For all its enduring beauty, R.E.M.’s second album lives in the shadow of so many greater records bursting forth from the underground in 1984 – not least by the Replacements and Minutemen, whose embrace by the band was both generous and right. At the time, this croaking folk-rock for the rathskeller dance floor seemed conservative next to even Velvet Underground reissues. Yet a quarter century on, Reckoning sounds less like anything else on earth than even fans thought at the time, its deceptively comfy chimey-ness like the hypnotist’s countdown before true instruction begins. Rugged but impressionistic, classically-structured but with bridges to nowhere, this river-trippy mystery reveals Mike Mills’ bass as the secret melodic weapon behind bleats, harmonies and guitar curlicues, with the reissue remastering Mitch Easter/Don Dixon’s production to bring the parts into focus.

The bonus disc is an exciting live show, the band having graduated from punk clubs to the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

Grade: A-



Reckoning [Deluxe Edition] is currently available.