From the Vault...


"Dead Letter Office"

© I.R.S. Inc. Records
Year of Release: 1987

track listing
  • Crazy
  • There She Goes Again
  • Burning Down
  • Voice Of Harold
  • Burning Hell
  • White Tornado
  • Toys In The Attic
  • Windout
  • Ages Of You
  • Pale Blue Eyes
  • Rotary Ten
  • Bandwagon
  • Femme Fatale
  • Walters Theme
  • King Of The Road
  • Wolves Lower
  • Gardening At Night
  • Carnival Of Sorts
    (Box Cars)
  • 1,000,000
  • Stumble

  • WSVNRadio Archives
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    "Dead Letter Office"

    Throughout the course of music history, many artists and groups record many songs for an album. And in most cases, some songs are shelved, not making a major release, due so that they didn't fit, or just didn't sound right. (Bruce Springsteen is famous for this; recording many songs but only some make it on a release.) R.E.M's 1987 release, Dead Letter Office are songs recorded that were not on major albums, instead, they are B-side singles and outtakes that were unavailable on any R.E.M. release, prior to 1987.

    "Crazy" and "Burning Down" have the early R.E.M. sound, and the notes on each song are quite interesting... "Burning Down" ... This is another early song that we just got tired of. (I can relate to this; being in a band some years ago... Being in a band, you play certain songs that are exceptional, you play them over and over, and it does get tiring.) "Voice Of Harold" (an outtake from their album Reckoning) has the R.E.M. sound, yet it is a bit different for vocalist Michael Stipe's voice -- it's a bit lower, and is more of a narrative song, that such bands as U2 have recorded.

    Having a much harder rock edge, "Burning Hell" was an outtake from Fables of the Reconstruction, and even though you can tell its R.E.M., this song's sound has a more hard rock sound, with more edge and grit.

    Hmmm, "White Tornado" is quite an interesting instrumental, as it has a somewhat punk rock sound that meets surf music. You can vaguely hear the guitar riff from The Chantays' "Pipeline", as this song was recorded at the time around their first album, Murmur.

    "Windout" has a somewhat sound that many 1960s psychedelic bands recorded. It was meant for their second album Reckoning, yet according to their notes on this song, I think that it would fit on Reckoning very well, but at the time we decided not to include it.

    If you like R.E.M.'s song "Radio Free Europe," then you'll enjoy "Ages Of You." As you hear this song, you can't help but wait to hear the familiar verses and chorus to "Radio Free Europe," where this song could be a nice medley. Like "Burning Down," this was a song that R.E.M. was tired of.

    Now "Rotary Ten" is ultimately different -- another instrumental, it's jazzy, and could easily be a great movie soundtrack song for a James Bond film. R.E.M.'s notes on this one: A movie theme without a movie. Outtake from Life's Rich Pageant. "Bandwagon" is another outtake from Fables of the Reconstruction, yet it could of fit Reckoning, or a future album, Document. "Walters Theme" is a jumpy instrumental, having the familiar guitar sounds heard only on R.E.M. songs (courtesy of guitarist Peter Buck).

    Another great topic to discuss is how a band would record their own versions by other well-known artists before them. The Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again" is featured here by R.E.M., and it is a great cover version of Lou Reed's band. Another cover of Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, "Pale Blue Eyes" is a ballad, and features some very nice electric guitar, easy going style, and easily matches the 1960s style. "Femme Fatale" is another Velvet Underground cover, and is as sweet as their cover of "Pale Blue Eyes." Aerosmith's "Toys In The Attic" is also featured, and is another good cover tune. It seems that the tapes were rolling when R.E.M. were playing Roger Miller's King Of The Road." There are interrupted instrument warm-ups at the beginning, and as the notes say for this cover version, Supposing that they had any shame they would have never allowed this little gem see the light of the day. The band was probably having some fun (during a very end of a long alcohol soaked day) and was experimenting with other well-known music.

    "Wolves Lower" sounds like a song that could of fit R.E.M.'s first album, as it has the sound similar to "Radio Free Europe." "Gardening At Night" is another good early R.E.M. song, and could have easily fit any of the albums past released, likewise "Carnival Of Sorts (Box Cars)," and "Stumble." "1,000,000." sounds like a song from the time of their first album, and could of easily fit on Murmur.

    Listening to songs that were shelved for major release albums is always a treat. Some of these songs are considered a "no-fit" for an album, therefore some songs are either shelved or released as B-sides for hit singles. This album, according to the notes, is not a record to be taken too seriously, it's not an album release, it's a series of outtakes and B-sides gathered throughout R.E.M.'s first four albums. Given a chance, some of these songs could of been regular favorites. These songs are given a second turnaround, as Dead Letter Office proves once again, that the music of R.E.M. is not to be ignored; R.E.M. is one of the best bands to come out of the late 1980s. Treat this album as an "major" release or not, it's still a great album for the common to die-hard fan of R.E.M.

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    Previous Review: #704
    Rod Stewart--When We Were The New Boys
    Next Review: #706
    Poison--Flesh And Blood