, and a beautiful mosaic of a time and place in a band’s history. Just awesome.

NetGalley, Cindy McKee

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

First, a disclaimer - I was and continue to be a huge fan of REM. I was one of those people who bought their records, starting with “Reckoning”, on the day they came out, purchased the singles to get the non-album B-sides, hunted down soundtracks to movies I had no intention of watching just to get the non-album REM songs they contained, and read every magazine article I could find about the band. I was devastated when they broke up, even thought their last few records didn’t hold the same excitement for me. That’s all to say that I absolutely loved and devoured this book. Pilley’s work is somewhat poorly titled, though, in my opinion, as it’s much, much more than a simple album-by-album account, though it uses that as a basic structure. This is an in-depth look at the band’s history, from start to finish and beyond. It’s a thoroughly researched and comprehensive look at the band’s career that any fan, and anyone with an interest in the last great era of North American rock music, would enjoy reading.

NetGalley, Mike Balsom

I thought I knew REM quite well having listened to them since the beginning but this book made me discover some new things.
Informative, easy to follow. An excellent guide if you want to know the band or are already a fan.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What an honour, I have always loved REM and still listen to their back catalogue.

Automatic for the People remains one of my all time favourite albums.
This is a truly fascinating read starting back in 1980 and allows you to examine each album up until the band breaking up in 2011.

A remarkable book for a truly remarkable band.

NetGalley, Odette Lattimer-Gittins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An excellent guide to one of the most important American bands of the late 20th century. Covers the band's early days in Athens through their final albums and eventual breakup. Each chapter reminded me of why I loved that particular album so much. Great for fans, and also for those wondering "what was the deal with that band anyway?"

NetGalley, Eric Neffke

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you were a cool kid in the 1980s, you'll have listened to R.E.M.
You'll have impressed people by playing their cheerfully apocalyptic It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and other songs like Exhuming McCarthy from Document, their fifth and most political studio album. It was not all politics though. Their next album, Green (1988), featured the single, Stand which contains the line:: "You're feet are going to be on the ground, Your head is there to move you around." which I think we can all agree, is genuinely very helpful information.
As the 1990s began, their next two albums, Out of Time and Automatic For The People (both 1991) helped make them become one of the most successful groups on Earth. This was the era of peak R.E.M. with songs which even old people know like Shiny Happy People, Man on the Moon, Everybody Hurts and Losing My Religion. Michael Stipe went from being all shy and hairy to all bald and cool like Doctor Manhattan from Watchman (although not blue).
The inevitable backlash came with their next album, Monster (1994) which had a scary orange cover with a weird dog on it. It had tracks like What's The Frequency, Kenneth? and Crush With Eyeliner on. It was certainly different. Some people thought they were trying to sound like Nirvana. 29 years on, it doesn't sound anything like Nirvana and holds up pretty well.
R.E.M. continued producing interesting music into the 21st century. Their 2001 album, Reveal featuring Imitation of Life and All the Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be a Star) remains a high point. They split in 2011.
This book isn't really an @album by album' guide at all. But it is a comprehensive history of one of the best American bands ever, so well worth reading.

NetGalley, Chris Hallam

I was a teenager when I learned about R.E.M.'s music in the early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to see them perform a few times. I was a big fan of their music and Michael Stipe's performance on stage. When they announced they were quitting, I was heartbroken. But... life goes on and over the years their music had faded somewhat from my playlists. I was very happy to be able to read an ARC of R.E.M. Album by Album. This book brought the group and its music back to me. It tells the story of the band from their early years to after the split. There are some really fun anecdotes about the origins of the songs on their albums and their background and meaning. It encouraged me to listen to their music again and watch performances and gigs mentioned in the book on Youtube. I enjoyed rediscovering the band and getting to know them a little better.

NetGalley, Femke Van Bever

This book covers R.E.M. from they very early years to post R.E.M. and all their music in between giving insight to the band . Highly recommended for all fans of the band that includes me all.

NetGalley, Neville Townsend

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

R.E.M. Album by Album, by Max Pilley, is more than simply a recap of their albums. This is the story of the band, and their legacy, using their albums as a framework.

I am/was a fan, though admittedly not as big as some of my friends from those days. My six times seeing them was well below most die hard fans, but like most music lovers from the period, I was a fan and have read a fair amount about them. Face it, as we age nostalgia becomes a hobby.

It was fun revisiting both their history and their music. This is one of those books that demand you play the music as you read the book. Pilley's commentary is good, and coupled with your own opinions (and memories) this will be a lot of fun.

If you're not very familiar with them and wonder why they were so popular, this will be an excellent way to find out. Who knows, you may find you like the music, most of it holds up quite well even now.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm a big R.E.M. fan and have read a slew of books about them. I think this one is really good. Yes, there was a lot I knew already, but Pilley tells the story in a breezy entertaining fashion. If you don't know much about the band, I think this is a great overview. If you do know a lot, Pilley still offers up some nuggets you probably don't know.

He also exhibits some wonderful writing about the music. I thought his descriptions of "Nightswimming" and "Find the River" were especially beautiful.

NetGalley, Tom Ruprecht

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book whilst recovering from knee surgery! How it got me through it! I took the opportunity to listen again to all the R.E.M albums as I read about them in book and it really enhanced the experience. Dare I say, I’d forgotten just how good a band they were! This is a great book and I found out lots of interesting facts that I hadn’t known! A lot of work has obviously gone into creating it and I really appreciated it! Great pictures chosen at the back of the book too adding to this tale of an awesome band from start to finish.

NetGalley, Jane France

A must for fans of both the band and the era - really insightful. I am a fan, so loved learning more about the band and their work.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

R.E.M. were one of my favourite bands back in the day, but, like many others I suspect, I stopped buying their music after ‘Up’ and eventually stopped listening to them. This timely retrospective is just what I needed to remind me how great they were and it’s taken me twice as long to read as it should because I keep stopping to blow the dust off old CDs to listen to whatever album is under focus. Although I am a music fan, I am not a musician so Max’s approach to the songs works perfectly- he discusses the musical content, their development and puts them into context, but avoids the in-depth deconstruction beloved of music graduates.
Max has done his research, but never gets bogged down and moves briskly through the band’s musical output in chronological order. Whilst we all have our favourites (‘Monster’ is mine), Max takes a fair-minded approach and I didn’t disagree with anything he said. Reading this book has certainly made me reappreciate this exceptional band.

NetGalley, Mark Nutting

About Max Pilley

Max Pilley is a professional music writer and critic. Working full-time as a freelance journalist since 2016, he has gained bylines in The Guardian, NME, Bandcamp, The Quietus, Loud and Quiet Magazine, The Line of Best Fit, Huck Magazine, DIY and many others.
He graduated in Multimedia Journalism from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2016, but his passion for writing about music dates back to 2007, when he became editor of the University of Manchester’s student newspaper.
He has reported on music events in over a dozen countries and has been invited onto professional judging panels, including the Northern Ireland Music Prize.

Release of Murmur, R.E.M.'s debut album

12th April 1983

R.E.M. released their debut album, Murmur, on 12th April 1983.

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