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New Adventures in Hi-Fi is the tenth studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was their fifth major label release for Warner Bros. Records, released on September 9, 1996, in Europe and Australia and the following day in the United States. New Adventures in Hi-Fi was the last album recorded with founding member Bill Berry (who left the band amicably the following year), original manager Jefferson Holt, and long-time producer Scott Litt.

ContentsEdit

 [hide*1 Composition and recording

Composition and recording[edit]Edit

The album was recorded during and after the tour in support of Monster in 1995. The material on the album mixed the acoustic, country rock feel of much ofOut of Time and Automatic for the People with the rock sound of Monster and Lifes Rich Pageant. The band have cited Neil Young's 1973 album Time Fades Away as a source of inspiration.[1]

The band noted that they borrowed the recording process for the album from Radiohead, who recorded some of the basic tracks for The Bends while on tour and who were supporting the band in 1994 and 1995. R.E.M. brought along eight-track recorders to capture their live performances, and used the recordings as the base elements for the album. As such, the band's touring musicians Nathan December and Scott McCaughey are featured throughout the album withAndy Carlson contributing violin to "Electrolite." After the tour was over, the band went into the Bad Animals Studio and recorded four additional tracks, "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us," "E-Bow the Letter," "Be Mine," and "New Test Leper." Patti Smith came to the sessions and contributed vocals on "E-Bow the Letter." Audio mixing was finished at John Keane Studio in Athens and Louie's Clubhouse in Los Angeles with mastering by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine.

In part due to the nature of the recording process, several of the songs are about travel and motion—including "Departure", "Leave", and "Low Desert". The album's liner notes contain pictures from the road and the deluxe edition of the album is a hardcover book in a slipcase featuring more photographs of R.E.M.'s tour.

Critical reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [2]
Blender [3]
Entertainment Weekly [4]
Los Angeles Times [5]
The New York Times Positive [6]
Q [citation needed]
Robert Christgau A− [7]
Rolling Stone [8]
Stylus Magazine Positive [9]

Critical reaction to the album was mostly positive. Several publications lauded the album for its rich diversity, including Rolling StoneQ, and Mojo and Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic says "in its multifaceted sprawl, they wound up with one of their best records of the '90s."[2] At the same time, however some publications including Melody Maker, criticized the album's empty and flat sound caused by recording in arenas and soundchecks.[10]

Awards[edit]Edit

New Adventures in Hi-Fi has since appeared on several lists compiling the best albums of the 1990s or all time:

  • Magnet: Top 60 Albums 1993–2003 (#20)[11]
  • Mojo: The 100 Greatest Albums of Our Lifetime 1993–2006 (#20)

It was also featured on several year-end best-of lists for 1996:

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by Bill BerryPeter BuckMike Mills and Michael Stipe:

The Hi Side
  1. "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us" – 4:31
  2. "The Wake-Up Bomb" – 5:08
  3. "New Test Leper" – 5:26
  4. "Undertow" – 5:09
  5. "E-Bow the Letter" – 5:23
  6. "Leave" – 7:18
The Fi Side
  1. "Departure" – 3:28
  2. "Bittersweet Me" – 4:06
  3. "Be Mine" – 5:32
  4. "Binky the Doormat" – 5:01
  5. "Zither" – 2:33
  6. "So Fast, So Numb" – 4:12
  7. "Low Desert" – 3:30
  8. "Electrolite" – 4:05

Unlike most R.E.M. albums, this vinyl release did not have custom side names and was instead released as a double album. Record one has tracks 1–6 (3 songs per side) and record two has tracks 7–14 (4 songs per side). However, the tape release had custom side names. The first side was called the "Hi-side" and the second side was called the "Fi-side."

Singles and B-sides[edit]Edit

New Adventures in Hi-Fi consisted of material written during some of the same sessions as Monster and its following promotional tour; consequently, there were few outtakes or left-over tracks for inclusion as b-sides. The first three tracks were international singles, with "How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us" being released only in Germany.

"E-Bow the Letter"
"Bittersweet Me"
  • "Undertow" (Live) – 5:05 Recorded at the Omni Theater, Atlanta, Georgia on November 18, 1995. Taken from the live performance video, Road Movie.
  • "Wichita Lineman" (Jimmy Webb) – 3:18 Recorded at The WoodlandsHouston, United States on September 15, 1995.
  • "New Test Leper" (Live acoustic) – 5:29 Recorded at Bad Animals Studio, Seattle, United States on April 19, 1996.
"Electrolite"
  • "The Wake-Up Bomb" (Live) – 5:07 Recorded at the Omni Theater, Atlanta, Georgia on November 18, 1995. Taken from the live performance video, Road Movie.
  • "Binky the Doormat" (Live) – 5:01 Recorded at the Omni Theater, Atlanta, Georgia on November 18, 1995. Taken from the live performance video, Road Movie.
  • "King of Comedy" (808 State remix) – 5:36
"How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us"

"Revolution" was also released from these sessions—initially on the Batman & Robin soundtrack and later on disc two of In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.

