Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

R.E.M.: Document [I.R.S., 1987]
Their commercial breakthrough eschews escapism without surrendering structural obliqueness, and after six years of mushmouth I wouldn't have thought it possible either. Maybe they finally figured out that intelligibility doesn't equal closure (can't, actually). Or maybe they just wanted to make sure everyone knew how pissed off they were. In any case, these dreamsongs are nightmares of a world in flames, the kind you remember in all their scary inconsistency because you woke up sweating in the middle. How it will all end I couldn't say, but it's a healthy sign that their discovery of the outside world has sharpened their sense of humor along with everything else. Inspirational Title: "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." A