R.E.M. – Monster: #449 of best 1,000 albums ever!

R.E.M. - Monster

So why is R.E.M.’s Monster on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

There’s so much to get into with this album, but for me the top line thing that Monster reminds us is that R.E.M. is simply a great rock band.

After years of being more known for emotional pop/rock songs like “Losing My Religion” and sad ballads like “Everybody Hurts,” Monster swept in like its album title implies: fierce and raw and revved up, with distorted electric guitar effects and fuzzed up production and, importantly, volume that lets you know that this is a rock band that can and will kick some ass when they feel like it.

Monster also sweeps me back to the middle years of my undergrad experience at Binghamton University in New York. Whereas Automatic For the People tracks as a very freshman year album and Green, while having been released years earlier, became my college breakup album, oddly enough (a story I’ll get to later), Monster for me represents figuring out college life and, more than that, embracing it.

I already loved R.E.M. when Monster came out, and was blown away the first time I heard, “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” I still love it: it rocks, it’s catchy, and its lyrics are weird and slightly freaky (here’s the background on what the song is about, if you’re interested).

“I Took Your Name” is flat out one of R.E.M.’s best hard rock songs. What many people don’t realize – and something that I feel super fortunate to have experienced myself – is that R.E.M. rocks hard when they perform live, and “I Took Your Name” captures that vibe as well as any song the band produced in studio.

“Strange Currencies” has grown on me much over the years. It’s pretty and emotional and visceral, and the feedback and distortion in the production works exceptionally well to prevent it from sounding too pretty, if you can dig.

The Latin-y flavor and delayed, distorted guitars on “Bang and Blame,” along with the use of a classic alt rock quiet and then loud approach portrays a band operating at the peak of its 1990s powers.

If you’re wondering why I don’t have Monster even “higher” on the list (and sharp-eyed observers will also observe that there are many R.E.M. albums “to go” before we get from here to there, so to speak), there are stretches on the latter half of the album that are a little too fuzzed out and draggy on repeat listen.

“Let Me In” is amazing, but the eight minutes-plus of the combination of “Circus Envy” and “You” to close the album are what I’m getting at here.

Some stats & info about R.E.M. – Monster

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Alternative Rock, Hard Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 3 out of 5 stars(!?)
  • When was Monster released? 1994
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #449 out of 1,000

R.E.M.’s Monster on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from R.E.M.’s Monster that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

You know with love comes strange currencies, and here is my appeal.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.