Released a week before their album REVEAL hit stores, REM's "Imitation of Life" single gave listeners a glimpse of the latest in their sound. After the release of REVEAL, it's almost necessary for one to buy the "Imitation of Life" single to get the full picture on the band's renaissance.
"Imitation of Life" is a brilliant pop tune that just happens to be radio-friendly. It's got a joyousness about it that has been missing from the band's sound for years, and to hear the band hit this second wind is impressive.
The second track is the original version of "The Lifting," which became the opening song on REVEAL. The original version is quite different from the album version, it's more acoustic and subdued, and it misses the electro vibe that the album version shocked listeners with. Nonetheless, it's still a standout track.
"Beat a Drum (Dalkey Demo)" is the third track, a demo of the track from REVEAL recorded in Dalkey Lounge, Dublin. Again, it's more acoustic and surpasses the album version with the sincerity of Michael Stipe's voice
"2JN," the fourth and last track, is much like "Emphysema" from the "Daysleeper" single. It's not terribly interesting, as it's pretty much a repeat of that earlier track and the band's not exactly charting new territory.
As a wonderfuly bonus, the "Imitation of Life" single contains the music video of "Imitation of Life" if you pop it into your computer. The cinematography on this music video is mindblowing, and it's worth the seven bucks just for this.
If you get REVEAL, and I certainly recommend you do, the "Imitation of Life" single is a necessary companion to see the full scope of REM's return to glory.