The three-legged dog years: All R.E.M.'s post-Bill Berry albums ranked

Follow the meanderings of the three-legged dog on their final five albums

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Reveal (2001)

The first track on Reveal, "The lifting," is a sequel to Up's "Daysleeper." "The Lifting" is a cheerier number, words of encouragement for the character who "cried the other night, and can't even say why" It's tempting to think of Reveal as a do-over for Up, same meditative low-tempo lo-fi numbers, the same experimental instruments, synths, and songwriting but with a cheerier outlook and more coherent songs, it's a pleasure to listen to, wall to wall loveliness.

The problem with Reveal is that nothing's particularly memorable. These songs, save for the single "Imitation of Life," have no hooks. This cannot possibly have been an oversight, given R.E.M.'s mastery of pop structure. Again, it's a noble experiment, but it doesn't quite work out. But at least the result is a pleasure to listen to, especially after the ordeal that was Up.

Reveal is neither fish nor fowl, too bright and airy to be considered experimental, but too hookless and strange to be a conventional pop record. It's the definition of a fans-only album. If you need more than "It's R.E.M." to make you want to listen, it will be a frustrating experience, but if you're happy following the three-legged dog wherever its whims take it, then you'll find that Reveal is the dark horse of R.E.M.'s catalogue.

Best lyric:

Easy to poke yourself square in the eye
Harder to like yourself, harder to try

From "Saturn Return"