Taken as a whole, it must be seen as a double-edged triumph.
Al Spicer 2008-03-10
A confident, sublimely delivered collection of miniature masterpieces laid out in three chords and four minutes, Monster puts R.E.M. onto the musical map of the mainstream. The band's ninth full-length recording; this is their most convincing stab at the conventional 'rock' album format. it's essentially a two-man show: As Michael Stipe's laconic vocals slug it out with Peter Buck’s garage-band guitar, the rest of the band effectively count the minutes till quitting time. With Let Me In a self-declared message to the recently-deceased Kurt Cobain, R.E.M. lock themselves once and for all into the world of everyday traditional rock 'n' roll.
Previous production habits conspire to lend much of the set a messy, confused mix, and deciphering the lyrics is still mostly mind-bendingly difficult; but, by opening with a brace of hook-filled killer tracks, and releasing both as pop-charting singles, the band manage to capture the attention of a new audience.
Although it continues to demonstrate R.E.M.'s informed, intellectual deconstruction of the blatant peculiarities of modern life in the Western world - peeking slyly into the underworld confusion of a paranoid assailant in What's The Frequency Kenneth?, before sneaking back to Bowie's basement to flirt with androgyny and omnisexual experimentation in Crush With Eyeliner - taken as a whole, it must be seen as a double-edged triumph. It guaranteed them international success and rewards beyond the dreams of avarice while condemning them to a career on the treadmill of bland but smart, US-friendly, market-tested rock, alongside Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads and Tom Petty.