12 Years Ago: R.E.M.’s ‘Reveal’ Album Released
Drummer Bill Berry’s departure from R.E.M. following the release of 1996’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ shook the rest of the band. You can hear their fear and uncertainty on 1998’s ‘Up,’ their first album without Berry. The drums, when they’re any presence at all, are mixed low and barely register within the songs on that downbeat release. So when the three remaining members of R.E.M. reconvened to make their 12th album, ‘Reveal,’ they swung in the opposite direction of ‘Up.’
The previous record was laid-back, subtle and elegant; ‘Reveal’ turned out to be sunny, upbeat and a bit more tarnished. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t sound much like the classic R.E.M. band that ruled and shaped college-rock radio in the ‘80s. The individual pieces that drove the group can be heard working, sometimes laboriously, throughout ‘Reveal.’ On classics like ‘Murmur’ and ‘Document,’ they were almost invisible.
But the album – which celebrates its 12th anniversary today – isn’t without charm. The shinier production and mix elevate songs like ‘All the Way From Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star),’ ‘Imitation of Life’ and ‘I’ll Take the Rain,’ all singles, from the soft, despairing tone of ‘Up.’ It’s a brighter and punchier album. And it sounds like R.E.M. are finally moving on from losing a key member. But it wouldn’t last.
When they returned three years later with ‘Around the Sun,’ they pretty much abandoned all signs that they used to be a great band. Before their 2011 breakup, R.E.M. would reclaim some of their ground. ‘Reveal,’ even though it didn’t sound much like it at the time, would be one of their final stands. The album debuted at No. 6 and eventually went gold. Only ‘Imitation of Life’ made much of a dent on the charts, stopping at No. 83 on pop and just missing the Top 20 at modern rock. Their glory days were over, and they knew it. ‘Reveal’ at least tries to hold on to some of the memories.
Listen to R.E.M.’s ‘Reveal’