R.E.M. – Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982–2011 (2011)

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In September, R.E.M. announced to its legions of fans they have punched the clock on a three-decade-long career which took them from penny-pitcher nights in eastern Georgia to sold-out arenas all over the known world.

“As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band,” the Athens-based troupe said in a statement on their official website. “We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.”

While fans and alternative/pop rock lovers everywhere could appreciate the group’s yearn to turn the page, there were nevertheless many a tear shed knowing the enormously popular group had most-likely made their last studio album and played their last show. But in typical R.E.M. fashion, the band shined a bright spot on a possible somber day for some by bestowing one last gift -– a uniquely unconventional greatest hits collection.

In an interview in 1988 guitarist Peter Buck said, “R.E.M is part lies, part heart, part truth and part garbage.” This reflective double-disc set bearing that quote as its title is set for release on Tuesday — and, in retrospect, it’s easy to understand why the band chose that title. With R.E.M., you get that, and everything in between.

Be certain, this isn’t your grandpa’s greatest hits collection. Unlike many, this one was hand picked by the band — with each song meticulously placed so it takes you from one period of the band to the next. That gives it a chronological sweep across R.E.M.’s body of work, starting with Murmur and following all the way into the group’s last studio album, Collapse Into Now. Then … it keeps going: In total truth, this collection takes you even further back than Murmur, with the first track “Gardening at Night” taken from the 1982 album Chronic Town, released by the independent rock label I.R.S. Records. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011 also gives the listener new material to sample with the final three tracks, “A Month of Saturdays”, “We All Go Back Where We Belong” and “Hallelujah” — each conjured up during the Collapse Into Now sessions, but left off the album.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Upon hearing the news of their demise, we bid R.E.M. farewell with a return to ‘Accelerate’ and a watercooler discussion on what the band meant to us.]

The result is a 40-track story of the band’s body of work that dwarfs any other compilation attempt by R.E.M. And they have tried a few. This one, however, spans both their early years on IRS and the later Warner Bros. period, a special treat. The band’s more familiar tunes are mixed in with some forgotten delights — one being, “So. Central Rain” from the 1984 album Reckoning. An upbeat tune with shades of the Cure or Elvis Costello, this song was released around the time when R.E.M. was swiftly becoming one of the most known “alt rock” bands on the scene. Deeper into the album are all the classics from the late 1980s until the turn of the century when the group exploded onto the mainstream scene. It’ll bring you up with “Orange Crush” and send you right back down with “Losing My Religion.” There’s bohemian hipster gold in “Shiny Happy People,” and reflective sadness of “Nightswimming.”

Along the way, this becomes the best showcase yet of Stipe, Buck and Mills’ undeniable songwriting and composing abilities — a sort-of concept greatest hits album that tells the story of a growing band, through its infancy and on to world stardom … and then, all the way until the end.

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Matthew Reynolds

A veteran newspaper reporter, web designer and editor, Matthew Reynolds has worked for Hanna Publishing, Tiger Rag as assistant editor, the daily newspaper in Monroe, Louisiana, and radio station KMAR. Follow him on Twitter: @mattreynolds10. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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