How confident in their abilities were REM as the mid-80s ticked over? An answer comes with the July 1984 live recording that accompanies this remastered edition of their second album: they open their set with a lovely, lambent reading of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale, as if to say: "We are already sure our work bears comparison with the best-loved alternative group in pop history, and we will not be overshadowed." That self-assurance is apparent on Reckoning, too. Although never quite the equal of its mysterious predecessor, Murmur, it is the sound of a band refusing to rest - "a waste of time, sitting still," as one of the songs has it. Opener Harborcoat demonstrates a growing mastery of the studio - Peter Buck's almost formal playing on the verses giving way to sheets of harmonies and guitars on the chorus; So. Central Rain demonstrates an ability to make an emotional connection, even as Michael Stipe happily obfuscates at the same time. Wonderful stuff, and even better was yet to come.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian