After IRS folded in the mid-'90s, EMI acquired the R.E.M. catalog, and once the company reached its 100th birthday in 1997, they released a series of limited-edition albums to celebrate their milestone. Among these was In the Attic: Alternative Recordings 1985-1989, a collection of rarities, B-sides, and outtakes released against R.E.M.'s will. Fourteen of the 15 songs featured on In the Attic were previously released as bonus tracks on the U.K. reissues of the group's IRS catalog, which also was released without the band's permission. In other words, it appears that R.E.M. aren't particularly proud of the music on In the Attic, and it is true that there isn't much spectacular on the collection. Many of the songs are live versions, edits, or remixes, and a few of the B-sides ("Toys in the Attic," "Crazy") appeared on Dead Letter Office. Still, there are a handful of gems on the collection, including their two contributions to the Athens, GA. Inside/Out soundtrack -- an alternate "Swan Swan H" and a cover of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream" -- the brief but entertaining outtake "Tired of Singing Trouble," a cover of "Last Date," and a ripping alternate take of "Just a Touch." For hardcore fans, In the Attic is worthwhile simply as a way to round up some odds and ends, but even the best moments aren't enough to justify its purchase for anyone but the dedicated.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine