Though R.E.M. revealed on Wednesday that they were going gently into the good night after 31 years, the band has prepped a final career summation for release this fall. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011 is set for November 15, and is noteworthy for two reasons. It’ll be the first compilation to span the alt-rockers’ recordings on both I.R.S. Records and Warner Bros., and will reportedly include additional songs completed after R.E.M.’s 15th and final studio album, Collapse Into Now, released last March.
Rightfully, there’s been a ranking of R.E.M.’s career highs over the past few days, from hits to albums to videos. My small contribution to the numerous tributes paying respects to this amazingly talented Athens, Georgia band consists of surveying their non-singles and narrowing my favorites down to five.
It’s no easy task, and one made only marginally easier by focusing on R.E.M.’s output from Green forward, as that’s when I really gave the band my attention and my cash (I previously only had a cassette dub of Document). Plus, many album tracks from the I.R.S. years have become radio staples, so it seems a violation of the spirit of the non-single rule I’ve laid out, if not the actual letter, to choose tunes from that era, one that I’m admittedly less intimately familiar.
5. “You Are The Everything” (from Green, 1988)
I’ve always had a thing for R.E.M. at their most contemplative. One of the first songs on which Peter Buck traded his guitar for mandolin, “You Are The Everything” previewed the autumnal beauty of Out Of Time, released three years later. Note: I’ve had to embed a live version.
4. “Walk Unafraid” (from Up, 1998)
It wasn’t until prepping this post that I remembered just how much I liked this album, R.E.M.’s first as a trio without drummer Bill Berry. This song is just one of the reasons (“Sad Professor” is another).
3. “Try Not To Breathe” (from Automatic For The People, 1992)
For an album that hangs together so perfectly, this track stands out as the non-single that I still can’t help but repeat at least once whenever I put on Automatic before moving along to the rest.
2. “Leave” (Alternate Version) (from the A Life Less Ordinary soundtrack, 1997)
While also fantastic in its original form on 1996′s New Adventures In Hi-Fi, the track was remixed to eerie excellence by the late Jonny Dollar (Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry) for the soundtrack to the Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz film. This haunting alternate take still captivates me.
1. “Texarkana” (from Out Of Time, 1991)
Surprisingly, a vocal from Mike Mills and not Michael Stipe takes the top spot, but I love this track from Out Of Time so much. Not just the sound, which makes me wanna climb in a car and road trip without a destination in mind, but this lyric: “I would give my life to find it / I would give it all.” Technically, it was issued to radio as a promo single, but I couldn’t disqualify it and feel I did my love for R.E.M. proper justice.
Purchase R.E.M. – “Texarkana” and more via iTunes.
Wanna fight over my five? Let me know which of R.E.M.’s non-singles you feel are the band’s best, and how you’d rank your faves.