In 1991, R.E.M. released Out of Time, an album that transformed the group from underground darlings to mainstream superstars. The LP was released a few months before college rock morphed into the vague-yet-buzzworthy behemoth known as “alternative rock” thanks to the rise of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the rest of the grunge movement.
Out of Time brought the group global success on a level they hadn’t experienced before, but then what? Where could Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe go from there? The ensuing eight studio albums — released from 1992 to 2011, when the group amicably disbanded — were indicative of a band who reached their pinnacle, decided to experiment, lost a member, and idled on for a bit before calling it a day.
Previously, we ranked the best tracks from the LP, and to commemorate the release of the 25th-anniversary deluxe edition of Out of Time we decided to analyze all of their releases since ’91. Looking back we were surprised to discover just how solidly their creative output has held up, making our job of ranking these LPs more challenging than we initially expected. Here’s how everything shook down.
8. Reveal (2001)
Proving that they could continue on as a group with their Up LP, R.E.M.’s 12th studio album Reveal made listeners wonder exactly when the group would begin to talk, if not sing, about the passion once more. Despite the typical yearning songcraft of “Imitation of Life” (whose accompanying video, featured above, is a visual melding of Rube Goldbergian theatrics and time loops that would make Doctor Strange take notice) and “All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star),” fans were left with the sinking feeling that R.E.M. were spinning their wheels creatively. As pleasant as the album’s experimental tracks like the 1970s soft rock-inspired “Beachball” may be, such sonic detours were too few on an album that didn’t have anything considerable to add to the group’s canon. Not bad by any stretch, but Reveal‘s indistinct nature may be its greatest crime.