Dead Letter Officeby R.E.M.
Arriving mere months before Document took the group into the Top Ten, the B-sides and rarities collection Dead Letter Office sums up all of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that made R.E.M. the leading underground guitar pop band of the '80s. While only a handful of songs on Dead Letter Office rank among the group's best, the record is extremely entertaining, even for casual fans, particularly because it captures the wild spirit of R.E.M. that was evident at their concerts, but not always on their records. Among the gems scattered throughout the collection are the cheerily ridiculous "Band Wagon," "Voice of Harold" (which features Michael Stipe singing the liner notes to a gospel album over the backing of "7 Chinese Brothers"), covers of the Velvet Underground, Pylon, and Aerosmith, the ringing pop of "Burning Down" (which is later reworked as "Ages of You"), and "Walter's Theme," a drunken attempt at a commercial for a local restaurant that segues into a clueless cover of "King of the Road." The material may be slight, but it's fun -- and R.E.M.'s albums aren't always fun. [The CD version of Dead Letter Office contains the group's debut EP, Chronic Town.]
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So you're thinking about adding "Dead Letter Office" to your REM collection, but you are somewhat hesitant. The B-sides, outakes, and early works got you forgetting this is REM we're talking about? I've had this album (CD) for 14 years and I highly recommend it! 5 Stars doesn't begin to tell what your senses will experience... To those of us who experienced the complete awe after removing the celophane in 1983 and hearing "Murmur," I have to tell you that "Dead Letter Office" contains the same awe! This is REM 1980 - 1987. Dead Letter Office holds gems; songs recorded with Stipe's poet-vocalizations against folksy instrumental textures of energetic activists lyrics. Sure, you're going to recognize some songs recorded by previous artists, but listen to REM's versions! 'Gardening At Night' is a bonus track on the CD copy, and isn't recorded again until after Dead Letter Office is released. Dead letter Office is a recorded history of REM, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. The band begins a few songs, breaks into laughter, a comment or two, and starts over. I'm excited to see REM's "Dead Letter Office" is still available. Grab a copy before The Powers That Be discontinue it. If you're a mature (long-time) listener, or you're just really into REM's music & style, Dead Letter Office is a classic work.