This album is probably known as one of R.E.M.’s lesser efforts. When it came out in 2001, I didn’t like it. Compared to R.E.M.’s earlier work, it felt pat and drowsy. The mid-tempo arrangements lacked insistence and energy, and all the studio sound effects felt unnatural and unmusical to me at the time. I played it once and didn’t listen to it any more.
A few years later, one of my friends said, offhandedly, after “All the Way to Reno (Our’s Gonna be a Star)” came on the radio, that he absolutely loved the album. I got to hear it through new ears, and came to love how good it sounds, and to think of the songs as dark, late night, chill-out rock, whose arrangements and instrumentation move between spareness to lushness in interesting ways.