Craft Recordings present a pair of 25th anniversary vinyl reissues of R.E.M.'s acclaimed ninth album, Monster. Remastered from the original analog master by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, the title will be available on standalone 180g vinyl LP with Chris Bilheimer's original Monster art and in an expanded double 180g vinyl LP edition with the new remaster, a special 2019 remix from Monster producer Scott Litt and reimagined cover art by Bilheimer plus new liner notes featuring interviews with members of the band.
When Monster was released in September 1994, the members of R.E.M. were at a crossroads in their career. Singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry were decompressing from the massive commercial and critical success of 1991's Out of Time and 1992's Automatic for the People. In just a few years, the Athens, GA, four-piece had become one of the biggest, most recognizable bands in the world, thanks to hits like "Losing My Religion," "Man on the Moon" and "Everybody Hurts." It had also been six years since the group had toured. By the time that work began on Monster, they were itching to end their self-imposed hiatus and get back on the road. The band was also looking for a sonic shake-up. While R.E.M.'s last two albums were full of ballads, acoustic rock songs and intricate arrangements, the group was ready to record something grittier, brasher and highly playable on stage. The group was also reeling from the strange nature of celebrity and identity, and many of the songs in this album reflect that.
As dark as some of the subject matter is, though, R.E.M. still infuses the songs with a dash of absurdity, irony and a humorous wink. Highlights include the distortion-soaked first single, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" which plays off the farce of media and marketing that pervaded Gen X pop-culture, while the catchy "Star 69" is a detective story, based on the ‘90s phone service of the same name (a precursor to caller ID). The second single, "Bang and Blame," features Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, as well as actress Rain Phoenix – whose brother, River, had recently passed away and was Monster's dedicatee. "Let Me In" is an ode to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who had died by suicide just months before. Mills, who swapped his bass for Cobain's guitar on the track, shares, "It's Michael's cathartic release in response to the loss of a good friend and someone we all felt creatively aligned with."
The band's new artistic direction proved to be a hit. Monster debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and would be certified four-times Platinum in the U.S. Rolling Stone offered this praise: "R.E.M.'s exceptional pop craftsmanship, their luminous melodic inventions, their sense of mission – in short, everything fundamental – are still there and shining more brightly than ever ... Monster is one urgent-sounding album, and that's as it should be."