R.E.M. were already college-radio heroes by the time they made Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. They could’ve kept making mumbly, jangly tunes for their core audience, but they went bigger and bolder, stepping toward radio-friendliness while retaining their iconoclastic spirit. The marvelously harmonized “Fall on Me” was their first crossover hit, while songs like “These Days” infused bombastic choruses with oddball charm. The skippable demos and rehearsals tacked on to this reissue suggest their I.R.S. catalog has been repackaged too often, although it’s fun to hear “King of Birds” (a classic that surfaced a year later on Document) in scruffy early form.
Listen to “King of Birds”: