Chronic Town EP (40th anniversary edition)
Introducing their arpeggiated guitar playing, cryptic and often indecipherable lyrics, and radiant choruses that would soon emerge as signatures of the classic REM sound, Chronic Town is the sound of a restless band, chock full of ideas, operating on a post-collegiate budget.
Charmingly ragged and refreshingly immediate, it established the band indelibly upon impact. “Wolves, Lower” opens the EP with Michael Stipe’s trademark impressionistic and idiosyncratic lyrics, while Mike Mills’ rubbery bass lines and Peter Buck’s jangly Rickenbacker keeps Bill Berry’s unpredictable drumming in check. It’s this combination that would not only fuel the band for subsequent decades but make them equally as dependable as songsmiths. Serving as a template for ‘80s college jangle pop, “Gardening At Night” forged a style that combined heartily strummed rhythm guitars with a meandering bass line that proved to be a solid blueprint for college bands to come. Critically hailed both upon release and in retrospect, Chronic Town heralded “a great band planting their flag in the ground, an historic landmark that portended great things that actually came” (Stereogum). The Stranger praised “everything about the EP, from its gnomic, blue-tinted cover art, to its restlessly discursive music, to the fact that the two sides both had their own titles (‘Chronic Town’ and ‘Poster Torn’), was not only good on its own merits, but an excellent influence in favor of obscurantism and understatement.” Chronic Town’s impact and influence on the future of alternative music is uncontested and described by Magnet Magazine as “essentially a template for the entire indie-rock movement.”