Life&

Life's Rich Pageant (LP)

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Fables of the Reconstruction was intentionally murky, and Life's Rich Pageant was constructed as its polar opposite. Teaming with producer Don Gehman, who previously worked with John Mellencamp, R.E.M. developed their most forceful record to date. Where previous records kept the rhythm section in the background, Pageant emphasizes the beat, and the band turns in its hardest rockers to date, including the anthemic "Begin the Begin" and the punky "Just a Touch."

But the cleaner production also benefits the ballads and the mid-tempo janglers, particularly since it helps reveal Michael Stipe's growing political obsessions, especially on the environmental anthems "Fall on Me" and "Cuyahoga." The group hasn't entirely left myths behind -- witness the Civil War ballad "Swan Swan H" -- but the band sound more contemporary both musically and lyrically than they did on either Fables or Murmur, which helps give the record an extra kick. And even with excellent songs like "I Believe," "Flowers of Guatemala," "These Days," and "What if We Give It Away," it's ironic that the most memorable moment comes from the garage rock obscurity "Superman," which is sung with glee by Mike Mills.

Dinner Side
A1. Begin The Begin
A2. These Days
A3. Fall On Me
A4. Cuyahoga
A5. Hyena
A6. Underneath The Bunker

Supper Side
B1. The Flowers Of Guatemala
B2. I Believe
B3. What If We Give It Away?
B4. Just A Touch
B5. Swan Swan H
B6. Superman 

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