REM’s Chronic Town celebrates 40 years with the release of a standalone CD

REM – Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, REM The debut EP ‘Chronic Town’ will be released for the first time as a standalone CD with extensive liner notes from original producer Mitch Easter (Let’s Active). It will be released in three different formats: CD, Picture Disc and Cassette on August 19, 2022, via IRS/UMe.

Featuring beloved classics from the band’s repertoire such as “Gardening At Night”, “Wolves, Lower” and “1,000,000”, the five-song EP, as Rolling Stone noted, “meant REM was an outfit to watch”. As a debut album, REM’s “Chronic Town” was an anomaly…a record that didn’t quite fit the constraints of what was played on the radio. So instead of trying to fit into one genre, REM helped create their own: College Rock. Following their breakthrough single “Radio Free Europe”, released in 1981, “Chronic Town” served as the entry point for what would become one of alternative rock’s greatest bands. “You could say whimsically that Chronic Town was the sound of an expedition, ready for anything, going,” Easter says fondly of the EP. “If REM’s single ‘Radio Free Europe’ was a signpost, the Chronic Town EP was its atlas.”

Featuring 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-college budget. Charmingly ragged and instantly fresh, it established the group indelibly upon impact. “Wolves, Lower” opens the EP with the impressionistic and idiosyncratic lyrics of Michael Stipe, while the rubbery basslines of Mike Mills and the jangly Rickenbacker of Peter Buck control the unpredictable drums of Bill Berry. It is this combination that will not only fuel the band for decades to come, but will make them just as reliable as the songwriters. Serving as a template for ’80s college jangle pop, “Gardening At Night” forged a style combining warmly strummed rhythm guitars with a meandering bassline that proved to be a solid template for college bands to come.

Critically acclaimed both upon its release and in retrospect, “Chronic Town” heralded “a great band planting their flag in the ground, a historic landmark that presaged great things that actually happened” (stereogum). The Stranger praised “everything about the EP, from its blue-tinted gnomic cover to its choppy discursive music, to the fact that both parts each had their own titles (“Chronic Town” and “Poster Torn”), was not only good on its own, but an excellent influence in favor of obscurantism and understatement. The impact and influence of Chronic Town on the future of alternative music is undisputed and described by Magnet Magazine as “essentially a template for the whole indie-rock movement”.

Pre-order ‘Chronic Town’.

Jack L. Goldstein