Highly influential alternative band R.E.M. made news around the world recently with the announcement of their split. The band have, over the past thirty one years, proved to be a cornerstone for guitar based pop music over that time. One can hear bands that influenced them, such as The Velvet Underground and Big Star, and can also hear the way that R.E.M. have helped shape the musical visions of others, such as Scotland’s Teenage Fan Club and others.
Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage is a comprehensive overview of the band’s career, bringing together for the first time material from the band’s early years on independent label I.R.S. and the latter part of their career from 1988 onwards, when they signed to Warner Bros. It also features three previously unreleased tracks that were recorded during sessions for the band’s final studio album Collapse Into Now. These three songs are “A Month Of Saturdays”, “We All Go Back To Where We Belong” and “Hallelujah”.
Part Lies… serves as a great reminder of what made R.E.M. such a compelling musical force in the first place. Along with their incredible grasp of sixties influenced pop music, a strong factor in the band’s success was the intriguing and enigmatic lead singer, Michael Stipe. Displaying rather interpretive dance moves in both the band’s live shows and music videos and possessing a voice that could truly be described as unique, Stipe, as a front man, has an incredible magnetism and aura about him that only a special few have.
This is perhaps never more evident than on the track “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”, with it’s machine gun-like, rapid fire reading of the lyrics. This was probably one of the big songs of the band that brought them to the attention of the world at large and lead to them signing with a major label.
There are music highlights left, right and centre on this well chosen collection. Early tracks like “Radio Free Europe” , “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” and the utterly beguiling “So, Central Rain” sit besides great songs from the latter, major label period of the band’s career, such as the still startling “Losing My Religion”, the haunting “Everybody Hurts”, the inspiring “Finest Worksong” and “Bad Day”. It is heartening to see that the band proved that one can still do their own thing musically and not sell out when they move to a major label.
This collection paints a compelling portrait about how friends from Athens, Georgia created some wonderful music together over the space of three decades and how that sense of musical shape and style changed and progressed over that time. Part Lies… is an essential purchase for fans of music in general, and particularly those who have been fascinated by R.E.M.’s place in popular music culture.
– Neil Evans