Posts Tagged ‘Monster’

Craft Recordings has announced a Monster of a celebration for the 25th anniversary of R.E.M.’s ninth album. November 1st will see the arrival of “Monster” in various physical and digital formats, all newly remastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound.

Monster found the band branching out to explore new sonic avenues, with bolder, louder guitars, minimal overdubs, and spare arrangements supporting lyrics frequently sung from the POV of different characters. Bolstered by the success of the lead single “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?,” Monster entered the U.S. chart at No. 1, and the band promoted it with their first tour since 1989. “Bang and Blame” also became a U.S. top 20 chart entry, the band’s final such single to date.

After R.E.M.‘s departure from indie-adored IRS Records for the larger filed of Warner Brothers Records, the fear was that the band would be manipulated into producing more radio friendly hits. And while R.E.M. managed to do that, it was not at the cost of their fine lyrical and musical frontier. By the arrival of MonsterR.E.M. had further established themselves as a powerhouse of a band with multi-Platinum successes like Green (1988), Out of Time (1991), and the legendary Automatic for The People (1992).

Monster, released in 1994, delivered the hit single “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, as well as other more minor hits. Monster would also become the album that started an alienation from the more casual fans. All R.E.M. albums after Monster (there would be six more) were much less popular (although I never understood why).

In his liner notes, Perpetua offers that Monster “had no precedent in the band’s catalogue,” adding that R.E.M had “never been this distorted and dirty, or this glam or this flirty.” Peter Buck adds, “We were trying to feel like a different band…We wanted to get away from who we were.” Perpetua observes that “there’s no question that the characters on Monster are all dealing with obsession in some form or another, whether it’s the infatuated narrator of ‘Crush with Eyeliner,’ the lovelorn protagonist of ‘Strange Currencies,’ or the cackling supervillain in ‘I Took Your Name.’” As dark as some of the subject matter is, though, R.E.M. still infuses the songs with a dash of absurdity, irony and a humorous wink.”

Despite the enormous success of the 4x platinum album, producer Scott Litt was never fully happy with his finished mix. He states in the press release, “I had told the band through the years that if there was ever a chance to take another shot at mixing the album, I wanted to do it.” This anniversary edition has given him that opportunity, and he’s incorporated entirely different vocal takes and instrumental parts either buried in the original mix or completely absent from it.

On November 1st 2019, Craft Recordings will celebrate the album’s 25th Anniversary with a definitive 5CD/1BD Box that provides not only a newly remastered version of Monster but also a new Scott Litt-remixed version that sonically brings Stipe’s vocals to the front. The box will also include a collection of 15 previously unreleased demos, and the full 25-song performance from their June 3rd, 1995 show at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago that was opened by Luscious Jackson, spread over 2CDs. The Scott Litt-remixed album will be on a CD of its own. The Blu-ray will supply a high resolution Stereo version mix as well as a 5.1 Surround mix. The Road Movie film is included as are six music videos (“What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, “Crush With Eyeliner”, “Star 69”, “Strange Currencies”, “Tongue”, “Bang and Blame”). A stuffed book of notes, photos, interviews, and more is included.

For those interested in a less expansive option, an expanded edition of Monster offering the original album and the 2019 remix will also be available on two 180-gram vinyl LPs or two CDs, both featuring reimagined cover art by longtime R.E.M. designer Chris Bilheimer. The remastered album will also be available as a standalone 180-gram vinyl LP, with Bilheimer’s original Monster art.

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R.E.M. Album By Album Pt.5: ‘Monster’

During the first decade of their career, R.E.M. had become accustomed to fighting an uphill battle. Their timeless yet enigmatic early albums Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction had engrossed their hardcore fanbase, but it took the cumulative effect of that urgent, muscular triumvirate of Lifes Rich Pageant, Document and Green to finally push them to the brink of mainstream acceptance.

Up to this stage of their career, the versatile quartet had been perceived as the integrity-fuelled, alt.rock heroes it was OK to like. Yet, with the multi-million-selling double-whammy of 1991’s Out Of Time and ’92’s Automatic For The People, the band made an enviably seamless transition into bona fide global superstars.

Lesser bands could well have crumbled and given into excess-fuelled madness at this juncture, yet R.E.M.’s well-established work ethic instead kicked in and ensured they remained focused. With their post-Automatic For The People promotional duties completed, the four band members hunkered down for a four-day meeting in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco, discussing where they would go next.

REM Japan Monster Tour Poster - 300

Wonderful records though they were, Out Of Time and Automatic… had both consisted primarily of introspective, acoustic-based numbers; during their Mexican sojourn, the four bandmates reached a consensus. For their next album, R.E.M. would get back to making what guitarist Peter Buck had previously described to the NME as a “real noisy” rock’n’roll record which the band pledged to tour for the first time since undertaking a year-long trek in support of 1988’s Green.

