R.E.M. – Monster (Remastered Remix) (2019) [FLAC 24bit/88,2kHz]

R.E.M. – Monster (Remastered Remix) (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 48:36 minutes | 1,02 GB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Craft Recordings

The 25th anniversary edition features the remastered original mix on CD 1, followed by a disc of 15 previously unreleased demos, with names like ‘Rocker With Vocal’ or ‘Mike’s Gtr’. The third CD is Scott Litt’s new 2019 stereo remix and this is followed by two further CDs that offer an unreleased live set from the 1995 Monster Tour. In terms of the new stereo mix, the idea was to pull the guitars back and push the vocals forward to create a more open sound and showcase the lyrics. 

A brilliant distillation of ’90s alt-rock. A crass and noisy attempt to cash in on grunge. A band in need of rock tunes for an upcoming tour after six years off the road. The fact that R.E.M.’s ninth album Monster can after still inspire such polarities is proof enough that it’s worth a fresh listen. New mixes by Scott Litt, a trove of demos and a 1995 live show from Chicago featuring mostly a post-I.R.S. years setlist fills out the portrait of the 25th Anniversary reissue of one of R.E.M.’s most contentious albums.

With liner notes in which Peter Buck admits, “We wanted to get away from who we were,” Monster 25 is the sound not only of Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Bill Berry pondering what it means to suddenly be rock stars, but also of a band deep in one of those periodic left turns that artists need to pass through or call it quits. And while the lyrics are typical Stipe-ian jabberwocky mangled further by vocals buried in the original mix, it’s Peter Buck’s ever-present guitar, bashing out crunchy power chords bathed in delay, reverb and buzzsaw distortion, that remains the album’s most controversial aspect as he ditches his former loyalty to acoustic textures and intricate arrangements for an overdriven, rocked up Cobain-life heft and snarl that’s fiercely front and center in the mix.

The remixed album is a very different experience from the original: the instrumental parts are now clearly delineated, instead of a blurry, roaring mix. “Tongue” drops the four beat count off in favor of a simple piano and loud tambourine. The organ, which was prominent in the original, has been lowered in the remix. “Circus Envy’s” sizzling guitar distortion has been dialed back and Berry’s drums have been pulled forward. Most noticeable of all are Stipe’s vocals, some of which are entirely different takes from the original album’s. “Crush with Eyeliner” begins with Stipe voicing an unaccompanied “la, la, la” and continues with a more stylized T. Rex and Iggy Pop-influenced vocal take than the original. Some of the changes are outright deletions. Buck’s organ in “Let Me In,” and his choppy guitar part in “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, and the percussion in “You” are completely gone. These changes are needed context, connecting the album to the band’s musical progression and in the process making it seem less like an outlier. © Robert Baird


01. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (Remix) (3:39)
02. Crush With Eyeliner (Remix) (4:36)
03. King Of Comedy (Remix) (4:00)
04. I Don’t Sleep, I Dream (Remix) (3:56)
05. Star 69 (Remix) (3:08)
06. Strange Currencies (Remix) (3:52)
07. Tongue (Remix) (4:00)
08. Bang And Blame (Remix) (5:12)
09. I Took Your Name (Remix) (4:02)
10. Let Me In (Remix) (3:08)
11. Circus Envy (Remix) (4:15)
12. You (Remix) (4:51)