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A Rich Recorded Pageant

An R.E.M. discography -- We review ''Chronic Town,'' ''Murmur,'' ''Reckoning,'' and more

An R.E.M. discography

CHRONIC TOWN (1982)
Raw debut EP with both obvious influences (the Byrds, for one) and obvious potential. B

MURMUR (1983)
Their first full-length album, and a work of unexpected depth and musical sophistication — from the guitar-driven rush of ''Sitting Still'' to the sensual beauty of ''Perfect Circle.'' One of the most important albums of the '80s. A

RECKONING (1984)
Sophomore slump be damned: less cohesive, but with crisper sound and more direct, more expansive songs, incorporating country and Southern psychedelia. A-

FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION (1985)
Too much gothic atmosphere and not enough memorable songs, but its most lyrical moments — ''Maps and Legends,'' ''Driver 8'' — are breathtaking. B-

LIFES OF RICH PAGEANT (1986)
How to leap into the mainstream without breaking your legs: vibrant songs, and sonic quality that beefs up the sound without sacrificing subtlety. Their most hopeful work. A

DEAD LETTER OFFICE (1987)
B sides, outtakes, polite and/or goofy covers. For fans. C

DOCUMENT (1987)
The record that gave R.E.M. a top 10 hit (''The One I Love'') mostly does no more than consolidate their strengths but has moments of undeniable power and the most sardonic apocalypse ever recorded, ''It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).'' A-

EPONYMOUS (1988)
A compilation that tells a story: arty bohemians gradually coming to terms with a mass audience. B+

GREEN (1988)
Their first after moving from their independent label to major- league Warner Bros. is downright schizophrenic: The rock is arena-ready, the acoustic interludes more fragile than ever. B+

Originally posted Mar 22, 1991 Published in issue #58 Mar 22, 1991 Order article reprints