Selling only a quarter as much as its three predecessors, R.E.M.‘s under-appreciated New Adventures in Hi-Fi was, at the time, considered a commercial disappointment. The unlikely first single, “E-Bow the Letter,” featuring the vintage sounds of mellotrons, moogs and singer Patti Smith, touched on drugs, fame, and fear with an elegant introspection. The delicate “Be Mine,” a straight-up love song, finds Michael Stipe pining sweetly and profoundly: “I’ll eat the lotus and peyote…I want the finger with the ring.” While it sometimes hinted at the quiet lethargy that would later plague Up and Reveal, Hi-Fi certainly reprised much of the crunchy electric brilliance of 1994’s Monster. The near-epic “Leave” produces an electrical storm of percussive creaks and crashes unlike anything the band has created since. Hi-Fi, their last album with drummer Bill Berry, might have been their last great album period.
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