One of the four best Pixar films, and one of the four worst R.E.M. albums. When drummer Bill Berry left the band, he apparently also took the band’s humour, spirit and melody with him, regardless of the fact that he was the most superfluous member of the band (though not a weak musician at all). Like every other R.E.M. album released on a major record, Up sounds like its cover. In this case, clinical mid-tempo drabness that they put on at dental offices for people to relax while having hands shoved in their mouths and for dentists to contemplate suicide to after their patients have left. Monster is the slightly better album, because its tracks at least blared with a sense of purpose while they dragged on for forever (whereas these ones just drag on for forever), even if the Beach Boys-esque “At My Most Beautiful” and “Sad Professor” – elevated by Nigel Godrich’s twinkling piano and playful percussion – are better than anything that album had. Elsewhere, it’s like Mike Mills didn’t get the memo of what the rest of the band were doing on “Airportman” (or maybe he did, and he’s working hard to keep the thing afloat), while the forced rhymes and dinky synths of the choruses of “Lotus” grate to no end.
There’s a lot of talk about R.E.M.’s influence on Radiohead and how Up will become absorbed into Radiohead’s Kid A two years later. Yeah, no; Kid A would have happened regardless of this album’s existence, evidenced by the fact that OK Computer was already experimenting in electronics and that every big name rock artist had already plunged in some way into incorporating electronic elements into their sound before Up was released: U2 in Achtung Baby and Zooropa; Primal Scream in Screamadelica; the Smashing Pumpkins in Adore. Compared to any of those records, compared to any of R.E.M.’s previous records, hell, compared to any at all, Up just doesn’t hold up.