To begin, I've decided to add Peter Buck's liner notes as an intro to every song. Below is his introduction to the collection. 'Dead Letter Office' was released five months or so before their last IRS album 'Document.' Did this signify that the writing was on the wall for IRS? I believe so. 'Lifes Rich Pageant' was their largest seller in terms of albums, but they still did not have the distribution they needed to compete with the biggest bands in the world which at that time were 'hair' bands and U2.
'I've always liked singles much more than albums. A single has to be short, concise, and catchy,
all values that seem to go out the window as far as albums are concerned. But the thing
I like most about singles is their ultimate shoddiness. No matter how lavish the packaging,
no matter what attention to detail, a '45 is still essentially a piece of crap usually purchased
by teenagers. This is why musicians feel free to put just about anything on the b-side; nobody will listen to it anyway, so why not have some fun. You can clear the closet of failed experiments, badly
written songs, drunken jokes, and occasionally, a worthwhile song that doesn't fit
the feel of an album.
This collection contains at least one song from each category. It's not a record to be taken too
seriously. Listening to this album should be like browsing through a junkshop.
I couldn't say it much better than that. I will add that the album is actually quite good. Knowing what we do now of the wealth of early material R.E.M. had, it is interesting that these songs were chosen. But like he says, a lot of these were pulled from actual b-sides of records. The likes of which don't really exist anymore. Peter hits on the future of music when he elaborates on how great singles are ... why buy a whole album? Exactly. However, the failed experiments are gone and that is a shame. We still get the occasional throwoff, but I remember buying singles because of what was on the 'b-side,' that just isn't the case anymore.
The real value of this disc these days is that it is the only place you can get 'Chronic Town' which in itself is worth purchasing the whole CD or download. One of the things I miss about R.E.M. is how they used to label the sides of their albums and cassettes. The sides of 'Dead Letter Office' are the 'Post' side and the 'Script' side.
Another note, at the end of the song listing is the following plea and disclaimer:
we do soundtracks;
a virtuous compost
Being a Compendium
Of Oddities Collared,
and B-sides compiled.