Jill B. (jillh) from ATLANTA, GA Reviewed on 10/23/2009...
One of R.E.M.'s best albums from their prime years. Some really good covers too, especially Pale Blue Eyes.
You kind of had to be there....
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 11/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... which is not to say I was hitting the Athens club scene in the mid-late-80s, I was a disgruntled high schooler in a hick town with a few cool-nerdy friends and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to obtain beer and places to sit around and drink it. That's when we began to stain our pink lungs with cigarettes and sit on the hoods of cars in fields, playing music on a one-speaker boom box: Elvis Costello's "Trust" and "Armed Forces," Warren Zevon, They Might Be Giants, "Nebraska," the Violent Femmes and, especially, REM's "Dead Letter Office."
I completely respect a band's right to make the music they want to make, but at the same time I'm firmly a fan of REM's pre-"Losing My Religion" stuff (so fans of latter albums should take my 5-star rave with several grains of salt). And I love "Reckoning" and "Fables" and "Murmur" and most of all "Life's Rich Pageant." They're great, hand-tooled classics.
But "Dead Letter" is loose, banged-out, sloppy music by a surly young band for surly young people growing up in the waning days of the Reagan era.
"Ages of You" and "Voice of Harold" and "Rotary Ten" and "King of the Road" just kind of sum up winter, 87, for me and I can't listen to them without thinking about warm cans of Milwaukee's Best, Lucky Strikes and cottonmouth. And the covers of "There She Goes Again" and "Femme Fatale" led me directly to the Velvet Underground. Let me say that again: This Album Led Me to The Velvet Underground. Can an album, or anything, do more for a listener than that? I don't think so."
Best of the Rest
Brian D. Rubendall | Oakton, VA | 07/13/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Dead Letter Office" is a housecleaning effort from R.E.M.'s days on IRS records (1981-1987). As such it provides an interesting alternative view of the band. Several of the tracks reveal a goofy sense of humor that doesn't show itself on their "proper" albums. Two examples are "Voice of Harold," which features the backing track from "7 Chinese Brothers" as singer Michael Stipe reads a studio promotional flyer, and a cover of the Roger Miller country staple "King of the Road." The band acknowledges its considerable debt to the Velvet Underground by covering no less than three songs ("There She Goes Again," "Pale Blue Eyes" and "Femme Fatle") that are among the best performances here. Aerosmith's "Toys in the Attic" even gets a workout. The CD includes the contents of the band's 1981 EP "Chronic Town" as a (very considerable) bonus.Overall, rarities albums don't get much better than "Dead Letter Office.""
Great REM, a great listen and a great buy
Brian D. Rubendall | 10/21/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is, quite simply, my favorite REM CD for repeat listening. The only track I feel is even remotely substandard is the mangled rendition of "King of the Road", and even that track is pretty good listening compared to the filler most bands use to fill out an album. The inclusion of the Chronic Town EP as the last five tracks on the disc are an added listening bonus, as this album provides one of the longest-playing REM CD's I own, and I'm just as happy to start over again at the beginning immediately after listening to it."
I.R.S. leftovers and the band's first EP
Greg Brady | Capital City | 10/07/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I can't honestly rank this among their finest works and I'm sure the band would say as much: this was never meant to be an "album". Their first record label gathered up the CHRONIC TOWN E.P. and 15 other assorted B-sides and other rare tracks and outtakes to compile this. For this reason, definitely do NOT start here as a novice to the band.(Automatic for the People is that album)
But if you've already found yourself enjoying several of their early days albums, this is a nice one to have for the standout tracks.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Velvet Underground covers for me are the highlights of this collection ("Femme Fatale","There She Goes Again") particularly a twanged-up "Pale Blue Eyes". 50s surf rock throwback "White Tornado" sounds like a long-lost Ventures track. CHRONIC TOWN track "1,000,000" is also nice.
LOWS: Several of the instrumentals ("Walter's Theme") don't really do anything for me. I also found "Burning Hell" to be an annoyance. A phony drawl from Michael Stipe on "King of the Road" (yes, he's southern but this sounds deliberately cornpone to my ears..) cheapens the tune. Despite what rock snobs may believe, Miller is a GREAT lyricist and deserves better.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't pay a fortune for it but if you can get it for a 5 spot or less it's probably worth it."
A Compendium of Oddities Collared.
The Reaper | The Indian part of the town,GLASGOW | 09/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is worth buying for the Chronic Town EP alone. This is worth buying for Gardening at night alone. If you are a serious REM fan you should buy this. If not start at Automatic and work your way down, this is not for you. It has fun covers by The Velvet Underground, Pylon(the best), Aerosmith! and also Roger Miller. Then a bunch of stuff that you could only like if you love them soo. Drunken Jingles for restaurants and U2 flag waving attacks-Bandwagon. Voices of Harold 4. 7 Chinese Brothers nil."