This DVD of R.E.M.'s '82-'87 tenure at I.R.S. Records is an archival trove that -- due to its "odds and sods" nature -- is probably best suited to dedicated fans. There's plenty to pore over, from the previously unreleased video to "Wolves, Lower," which appears to have had a $5 budget, to Left of Reckoning
, the 20-minute James Herbert-directed documentary/montage featuring several Reckoning
songs, merging R.E.M.'s rural and art-school stylistic impulses. A quartet of live British TV appearances chart Michael Stipe's transformation from shy introvert (on a 1983 "Talk About the Passion" clip) to confident star (in his exuberant 1985 performance of "Can't Get There From Here").
Buried in the extras (such as outtakes from appearances on MTV's The Cutting Edge) is an interesting aside: As Peter Buck and Mike Mills discuss R.E.M.'s recording style, Mills first states that the group generally records in one or two takes, and Buck adds a little later that he doubts whether his idol Hank Williams anguished over his music. Too much of R.E.M.'s present-day material feels "anguished over," while the performances on this DVD express the youthful, carefree charm that made the band so beloved. Talk about the passion, indeed.