New Adventures In Hi Fi
New Adventures In Hi Fi was largely recorded during sound checks on a horrific tour, during which drummer Bill Berry nearly died from an aneurysm, and Michael Stipe and Mike Mills were both hospitalised. It’s more authentically aggressive and rough around the edges than the contrived Monster, but it’s also overlong at 65 minutes.
The relatively sedate nature of the opening track, the minimalist piano driven ‘How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us’, and the relatively calm singles ‘Bittersweet Me’ and ‘E-Bow The Letter’ paint a somewhat disproportionate picture of the album; a lot of the remaining tracks are gritty, and it’s slightly overlooked gems like ‘Undertow’, ‘Be Mine’ and ‘So Fast, So Numb’ that form the backbone of the record.
But the standout track is ‘Leave’, at seven minutes the longest track R.E.M. have recorded, rocking off the base of a dissonant synthesiser loop. ‘E-Bow The Letter’ is another epic, but sinks in more subtly, building intensity over its slow pacing with backing vocals from Patti Smith and impressionistic lyrics from Stipe (“aluminium, it tastes like fear/adrenaline, Princess Leia”). Other keepers include the charming low key ‘New Test Leper’ and the closing ballad ‘Electrolite’.
There’s a bit of filler, but this is exactly the kind of album that dedicated fans will enjoy wading through, and in spite of, or perhaps because of, its sprawling nature New Adventures In Hi Fi is among the group’s best records.