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R.E.M. 'Reckoning – Songs From The Olympia' 4 Song EP Review

Lately, I am consumed by the fact that R.E.M. has been doing something right. Their Deluxe Editions have come out in style, received some notoriety, and even a perfect score, from the Pitchfork Crew and now they are giving us a “Tasting Menu” of some of the songs that are on the horizon.

To give all you novices, a quick Cliffs Notes version of these shows, R.E.M. decided to switch things up before the release of their last album ‘Accelerate’ and put together a set of rehearsal shows in Dublin, Ireland, while working in the studio. They picked 5 nights in the summer of 2007, to play these shows and the purpose was mainly to perform these songs in front of a live audience both for their reaction to the songs as well as the bands reaction to them.

The hope was that by “Beta Testing” these songs in front of a crowd they could figure out what worked and what didn’t. On top of performing new songs, the band also pulled out a host of older of songs they had not performed live in years. What this EP has provided however, is a more modern impression of these songs that are 25 years or even older giving depth of the offering of two guitars being played live than just one on the earlier tunes.

Ironicly, if there was a big brother to the album, “Accelerate” in the R.E.M. repertoire, ‘Reckoning’ would have to be chosen, if not for the spirit of the album as it relates to ‘Accelerate’. So it’s perfect to accelerate to ‘Reckoning’ with 4 strong songs of their own.

‘Harborcoat’ leads off and is the strongest of the 4 if only for its uniqueness in the R.E.M. catalog. I never thought of ‘Harborcoat’ as our ordinary rock song, it feels both Marie and Donny Osmond as they portrayed country and rock and roll on their variety show, the song is given extraordinary power and sets this piece ablazing.

‘Letter Never Sent’ offers the bit more of the other vocal performances particularly Mike Mills who is often lost on the early albums. On this he shines as he works off of Michael to provide a fuller performance.

‘Second Guessing’ could almost be a theme for ‘Accelerate’ in the title. This could be why it was one of the oft played older songs of this set of shows. This and ‘Pretty Persuasion’ are just good old fashioned rock and roll.

These are just 4 good reasons to be entirely excited about the Olympia 2 CD release and 4 good reasons to already start counting down to Fall 2009.