Chronic Town - EP
For those who couldn’t get hold of the Hib-Tone “Radio Free Europe” single, Chronic Town was the first R.E.M. release that was available to a wider audience. Its five songs speak eloquently to what R.E.M. initially represented. At a time in the '80s when pop was veering toward synthesizers and dance music, R.E.M. stood firmly with their guitars (Rickenbackers!), bass, and drums and dared to be an old-school rock ’n’ roll band with a few new key twists. Singer Michael Stipe was an enigma, burying his voice and lyrics in a mumble that had little desire in being understood. Yet the songs had catchiness, plus pop harmonies from bassist Mike Mills; this suggested they were interested in some connection to their audience. Unlike the punks who looked to blast everyone into submission, R.E.M. preferred autumnal shades, which came to life on “Gardening at Night,” “Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars),” and “1,000,000.” Had the group disappeared after this EP, they would’ve been one of music’s most beguiling mysteries.