Their second album Reckoning was released in 1984, with Easter and Dixon producing again. Stipe’s lyrics pursued darker avenues this time around, and there is a marked water theme running through the course of the record. Although the critical reception of Reckoning was not as unanimous as it was of Murmur, there were some outstanding tracks. Check out “Pretty Persuasion,” “Harborcoat,” and “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry).” for starters. The 2009 Deluxe Edition reissue included a bonus disc recorded live in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom July 7, 1984.
Fables Of The Reconstruction is the most controversial album of their career. I loved it right from the start, but a lot of people did not. It certainly is different from what came before. From opening track “Can’t Get There From Here,” to the final “Wendell Gee,” the band takes us into a weird, twilight zone of the psyche. As Peter Buck puts it in the liner notes to the 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition “All four of us were completely out of our minds at the time.”
The band had spent the previous four years on the road, and were fried. They also had left the comforts of home, and familiar production team behind. Fables was recorded in London, with the legendary Joe Boyd at the controls. Over the years a myth about the album has emerged - that the band hates it. Nothing could be further from the truth according to Buck, “It’s a personal favorite, and I’m really proud of how strange it is.”
The 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition set contains a second disc of demos from the album, along with a fold-out poster, four postcards, and an informative booklet, packaged in a sturdy two-piece box.
By this time, R.E.M. were gaining traction - and album number four was released to a receptive audience in 1986. It could be said that Lifes Rich Pageant was a bit of a coming out party for the band. “Fall On Me” began receiving mainstream radio play, and critics were falling all over themselves for the group again. Of note is the cover version of the psychedelic obscurity “Superman,” originally by The Clique.
Document was R.E.M.’s final album of new material for I.R.S., and it flung the college/alternative music ghetto’s doors wide open. “The One I Love” was the culprit, in the fall of 1987 the song was inescapable. Most people ignored the irony of “The One I Love,” and it was a huge hit. The real fun though was the album’s closer, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”