R.E.M. had already established themselves as kings of D.I.Y. college rock with the release of groundbreaking albums like 1983’s Murmur, 1984’s Reckoning, and 1985’s Fables of the Reconstruction. But the Athens, GA-based rockers hit new heights in 1986 with Lifes Rich Pageant, the band’s most successful and highest charting album to that point. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, R.E.M. and Capitol/I.R.S. Records teamed up for an expanded, digitally remastered reissue, which is stacked with rarities. SPIN has a premiere of the set ahead of its July 12 release, which you can stream in the player below.
The highlight of the reissue is a second disc dubbed The Athens Demos, which culls 19 previously unreleased recordings that were recorded in March 1986. Cuts like “Fall on Me” and “These Days” sound remarkably polished compared to the final album versions, while early versions of “I Believe” feature eye-opening alternative arrangements (it’s a blast to hear a humming Michael Stipe working out the song’s final vocal melody).
Also included: early drafts of tunes like “March Song (King of Birds) – which would later appear on 1987’s Document – and “Bad Day,” which wouldn’t get a proper release until 2003’s rarities set In Time: The Best of R.E.M.1988-2003. (Diehards will notice that track’s remarkable similarity to 1987’s classic “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”) The hard-charging rocker “Wait,” meanwhile, has only circulated on bootlegs until now.