Cover Image: R.E.M. Album by Album

R.E.M. Album by Album

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Member Reviews

R.E.M is my all time favourite band and I think Automatic For The People is one of the greatest albums ever released so I was really excited about the chance to read and review this book. Unfortunately I was disappointed. I found it dry and ended skipping whole sections . As a die-hard fan I persevered but to be honest I was close to giving up after the first few pages of facts, figures and dates. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend this at all

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Anyone who enjoys the music of REM will find something in this book of interest. I expected a superficial review of the singles and albums of REM but this book provides a whole lot more. A truly comprehensive account of how the band came about, how they recorded their songs, toured, and became successful; much loved, respected and admired in the music world.

The book provides abundant detail of the early years of the individuals who came together in Athens, Georgia and eventually became REM. It then describes initial shows, original songs, recording sessions, various management & contacts, side projects and so forth. And this is even before the band releases a record and begins the journey towards worldwide success and fame.

The author provide a depth and richness to many of the early aspects of the band and their music. This in-depth reporting and discussion continues throughout the book, covering touring, recording, albums and so on, generally in a chronological sequence. In addition to the music of REM, the author covers relationships, influences, side-projects, lyrics, record production and much, much more.

I was expecting this book to be mainly a catalogue of sorts, discussing each album in detail and maybe some references to other recordings. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more. It is a comprehensive and rich history of a band by someone who has work hard on research, documenting the journey REM has made from pre-band days to post-band activities. An ambitious book; a successful book. This is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who grew up listening to the music of REM and also to those who have rediscovered them in recent years.

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Like many people, my love for R.E.M started with the Automatic for the People album when they became part of the mainstream consciousness. I quickly immersed myself in their back catalogue, and from that point on they became a constant in my life. They remain, to this day, my favourite band.

If you don’t already own books on the band, then you will get much more out of Pilley’s work as it does retread information & anecdotes that die-hard fans will be familiar with. However, it was good to have the later sections, which focussed on the post Bill Berry albums. This was actually the reason I requested the book as I was curious about what those chapters would cover, and I found them enjoyable. I hope that this book encourages readers to seek out the songs, to mine the treasures of the band album by album, and to take R.E.M’s creations to their heart.

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R.E.M. is undoubtedly one of the finest bands I have ever heard. This book was always going to be on my to-read list for that reason alone.

In an album-by-album journey, Max Pilley tells the story of R.E.M. and their unlikely journey to global music domination. A band that never compromised on their principles, turning out songs with catchy hooks and lyrics that were utterly unique.

Michael Stipe was a shy young man who became one of music's iconic frontmen. With Bill Berry (drums), Mike Mills (bass), and Peter Buck (guitars, mandolin), the four young men from Georgia who started out as a covers band were standout from pretty much day one.

Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) has published his lyrics in a book and Stipe's lyrics would also translate well to this format. Their meaning can be subtle, in your face, or simply impossible to pin down. Whichever way you cut it, R.E.M. songs stand the test of time.

R.E.M. left the music world in 2011 - on their own terms, not because they fell out of favour or with each other. Not many bands can say that.

Whilst the narrative runs pretty much chronologically, it didn't cover every song in detail. That is understandable as the band has an impressive catalogue, including some songs that never made it onto any album. The book also managed to shed new light on some songs - for instance, I wasn't aware that one of the songs on 'Monster' was written for and about Kurt Cobain.

I also enjoyed reading about the band members' individual collaborations with other musicians.

Anyone with an interest in popular music culture should read this book. Fans of the band will probably already know much of its content, but the book is well worth adding to their collection and will provide a useful reference for some of the band's lesser-known output.

I received a digital ARC of this book via Pen & Sword, in return for an honest appraisal.

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I’m a huge fan of R.E.M, since I first heard them at 14 in 1985. They had a sound that was new to me at the time. I felt like I had discovered something. None of my friends in California middle school listened to them. They were all mine. I listened to and read everything I could get my hands on, not an easy thing to do in the 80s. For that alone, I had to read this book.

