This record could be called
R.E.M. Replugged. After the acoustic ruminations of Out of Time
and Automatic For the People, the band comes back with guitars
blazing on a this-ain't-no-folk album. Monster hails back to
R.E.M.'s early work; even Michael Stipe's vocals retreat into the swirl of
The band opens up with
"What's The Frequency, Kenneth?," a feedback-laden rocker with a surreal
storyline (the title refers to what a crazy man once yelled while attacking
newsman Dan Rather.) Other songs thrash out with unbridled anger, like
"Crush with Eyeliner" (which is supposedly about Courtney Love) and "Circus Envy."
This is not to imply R.E.M.
has completely given up the acoustic ballads, like the falsetto-laden "Tongue,"
but songs of this ilk are all pointedly bunched together in the middle of the
LP. Monster is another fascinating musical right turn from a band
that refuses to live down to expectations. (11/94)