Tuesday, April 12, 1983

R.E.M. released its debut album, Murmur: April 12, 1983

Originally posted April 12, 2012.

image from avaxhome.ws

“Singer Michael Stipe has often said that the title was chosen because it’s one of the easiest words to pronounce in the English language.” JD Ironically, it is also an apt description of his singing style. AZ “The lyrics and the melodies seem buried, almost subliminal, and even the hookiest songs…resist clarity.” RS “His voice works more as a fourth instrument, complementing the band musically.” PK

“Like all great bands, R.E.M.’s individual parts…are as interesting as the collective sound.” AZ Peter Buck’s guitar playing draws “heavily on the trademark Rickenbackers of the early Byrds, with the occasional burst of Velvets-style feedback and garage-rock fuzz thrown in for emphasis.” JD Mike Mills provides “melodic counterpoints with his ultra-musical bass parts, and [drummer Bill] Berry shows considerable imagination in varying his propulsive backbeats with deft and colorful use of elaborate patterns on the tom-toms. Both also add beautiful harmony vocals.” JD

“Though critics swamped R.E.M.’s 1983 full-length debut with country-rock comparisons to the Byrds, Murmur sounds like no one else.” AZ While “firmly in the tradition of American folk-rock, post-punk, and garage rock, Murmur sounds as if it appeared out of nowhere, without any ties to the past, present, or future.” AMG “The songs on Murmur sound as if they’ve existed forever, yet they subvert folk and pop conventions by taking unpredictable twists and turns into melodic, evocative territory, whether it’s the measured riffs of Pilgrimage, the melancholic Talk About the Passion, or the winding guitars and pianos of Perfect Circle.” AMG We also get ““the amusing perplexity of 9-9 and Moral Kiosk; the soothing wisdom of Stipe’s voice in Shaking Through.” SL “Nearly every song is an unforgettable gem.” PK

“The band made its recorded debut in the summer of 1981 with a song that paid homage to the spirit of the young, independent broadcasters…The tiny Hib-Tone label only pressed 1,000 copies of Radio Free Europe, but the single topped the Village Voice’s year-end critics' poll, and the attention helped the band land its deal with I.R.S.” JD From there, they record the E.P. Chronic Town in 1982. However, by the time of their debut album, R.E.M. left “behind the garagey jangle pop of their first recordings,” AMG “de-emphasizing the backbeat and accentuating the ambience of the ringing guitar.” AMG

Radio Free Europe

“The production, by then-college radio stalwarts Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, is shimmering but never slick, making this rise above the early DIY indie rock dustheap without falling prey to the new wave excesses of the early ‘80s scene.” PK “Throughout the sessions, there was pressure from I.R.S. to produce a hit, but…the band say they tuned the company out and proceeded to craft the sort of finely textured cult album they adored” – Big Star’s Third/Sister Lover, Velvet Underground’s eponymous third album, Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, and Wire’s Pink Flag. JD The “result should have been a complete mess” PK but became “one of the most remarkable, near-perfect debut albums of the rock era” PK and “a founding document of alternative rock, released just as Gen X was starting to go to college.” RS “Truly a must-own album.” PK


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