Taken from CMJ magazine, November 1982 and written by Marianne Meyer, a quick look at R.E.M.’s debut EP Chronic Town…
The question here is not whether the group has talent, but what it intends to do with its obvious skill. This Athens, Georgia-based quartet has a sharp, unfailing grasp on `60s garage rock-anyone with a fondness for the form can sink into the atmospheric, 12-string strums and Merseybeat harmonies with a relieved sigh of familiarity and give thanks that the style is alive and well. As with other young undiscovered (by the masses) but appreciated (by the critics) bands like the Fleshtones and the Bongos, R.E.M. holds tight to a tradition of mid-tempo, slightly psychedelic songs that would feel equally at home in another Nuggets or pop/rock collection, and the production stresses that simple, almost tinny sound that `60s rock vets grew up on. So what next? The lyrics only drift through in fragments, so it’s hard to tell if R.E.M. is using the classic mode to say anything new. Only time-and perhaps a lyric sheet-will tell. For the moment, however, this five-song EP is well worth it for anyone who thinks great rock died with the coming of the 16-track studio.