R.E.M. - Chronic Town (40th Anniversary)

by Kevin Wierzbicki

R.E.M. fans can be forgiven if they're not familiar with the band's first release, the five song EP Chronic Town that came out in 1982. The foursome really didn't get much traction until a year later when their debut full-length Murmur spawned the minor hit and college radio staple "Radio Free Europe." At that point such a buzz developed around the band, destined first to be critic's darlings and then unstoppable hit makers, that everyone was looking forward and not backward to Chronic Town. Here's a chance for fans who are still uninitiated to right that wrong as on the occasion of its 40th anniversary Chronic Town has been reissued and released on CD for the first time ever.

The jangle pop of "Wolves, Lower" foreshadowed what was to come over the next couple of decades; with its memorable melody, slightly ominous lyrics ("wolves at the door!") and a chorus that demands a sing-along, the song had all the hallmarks that fans would come to cherish. Less cryptic but just as catchy is "Gardening at Night," a cut that also features singer Michael Stipe's now well-known penchant for unintelligible lyrics; trying to hear them properly is always part of the fun with R.E.M. "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)" is easily recognizable as R.E.M.; with a little polish and a rerelease several years later it would have easily joined the band's canon of hits. "1,000,000" is another radio-ready cut where fans will love to sing along with Stipe as he sings, "I could live a million." The uncharacteristically percussion heavy "Stumble" finishes Chronic Town, a fine effort that does not sound dated and that would fit nicely in every R.E.M. fan's collection. Included is a booklet with a new essay from EP producer Mitch Easter.


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