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(Credit: Alamy)


Revisit Thurston Moore's collaboration with R.E.M.


R.E.M. were such beloved elder statesmen of the alternative rock scene that they could basically enter legacy mode whenever they wanted. But even in 1994, with a decade separated from their debut, the boys from Georgia were still putting out records that justified why they were not just one of the most influential rock bands of the day, but also one of the most popular and contemporary as well.

1994’s Monster is the moment where everything was cashed in. Dispensing with the folk music that had become their signature throughout the 1990s, R.E.M. decided that they wanted to rock. Not really in a grunge way, like most of their peers, but in a more explicitly glam rock-inspired way. Peter Buck, previously the master of the arpeggio, was instead cranking up his amps and plugging in his distortion pedals for full throated, major chord riffage. Bill Berry decided to hit his drums harder and louder than he ever had before, while Mike Mills took those high harmony vocals and brought those squealing ’70s rock tones into the future.

For his part, Michael Stipe decided to adopt different characters throughout the album’s songs. The lascivious, and frankly kind of gross, personas that he pulled out for songs like ‘King of Comedy’ and ‘Circus Envy’ were alienating for those who had connected so deeply with the more personal and introspective lyrics from albums like Out of Time and Automatic for the People, but it was a natural progression for Stipe and a perfect fit for the more fun and less serious style that the group were adopting.

One of the most explicit glam tracks on the album is the fuzzy oscillating rocker ‘Crush With Eyeliner’. With lyrics cornering “sad tomatoes” and “kiss breath turpentine”, the band could hardly have their tongue shoved further into their cheek. But there’s an additional layer of aggressive guitar that even Buck himself couldn’t create, plus some droll backing vocals backing up Stipe’s already detached presentation. Who’s hanging out in the background of ‘Crush With Eyeliner’?

That would be Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, who had forged a friendship with R.E.M. by the time both groups were being heralded as the architects of alt rock. Sonic Youth were formed only about a year after R.E.M., and members of both bands were a solid generation older than most of the then-modern bands in the early ’90s rock scene. It was only natural that these two pioneers would eventually work together, and Moore’s unmistakable fuzz-filled guitar tone shines through on ‘Crush With Eyeliner’. It was a rare one-off collaboration, but it made perfect sense within R.E.M.’s cheekier, less serious, but most awesomely ragged ’90s album.

Check out the ‘Crush With Eyeliner’ video down below.