[Review] R.E.M.: Dead Letter Office (1987)

A collection of B sides and unreleased tracks, including three (!) covers of Velvet Underground songs.

Kronomyth 5.0: The notes you never wrote.

B-sides and pisstakes. Your life couldn’t possibly be so R.E.M.T. that you would patiently wait for these dusty missives to finally arrive. Only kidding, of course it is! So get your letter openers ready, you’ve got mail…

Crazy. 30 seconds into this song, I’m thinking I should have spent my money on a Pylon album rather than buying Peter Buck another ivory backscratcher to beat stewardesses with.

There She Goes Again. They play this one light and breezy, so it doesn’t make me want to hurt myself like most of V.U.’s music.

Burning Down. Thankfully disinterred after being prematurely buried on the B side to a rare double 7-inch release.

Voice of Harold. Michael Stipe reads the liner notes from a Revelaires album like it’s holy scripture. Amen.

Burning Hell. R.E.M. stars as pre-historic Pixies.

White Tornado. A retro garage rock instrumental. If you like this, check out Full Time Men. Because I said so.

Toys in the Attic. Wow, they actually manage to out-wimp Aerosmith. Kudos.

Windout. The band hammers out a riff for two minutes and almost sounds like a punk band. From the movie Bachelor Party, which starred Tom Hanks, a goat and Adrian Zmed.

Ages of You. Didn’t they already play this song? Oh wait, it must have been one of those other jangly guitar songs.

Pale Blue Eyes. The man is right, this is real pretty.

Rotary Ten. Spy jazz.

Bandwagon. Light and likeable entry, similar to “We Walk.” Apparently, no animals were harmed in the making of this. Unlike, again, Bachelor Party.

Femme Fatale. Nico nailed it 20 years ago, so why re-open it?

Walters Theme/King of the Road. Great instrumental, but King must die. Michael Stipe gets the lyrics wrong every time. Man, is that annoying.

And there you have it. The CD includes the contents of Chronic Town and delivers the most Buck for your bang.

Read more R.E.M. reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Crazy (Randy Bewley/Vanessa Briscoe/Curtis Crowe/Michael Lachowski) (3:00)
A2. There She Goes Again (Lou Reed) (2:49)
A3. Burning Down (4:10)
A4. Voice of Harold (4:21)
A5. Burning Hell (3:48)
A6. White Tornado (1:59)
A7. Toys in the Attic (Steve Tyler/Joe Perry) (2:26)
B1. Windout (Jerry Ayers/William Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Michael Stipe) (1:57)
B2. Ages of You (3:39)
B3. Pale Blue Eyes (Lou Reed) (2:49)
B4. Rotary Ten (2:00)
B5. Bandwagon (William Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Lynda Stipe/Michael Stipe) (2:12)
B6. Femme Fatale (Lou Reed) (2:27)
B7. Walters Theme (1:35)
B8. King of the Road (Roger Miller) (3:08)

Songs written by William Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe unless noted.

Original CD bonus tracks
16. Wolves, Lower
17. 1,000,000
18. Gardening at Night
19. Stumble
20. Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)

CD reissue bonus, bonus tracks
21. Gardening at Night (acoustic)
22. All the Right Friends (live)

The Players

William Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe. Produced by Joe Boyd (1/5/12), Don Dixon and Mitch Easter (3/8/9), Mitch Easter (6), Don Gehman (7/11); mixed by Steve Fjelstad (1/3/9).

The Pictures

Anthropological renderings by R.A. Miller, Package excavation by Ron Scarselli.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and expanded compact disc on April 27, 1987 in the US (I.R.S., SP/CD 70054), the UK (I.R.S., CS 70054), Japan (CBS/Sony, CSCS-6084) and the Netherlands (I.R.S., ILP-465382-1) with picture innersleeve; reached #52 on the US charts and #60 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in 1991 in the UK (I.R.S., CDMID-196) with 5 bonus tracks.
  2. Re-released on extra-expanded compact disc in 1992 in Germany and the Netherlands (I.R.S., 713199-2) with 7 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in 1993 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-7270) with 5 bonus tracks.

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