Later in 1993, pre-production work began at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, where the band worked up a bunch of new songs before moving to Crossover Soundstage, in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 1994. There they laid down most of the basic tracks for what would become their ninth LP, Monster. Though they had built their reputation as a consummate live act, R.E.M. had been off the road for the best part of five years, and co-producer Scott Litt wisely thought the band would benefit from recording their new songs live, partly to re-familiarise them with the rigours of performing in concert. “I thought they hadn’t toured for a while, so it would be good for them to get into that mindset,” Litt said “You know… monitors, PA, standing up.”

A post on the band’s official Facebook page today simply states “#Monster25 coming soon” followed by “October 1994: released. October 2019: planning starting now…” . The news doesn’t come as a great surprise, since similar treatment was given to 1991’s Out Of Time and 1992’s Automatic For The People in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Monster wasn’t as well received as the two that preceded it and was a return to a more ‘rockier’ vibe.

The album spawned a number of singles including ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’, ‘Bang and Blame’ and ‘Strange Currencies’. Unlike the band’s two previous records, the Monster sessions proved atypically fraught. Both Bill Berry and Mike Mills were struck down with illness; Michael Stipe suffered a tooth abscess that required urgent medical attention after the sessions had moved on to Criteria Studios in Miami; the band were collectively knocked sideways by the recent deaths of Stipe’s personal friends, actor River Phoenix and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The latter event hit Stipe especially hard and inspired Monster’s most intense track, the eerie, funereal tribute ‘Let Me In’.

“That song is me on the phone to Kurt, trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in,” Stipe later told UK rock monthly Select. “I wanted him to know that… he was going to make it through. He and I were going to make a trial run of [Nirvana’s] next album. It was set up. He had a plane ticket. At the last minute he called and said, ‘I can’t come.’”

With the mixing sessions finally wrapping in LA during the summer of 1994, Monster was scheduled for release in October, and the band gave some preliminary interviews to provide the public with an insight into the new record. In a Time magazine feature, Mike Mills stressed that it would be anything but another Automatic For The People. “On past albums we had been exploring acoustic instruments, trying to use the piano and mandolin,” he said, before adding, “And you come back to the fact that playing loud electric guitar music is as fun as music can be.”

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” is like the “Homerpalooza” of R.E.M.’s catalogue: a tragic story of an old man trying to be cool. It happens to everyone, though, and as Stipe was racing towards his 13th year with the outfit, it’s not unlikely that he was having those very same feelings. Of course, we all know he had very little to worry about — especially, you know, seeing how Monster arrived towards the tail-end of an unstoppable run of albums — and this song was proof perfect. It was a noisy signal to Generation X that the band understood the frequency loud and clear. After all, they were the progenitors of what would wind up being ’90s Alternative, so they weren’t exactly asking questions. They were answering them.

Monster was trailed by one of its strongest tracks, the grunge-y, anthemic ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ Stipe copped the title from a 1986 incident in New York, relating to a vicious attack on CBS Evening News presenter Dan Rather by two unknown assailants who reputedly repeated the phrase, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” while beating him. Promoted by a striking video directed by ex-Cabaret Voltaire filmmaker Peter Care, wherein Stipe paraded his newly shaven head, ‘… Kenneth’ peaked at No.21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No.9 in the UK Top 40, and went on to become one of the band’s most popular – and most regularly performed – live numbers.

Released on 27th October 1994, Monster was, as Mills had previously hinted, very much a product of electric rock’n’roll instruments. Recorded with only minimal overdubs and long on heavily distorted guitars, it was chock-full of brash, extroverted garage-rockers such as ‘I Took Your Name’, ‘Star 69’ and the louche, T.Rex-ian ‘Crush With Eyeliner’, while, in most cases, Michael Stipe’s lyrics (which were written almost entirely in character) dealt with the nature of celebrity: something which R.E.M. were now having to deal with at very close quarters.

Monster was released at a time when musical trends were changing all over the world. Britpop was on the rise in the UK, while, in the US, alt.rock acts as diverse as The Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day were staking their claims with multi-platinum LPs. Yet Monster comfortably held its own and critics received it with enthusiasm. While acknowledging the album’s urgency and big rock shapes, Rolling Stone magazine gave it four-and-a-half-star review, penned by Robert Palmer, shrewdly concluded that the album was “a deeply felt, thematically coherent, consistently invigorating challenge to ‘evolve or die’, with all the courage of its convictions”.