The book itself is full of stories, mythology, and some opinion. It is a list of events, songs, and albums. It was strong in nostalgia for me, which I don’t often let myself wallow in. If you’ve know very little about the band, this book will give you a lot of information.

The book itself read like someone compiled a bunch of notes on things they’ve read and heard then arranged them in order and bound them up. There is no flow. No sense of story telling. What is in it is not revealing or new. It would do with simply being set into some sort of organization, other than just being sequential. Maybe the print version will have something more. Here, it just kind of droned on with no break.

Overall, I’d buy the book to have it in my collection but it isn’t my favorite book on the band.

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I love love love REM and miss their music. This is an amazing trip down musical memory lane. It’s a storyteller’s journey, a musical odyssey, and a beautiful mosaic of a time and place in a band’s history. Just awesome. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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First, a disclaimer - I was and continue to be a huge fan of REM. I was one of those people who bought their records, starting with “Reckoning”, on the day they came out, purchased the singles to get the non-album B-sides, hunted down soundtracks to movies I had no intention of watching just to get the non-album REM songs they contained, and read every magazine article I could find about the band. I was devastated when they broke up, even thought their last few records didn’t hold the same excitement for me. That’s all to say that I absolutely loved and devoured this book. Pilley’s work is somewhat poorly titled, though, in my opinion, as it’s much, much more than a simple album-by-album account, though it uses that as a basic structure. This is an in-depth look at the band’s history, from start to finish and beyond. It’s a thoroughly researched and comprehensive look at the band’s career that any fan, and anyone with an interest in the last great era of North American rock music, would enjoy reading.

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I thought I knew REM quite well having listened to them since the beginning but this book made me discover some new things.
Informative, easy to follow. An excellent guide if you want to know the band or are already a fan.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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An excellent guide to one of the most important American bands of the late 20th century. Covers the band's early days in Athens through their final albums and eventual breakup. Each chapter reminded me of why I loved that particular album so much. Great for fans, and also for those wondering "what was the deal with that band anyway?"

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Thank you for the advanced copy. What an honour, I have always loved REM and still listen to their back catalogue.

Automatic for the People remains one of my all time favourite albums.
This is a truly fascinating read starting back in 1980 and allows you to examine each album up until the band breaking up in 2011.

A remarkable book for a truly remarkable band.

Highly recommended

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This book covers R.E.M. from they very early years to post R.E.M. and all their music in between giving insight to the band . Highly recommended for all fans of the band that includes me all.
I received this book from Pen & Sword and Netgalley for a review.

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I was a teenager when I learned about R.E.M.'s music in the early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to see them perform a few times. I was a big fan of their music and Michael Stipe's performance on stage. When they announced they were quitting, I was heartbroken. But... life goes on and over the years their music had faded somewhat from my playlists. I was very happy to be able to read an ARC of R.E.M. Album by Album. This book brought the group and its music back to me. It tells the story of the band from their early years to after the split. There are some really fun anecdotes about the origins of the songs on their albums and their background and meaning. It encouraged me to listen to their music again and watch performances and gigs mentioned in the book on Youtube. I enjoyed rediscovering the band and getting to know them a little better.

Thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley for giving me an advanced reader copy of this book. This did not influence my opinion in any way.

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If you were a cool kid in the 1980s, you'll have listened to R.E.M.
You'll have impressed people by playing their cheerfully apocalyptic It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and other songs like Exhuming McCarthy from Document, their fifth and most political studio album. It was not all politics though. Their next album, Green (1988), featured the single, Stand which contains the line:: "You're feet are going to be on the ground, Your head is there to move you around." which I think we can all agree, is genuinely very helpful information.
As the 1990s began, their next two albums, Out of Time and Automatic For The People (both 1991) helped make them become one of the most successful groups on Earth. This was the era of peak R.E.M. with songs which even old people know like Shiny Happy People, Man on the Moon, Everybody Hurts and Losing My Religion. Michael Stipe went from being all shy and hairy to all bald and cool like Doctor Manhattan from Watchman (although not blue).
The inevitable backlash came with their next album, Monster (1994) which had a scary orange cover with a weird dog on it. It had tracks like What's The Frequency, Kenneth? and Crush With Eyeliner on. It was certainly different. Some people thought they were trying to sound like Nirvana. 29 years on, it doesn't sound anything like Nirvana and holds up pretty well.
R.E.M. continued producing interesting music into the 21st century. Their 2001 album, Reveal featuring Imitation of Life and All the Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be a Star) remains a high point. They split in 2011.
This book isn't really an @album by album' guide at all. But it is a comprehensive history of one of the best American bands ever, so well worth reading.

