In the January/February issue of The Atlantic, James Parker looks back at R.E.M.'s origins in the college town of Athens, Georgia, during the early 1980s:
They performed, as a unit, like a bar band in a trance. [Michael] Stipe would jig, fret, wobble, gurn, and collapse in fits of inverted charisma, and from song to song the phrases would peal out with strange penetration: “It’s 9 o’clock, don’t try to turn it off” … “There’s a splinter in your eye and it reads REACT” … “Goddamn your confusion” … Round and round went the vocal harmonies, two-part, sometimes three-part, incantatory and deeply encrypted, [Mike] Mills’s boyish tenor in lucid counterpoint to the yelps and rummagings of his lead singer.
Here, Parker shows how R.E.M.'s early videos reflected their experimental art school style -- and how that look and sound changed with the band's rise to superstardom.