When Monster was released in September 1994, the members of R.E.M. were at a crossroads in their career. Singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry were decompressing from the massive commercial and critical success of 1991's Out Of Time and 1992's Automatic For The People. In just a few years, the Athens, GA, four-piece had become one of the biggest, most recognizable bands in the world, thanks to hits like "Losing My Religion", "Man On The Moon" and "Everybody Hurts". It had also been six years since the group had toured.
By the time that work began on Monster, they were itching to end their self-imposed hiatus and get back on the road. The band was also looking for a sonic shake-up. While R.E.M.'s last two albums were full of ballads, acoustic rock songs and intricate arrangements, the group was ready to record something grittier, brasher and highly playable on stage. In his liner notes, journalist Matthew Perpetua writes that Monster "had no precedent in the band's catalogue," adding that R.E.M had "never been this distorted and dirty, or this glam or this flirty." Buck recalls, "We were trying to feel like a different band ... We wanted to get away from who we were." The group was also reeling from the strange nature of celebrity and identity, and many of the songs in this album reflect that. Perpetua notes, "There's no question that the characters on Monster are all dealing with obsession in some form or another, whether it's the infatuated narrator of 'Crush With Eyeliner,' the lovelorn protagonist of 'Strange Currencies,' or the cackling supervillain in 'I Took Your Name.'" As dark as some of the subject matter is, though, R.E.M. still infuses the songs with a dash of absurdity, irony and a humorous wink.
Highlights off the album include the distortion-soaked first single, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" which plays off the farce of media and marketing that pervaded Gen X pop-culture, while the catchy "Star 69" is a detective story, based on the '90s phone service of the same name (a precursor to caller ID). The second single, "Bang and Blame" features Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, as well as actress Rain Phoenix--whose brother, River, had recently passed away and was Monster's dedicatee. "Let Me In" is an ode to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who had died by suicide just months before. Mills, who swapped his bass for Cobain's guitar on the track, shares, "It's Michael's cathartic release in response to the loss of a good friend and someone we all felt creatively aligned with."
The band's new artistic direction proved to be a hit. Monster debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and would be certified four-times Platinum in the U.S. Rolling Stone offered this praise: "R.E.M.'s exceptional pop craftsmanship, their luminous melodic inventions, their sense of mission--in short, everything fundamental--are still there and shining more brightly than ever ... Monster is one urgent-sounding album, and that's as it should be."
- 25th Anniversary Reissue
- 180g Vinyl
- Remastered by Greg Calibi at Sterling Sound from the original analog master
- Original cover art by Chris Bilheimer
- Made in the USA
- What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
- Crush With Eyeliner
- King Of Comedy
- I Don't Sleep, I Dream
- Star 69
- Strange Currencies
- Bang And Blame
- I Took Your Name
- Let Me In
- Circus Envy
Note: This is a single LP with 2 sides of music. There are only sides "C" and "D" with no side "A" or "B"