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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > Oct 2019 > REM. MONSTER


For 1994’s Monster, the band put away the considered beauty of their previous two albums and opted for the rough-hewn and loud, as Peter Buck’s distorted guitar traded blows with Michael Stipe’s laconic vocals. Huw Baines explores R.E.M.’s outlying ninth studio album

Classic Album

The heavy, heavy Monster sound: (L-R) Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Bill Berry

Whenever you want to know a band, to really understand their motivations, it’s not a bad idea to look at the outliers in their back catalogue rather than the smash hits. How did they find the going after making a sharp left off the pristine asphalt of the highway? But what of a group like R.E.M., whose existence as a creative force was always defined by reinvention and a state of musical flux? Leaf through their work from the early 1980s through to the turn of the 90s and you’ll find that each of their records served as an outlier for a time, until the next one came along to take its place.

Over the course of a decade, the band evolved from penning the college-rock blueprint on Murmur to crafting the radio-dominating chamber pop of Out of Time and the flawlessly melodic gothic weirdness of Automatic For The People. At each turn, the expectations of fans and critics alike were made to look foolish and shortsighted. But with Monster they took things to a logical extreme.

Released in September 1994 by Warner Brothers, R.E.M.’s ninth studio album stands as an outlier among outliers. Rough-hewn and loud where their commercial tent poles were considered and beautiful, it’s the sound of a band at the peak of their powers biting back with everything they have. But, unusually given their cultural and commercial clout, those teeth marks faded quickly.

Early signs suggested that they’d done it again. Monster joined Out Of Time as R.E.M.’s second No. 1 album in the US and still stands as their only release to debut at the summit, shifting 344,000 copies in its first week. It remains one of their top three highest-selling LPs on home soil, but at some point listeners stopped popping it from the jewel case.

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About Long Live Vinyl

Issue 31 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! It was The Beatles' last stand and remains one of the greatest albums ever made. Issue 31 of Long Live Vinyl brings you the inside story of Abbey Road, including interviews with some of the key figures who were in the studio with the Fab Four back in 1969. You'll also find an in-depth look at the making of the amazing new 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition and an expert collector's guide. Elsewhere, our packed interviews section features chats with Ezra Furman, Metronomy, Hiss Golden Messenger and Fionn Regan about their new albums. We round up 40 Essential Southern Soul records you need to own, tell the story of the legendary Decca label on its 90th birthday and dig deep into the making of R.E.M.’s ninth album, Monster. If that's not enough, Long Live Vinyl has the most comprehensive range of album and hi-fi reviews anywhere on the newsstand, as we run the rule over new releases from Pixies, Bon Iver, Wilco, Blur and Liam Gallagher, as well as the awesome new AVID Ingenium P&P turntable. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers. Pick up your copy today…