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I'm a big R.E.M. fan and have read a slew of books about them. I think this one is really good. Yes, there was a lot I knew already, but Pilley tells the story in a breezy entertaining fashion. If you don't know much about the band, I think this is a great overview. If you do know a lot, Pilley still offers up some nuggets you probably don't know.

He also exhibits some wonderful writing about the music. I thought his descriptions of "Nightswimming" and "Find the River" were especially beautiful.

Netgalley provided me with a free e-galley in return for this review.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book whilst recovering from knee surgery! How it got me through it! I took the opportunity to listen again to all the R.E.M albums as I read about them in book and it really enhanced the experience. Dare I say, I’d forgotten just how good a band they were! This is a great book and I found out lots of interesting facts that I hadn’t known! A lot of work has obviously gone into creating it and I really appreciated it! Great pictures chosen at the back of the book too adding to this tale of an awesome band from start to finish.

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This is a solid, well-researched overview of REM's career and music, but it doesn't do anything surprising. It takes you back to the songs, which is a service in itself, but I wanted a bit more the author himself, the personal element with which he starts the book, and his opinions. It works at a song level (although by no means all songs are discussed, even in the feted early albums), but curiously less so at an album level. It would have been interesting to have had more comparing the albums and exploring their evasive titles and covers. One of the most interesting things about REM was always the tensions between the directness of the music and melodies and the art-inspired playfulness of Stipe's lyrics and the imagery he and others created for the band. There's not much of that explored here. More on their post-Billy Berry departure decline would have been interesting too, (although in my view, if not Pilley's, 'Up' remains an under-rated, if overlong record). In short, informative and entertaining but not world-shattering.

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R.E.M, Album by Album by Max Pilley tells the story of the band from their beginnings in early eighties Athens, Georgia through their time as one of the biggest rock groups on the planet and to their unusually drama-free decision to call it a day.

If you are a new fan, or at least one who hasn't read any other book on the band, then this is a decent place to start, covering pretty much all their recorded output and telling accompanying anecdotes to highlight how the band were dealing with things at the various points in their career. But if you're a long-time devotee, then unfortunately there's very little new or undiscovered here, with each era of the bands history being covered fairly quickly and superficially. It does cover the individual member's careers post-R.E.M., which is something that hasn't received much attention so far, but sadly there's just not that much of great interest there.

R.EM. Album by Album does its job well enough, but doesn't add much to the existing body of work on R.E.M. that wasn't already well known.

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A must for fans of both the band and the era - really insightful. I am a fan, so loved learning more about the band and their work.

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R.E.M. were one of my favourite bands back in the day, but, like many others I suspect, I stopped buying their music after ‘Up’ and eventually stopped listening to them. This timely retrospective is just what I needed to remind me how great they were and it’s taken me twice as long to read as it should because I keep stopping to blow the dust off old CDs to listen to whatever album is under focus. Although I am a music fan, I am not a musician so Max’s approach to the songs works perfectly- he discusses the musical content, their development and puts them into context, but avoids the in-depth deconstruction beloved of music graduates.
Max has done his research, but never gets bogged down and moves briskly through the band’s musical output in chronological order. Whilst we all have our favourites (‘Monster’ is mine), Max takes a fair-minded approach and I didn’t disagree with anything he said. Reading this book has certainly made me reappreciate this exceptional band.

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