R.E.M. close out their Warner contract -- not to mention their entire career -- with the double-disc Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage
, their first compilation to combine early recordings from their time at IRS with their major-label hits for Warner. It's misleading to look at these as merely two separate eras, as it more accurately breaks down into a three-act structure: the IRS years when R.E.M.
were the kings of college rock; the stretch between 1988-1995 when they were international superstars; and then the slow decline of 1998-2011, the years after Bill Berry
, the years when Peter Buck
, Michael Stipe
, and Mike Mills
tried to redefine the group as a trio before finally realizing they'd said all they could say. Part Lies
gives equal time to each act -- there are 13 songs from IRS, 14 from the golden years at Warner, 13 from the trio years (including a revival of the mid-'80s outtake "Bad Day," which feels like a slight stretch) -- an eminently fair move that tells the story while slightly obscuring the import of the tale. Inevitably, the jangle pop and murk of the '80s are downplayed -- "Can't Get There from Here," "Pretty Persuasion," "Feeling Gravity's Pull" are missing -- in favor of a heavy dose of new millennial material, including three songs from 2011's respectable Collapse into Now
and three perfectly fine new songs, which means the last ten or so cuts are songs that fairweather fans of either the '80s or '90s just won't care much about or possibly even know. Nevertheless, this last act is shown in a good light -- the benefit of a comp is that it's totally possible, even welcome, to downplay dull lapses like Around the Sun
-- and, when combined with well-chosen highlights from the band's powerful first two acts, adds up to a thorough narrative of R.E.M.'s entire career.