In 1988, REM were a cult on the cusp of major success. In 1992 they were somewhere close to being the biggest band in the world. In 2003, they're marginalised again, a middle-aged institution purportedly on the wane. Still, uninformed listeners to In Time
might find it tricky to work out which songs come from which era. The 18 singles collected here in non-chronological order show a band that's operated at a terrifyingly high standard throughout the period, so that less lauded songs like "The Great Beyond" stand proud alongside the familiar anthems from the early 1990s. Of course, these compilations are sent to irritate loyalists, whose relief at the inclusion of "E-Bow the Letter" (a mesmerising duet with Patti Smith from 1996) will be undermined by the bewildering absence of 1992's tearjerking epiphany "Find the River". For a more comprehensive survey of REM's excellence, you'll also need The Best of REM
, the highlights of their elliptical early years.
One suspects a box set that tells the full story of this enduring band can't be that far away. For now, though, In Timewill do well enough, especially in this limited edition two-CD set, which augments the hits with 15 B-sides, live tracks and duets with William Burroughs and such. It also reveals REM's penchant for chucking away some mighty songs ("It's a Free World Baby", "Revolution") on the soundtracks of mediocre movies. --John Mulvey
REM In Time 1986-2003 (2003 UK issue limited edition 2-CD album set comprising a CD album featuring 18 classic tracks including Man On The Moon Losing My Religion Everybody Hurts Whats the Frequency Kenneth? and more plus a Bonus15-track CD
boasting a collection of rarities and b-side recordings presented in screen printed plastic slipcase complete with fold-out digipak poster & extensive photo and song history booklet!)