Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

R.E.M.: Lifes Rich Pageant [I.R.S., 1986]
Musically, this talented minor band's fastest-breaking album represents no significant departure from the past, though just how many recapitulations of their lyricism one needs is clearly beginning to trouble those who took it too seriously in the first place. The players still make them and the singer-lyricist still refuses to define them, and while his projection has improved, it's hardly crystalline and wouldn't tell you anything you didn't know if it was. I mean, this is music for mushheads, and that it retains an undeniable if rather abstract charm only proves that there's a little mushhead in all of us. I give album four the nod over number three for its compelling snare sound and dynamic cover version. And insist that any normal person can make do with number one, when all this was a tad more spontaneous. B+