A decade after its release, only ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ was picked for the much-lauded anthology collection In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003, suggesting that the band’s feelings towards the album have cooled over the years. Yet while songs such as the dance-enhanced ‘King Of Comedy’ might now seem dated to some ears, Monster includes several of the band’s most underrated gems. Though perhaps at odds with most of the album’s high-octane guitar pop, both the tender ‘Strange Currencies’ and the shimmering, soul-infused ‘Tongue’ (delivered by Stipe in an atypical, yet highly affecting falsetto) are worth the price of admission alone and certainly remain comparable with the best of the group’s illustrious canon.

Though it failed replicate the stratospheric successes of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, Monster proved to be another mega-selling album. The UK, where it Monster bagged the No.1 spot during its week of release.

As good as their word, R.E.M. undertook a massive world tour in support of the album, yet difficulties that beset the band during the recording sessions returned to blight the tour. Bolstered by support acts including Grant Lee Buffalo and Died Pretty, the Australasian and Far East dates went off without a hitch, but when the tour swung through Europe and reached Lausanne, Switzerland, on 1 March 1995, Bill Berry complained of severe headaches while onstage and was later diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Remarkably, after surgery and the cancellation of a raft of dates, Berry rejoined the tour in the US in May, though after R.E.M. returned to Europe, disaster struck again, with Mike Mills requiring urgent abdominal surgery. Once again the tour restarted successfully, only for Michael Stipe to undergo a hernia operation which – incredibly – was performed successfully without the need to cancel any further dates.

Again snatching victory from the jaws of adversity, R.E.M. finally sailed through the R.E.M. ’95 Tour’s remaining itinerary, playing a whopping 52 US dates. Three emotional, sold-out shows at The Omni in Atlanta brought the tour to a close, and provided the highlights for the electrifying Peter Care-directed video Road Movie.

Sarah Potenza

Sarah Potenza Sounds like A Janis Joplin-Aretha Franklin hybrid with a mic … but a Lucinda Williams-Bonnie Raitt hybrid with a pen .After Potenza’s spellbinding blind audition yielded a four-chair turn on NBC’s The Voice, a visibly moved Pharrell Williams told her she was “giving this generation something they’ve never seen before.” Potenza is to the blues what Adele is to pop: a colossal-voiced singer who merges her old-school influences with a modernistic sound. Her new album, Monster, solidifies endless Janis Joplin vocal comparisons but also colors between the lines of Memphis blues, Nashville Americana, New Orleans funk and L.A. punk. Its lyrics are personal and personally therapeutic, as she empowers herself through tunes denouncing industry naysayers and embracing her fuller-figured, boisterous self.

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She Says: “It’s hard for a size 16, 36-year-old woman,” says Potenza of catching a break in the music industry. But she’s come to realize those numbers actually work in her favor. “I’ve never opened a door with my looks. Because I’ve always relied on my personality and my talent, I’ve really flourished and feel strong and confident. I don’t know how to get someone to buy me a drink in a bar, but I’ll sing you a song!”

Hear for Yourself: “The Cost of Living” is like a powerful sermon delivered in a smoky blues club.

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20 years ago today R.E.M. played the 2nd of 2 nights at The National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England.

This show is most notable for the fact that it was broadcasted around the world & for many, it was the 1st exposure to the ‘Monster’ songs being played live.

We also got the added pleasure of brand new songs (at the time) ‘Undertow’ & ‘Departure’, and a relatively new song ‘Revolution’. And not to forget, supported that day by a stellar cast – Sleeper, Radiohead & The Cranberries.

So to the fans who have the broadcast, pull it out & have another listen, but in the meantime here’s ‘Strange Currencies’ from that very warm evening 2 decades ago.

Setlist:

The National Bowl At Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes, England, 30 July 1995

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? / Crush With Eyeliner / Drive / Turn You Inside-Out / Try Not To Breathe / I Took Your Name / Undertow / Bang And Blame / I Don’t Sleep, I Dream / Happy Birthday To Louise Wener / Strange Currencies / Revolution / Tongue / Man On The Moon / Country Feedback / Half A World Away / Losing My Religion / Pop Song 89 / Finest Worksong / Get Up / Star 69
Encore: Let Me In / Everybody Hurts / Fall On Me / Departure / It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

remmonster

REM released its ninth album “Monster” on this day exactly 20 years ago which featured the singles “Whats The Frequency Kenneth”, “Bang and Blame” ,”Strange Currencies”, Crush With Eyeliner” and “Tongue” One of the band rockiest albums with the Alt-Rock guitar sound and with not so much of Peter Buck’s traditional jangly guitar sound but a more distorted style with influences to the Bowie and T.Rex Glam rock sound. Released to good reviews and significant mainstream success and a series of great singles , the band were definately a foundation for the way we think of indie music, influencing artists that would be big in the 1990’s. With one of their best songs included the heartbreaking “Let Me In” . the guitarless with the girl type vocals of “Tongue” and one of their best all time ever singles “Kenneth”