October 30, 2006

Review: R.E.M. | When the Light is Mine [DVD]

R.E.M. -- When The Light Is MineTo celebrate its 25th anniversary, newly minted Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame nominees R.E.M. released this video companion to the recent compilation And I Feel Fine…: The Best of the IRS Years 1982-1987. Regardless of your feelings about the band’s output post-Automatic For The People, there’s no denying the greatness of the EP and five albums R.E.M. issued during the six-year span it spent on IRS Records. During this time, the quartet helped define what came to be known as alternative rock with their jangle-pop sound and anti-rock star persona. After 1987’s Document went Top 10 on the strength of single "The One I Love," the band left then-indie IRS (now owned by Capitol Records) for Warner and went from college favorites to rock royalty.

"When The Light Is Mine" collects the familiar videos that everyone saw on MTV in the '80s -- "So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)," "Can’t Get There From Here," "Driver 8," "Fall On Me," "The One I Love," "It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" -— along with some lesser known clips and live performances on UK shows "The Tube" and "The Old Grey Whistle Test." Some of the more obscure material was shot in and around the band’s Athens, Ga., hometown, including the 20-minute film "Left of Reckoning" and a performance video for "Swan Swan H" that was part of the film "Athens, GA/Inside-Out."

The obligatory extra features include interviews with the fledgling group done for the IRS show The Cutting Edge in 1983 and 1984, as well as in-studio performances, and some promotional interviews done a few years later with Peter Buck and Mike Mills. It’s fun to see the band as fresh-faced idealists talking about favorite contemporary bands like Husker Du, The Replacements, Black Flag and Love Tractor, quickly recording albums (they used to release an album every year) and noting their distrust of major labels. It’s also interesting to chart the evolution of frontman Michael Stipe’s hairstyles throughout the '80s from long, leonine curls to short and dyed, a far cry from the shaved head-look he’s sported for the last 12 years. As the band releases occasional albums of varying quality, And I Feel Fine…: The Best of the IRS Years 1982-1987 is a welcome reminder of R.E.M.’s true glory years. -- Jay Kumar

[Buy "When The Light Is Mine" from R.E.M.store here]

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