My lord, has it really been 27 years since R.E.M. released Monster? I remember being taken aback by the volume and aggression of this album coming on the heels of 1992’s Automatic For the People, but mostly loving the results.
R.E.M. said they wanted to make a loud album after the mostly acoustic Out of Time and Automatic For the People, and Monster certainly fit the bill. Soaked in reverb, this mashup of glam rock and grunge sounds like nothing else in the band’s catalog, for better and worse.
R.E.M.’s Monster was a true WTF album. Following the mega-success of the warm, elegant pop albums Out of Time (1991) and Automatic For the People (1992), this 1994 release hit fans like a bucket of cold water.
Steeped in grunge and drowning in reverb and feedback, Monster was the loudest and least pretty collection R.E.M. ever recorded. But listening to it 22 years later, it doesn’t seem all that scary.
Automatic For the People was one of the hardest of hard acts to follow, so when R.E.M. released Monster two years later, in 1994, they went in a completely different direction.
Here was the “hard” album they’d been talking about recording for years, and then some. The acoustic flavors of Out of Time and Automatic For the People were replaced by distorted, grungy guitars and processed vocals.
Because of the marked contrast from its classic predecessor, it’s tempting to look at Monster as a let-down for the band — in fact, I was prepared to describe it as one of their more underrated albums — but the truth is it was a big hit commercially and received very good reviews.
R.E.M. followed Automatic for the People with the grunge and feedback overload of Monster, the most love-it-or-hate-it album in their catalog.
I fall into the “love” category, though I do lose patience for a couple of songs toward the end of the album. But the first ten songs are twisted and glorious, none more so than ‘Crush With Eyeliner.’