Review #165: Murmur, R.E.M.

Karla Clifton
3 min readAug 27, 2021

#165: Murmur, R.E.M.

A note for regular readers: Next week, I’ll be transitioning from my regularly scheduled programming of “every damn day” to “every damn Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” This is because I recently started grad school and have much less time to obsess over music. Please use the extra time you have during the week to a) solve world hunger, b) visit your loved ones, or c) write me hate mail.

I was sort of familiar with this album before listening, because my parents are kind of R.E.M. fans. They were one of those bands that my parents used to put on in the car when we took a long drive.

In fact, R.E.M. kind of scared the crap out of me. Any dissonant guitar band with distinctive vocal parts freaked me out — the Cranberries, Alanis Morissette, and especially R.E.M. They have a song called “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It,” for Chrissakes.

The RS blurb describes this album as being “full of ringing guitars and mystery,” which is exactly why it freaked me out so much. I was a nervous child. I did not want mystery in my music. I wanted “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

Of course, these are all my favorite bands now. I’m actually going to see Alanis next week! Be jealous.

Also, after reading my last review, my dad let me know that he thought that “college rock” mostly referred to the kind of rock albums he listened to in college.

Well, when reading this blurb, RS finally solved the mystery for me: Murmur was “released just as Gen X was heading off to college.” There you go, Dad! You were right!


“Radio Free Europe” — This was their debut album, and this was their best debut song.

“9–9” — I’m not sure if Michael Stipe has a good voice, but he has a voice I love, especially when he lets himself linger on weird notes.

“Talk About The Passion” — Not everyone can carry the weight of the world. Michael Stipe literally murmurs his way through this album.

“Catapult” — Ooh, a harmony! Good try, guys!

“Perfect Circle” — I love when Michael Stipe goes reaaaaally low. It sounds like he’s mocking Bing Crosby.

“West Of The Fields” — This was the first album I reviewed during my commute to graduate school, and I just felt like it was the perfect thing to listen to. They all sound like they were meant to be listened to on the train.

“Sitting Still” — These plucked guitar parts are amazing.

“Shaking Through” — I love this one’s random outro.


“Pilgrimage” — Negative points for a pretentious title.

“Moral Kiosk” — Fine, I admit it, all these songs are starting to sound the same to me. Negative points again for the pretentious title. If R.E.M. was taking a graduate creative writing class, they’d be docked for being too clever in a bad way.


No, but isn’t it a bummer that R.E.M.’s best song is nowhere on this list. It’s a shame that sometimes a band’s best album and their best song don’t add up.

Review #164: At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

Review #166: 20 Golden Greats, Buddy Holly