Other singles

"New Test Leper" and "The Wake-Up Bomb" were released as promotional singles for the album; the former had a music video directed by Lance Bangs and Dominic DeJoseph. All five videos from the album would later be collected on In View: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.

The R.E.M. fan club releases a single every Christmas time, with two singles recorded during these sessions: 1996's "Only in America" (originally by Jay & The Americans)/"I Will Survive" (a Gloria Gaynorcover) and 1997's R.E.M. original "Live for Today" was backed with Pearl Jam's "Happy When I'm Crying".

Personnel[edit]Edit

[1][2]Memphis, Tennessee's Pyramid Arena was one of several locations used to record New Adventures in Hi-Fi[3][4]Patti Smith—an influence on Peter Buck and Michael Stipe—added vocals to lead single "E-Bow the Letter"[5][6]New Adventures in Hi-Firepresented the beginning of R.E.M.'s long-time association with Seattle-based multi-instrumentalistScott McCaughey (pictured here in 2011);"How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us"

Recorded at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, United States
"The Wake-Up Bomb"
Recorded live at the North Charleston Coliseum, in Charleston, United States on November 16, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – guitar
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, backing vocals, organ
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"New Test Leper"
Recorded at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, United States
  • Bill Berry – drums, percussion
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, backing vocals, organ
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Undertow"
Recorded live at the Fleet Center in Boston, United States on October 3, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – guitar
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"E-Bow the Letter"
Recorded at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, United States
"Leave"
Recorded at a soundcheck at the Omni Theater in Atlanta, United States on November 18, 19, or 21, 1995
"Departure"
Recorded live at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, United States on June 6 or 7, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – guitar
  • Mike Mills – fuzz bass, backing vocals, Farfisa organ
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Bittersweet Me"
Recorded at a soundcheck at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, United States on November 7, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – piano
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, organ, Mellotron
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Be Mine"
Recorded at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, United States
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – bass guitar
  • Mike Mills – guitar, backing vocals, keyboards
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Binky the Doormat"
Recorded live at the Desert Sky Pavilion in Phoenix, United States on November 4, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums, backing vocals
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – Farfisa organ
  • Mike Mills – fuzz bass, backing vocals, keyboards
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Zither"
Recorded in the dressing room of The Spectrum in Philadelphia, United States on October 12, 13, or 14, 1995
  • Bill Berry – bass guitar
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – tambourine
  • Scott McCaughey – autoharp
  • Mike Mills – organ
  • Michael Stipe – count in
"So Fast, So Numb"
Recorded at a soundcheck at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, United States on November 15, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – piano
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, backing vocals, organ
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Low Desert"
Recorded at a soundcheck at the Omni Theater in Atlanta, United States on November 18, 19, or 21, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – slide guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – piano
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, organ
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
"Electrolite"
Recorded at a soundcheck the Desert Sky Pavillion in Phoenix, United States on November 4, 1995
  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – banjo
  • Andy Carlson – violin
  • Nathan December – guiro
  • Mike Mills – piano
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
Technical crew
  • William Field – assistant engineering, Athens
  • Sam Hofstedt – assistant engineering, Seattle
  • Victor Janacua – assistant engineering, Los Angeles
  • Adam Kasper – recording engineering, Seattle
  • John Keane – recording and mixing
  • Scott Litt – mixing
  • Bob Ludwig/Gateway Mastering – mastering
  • Pat McCarthy – recording, Los Angeles
  • Mark "Microwave" Mytrowitz – technical assistance
  • Joe O'Herlihy – tour recording engineer
  • Jo Ravitch – tour recording engineer
  • Eric Stolz – digital editing
  • Jeff Wooding – tour recording engineer

Chart performance[edit]Edit

While New Adventures in Hi-Fi began the band's sales decline in the United States, it topped the charts in over 10 countries and reached #1 on the Top European Albums for 5 consecutive weeks.[13] The album peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and spent 22 weeks on chart. According to Nielsen SoundScan, it has sold 994,000 units in their homeland as of March 2007.[14][15][16] The first single "E-Bow the Letter" received only modest radio airplay in the U.S. and peaked at #49 on the U.S. charts.[17] In the UK, however, the single became the band's biggest hit at that point, reaching #4.

Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1996) Position
Australian ARIA Albums Chart[18] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[19] 1
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders) [20] 1
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[21] 3
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[22] 1
Danish Albums Chart[23] 1
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[24] 1
Finnish Albums Chart[25] 1
French SNEP Albums Chart[26] 6
German Media Control Albums Chart[27] 1
Irish Albums Chart[28] 1
Italian Albums Chart[29] 5
Japanese Oricon Albums Chart[30] 26
New Zealand Albums Chart[31] 1
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[32] 1
Portuguese Albums Chart[28] 2
Spanish Albums Chart[33] 5
Swedish Albums Chart[34] 1
Swiss Albums Chart[35] 1
UK Albums Chart[36] 1
United States Billboard 200[15] 2

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1996) Position
Austrian Albums Chart[37] 16
Canadian Albums Chart[38] 14
Italian Albums Chart[29] 27
Swiss Albums Chart[39] 50
UK Albums Chart[40] 34
U.S. Billboard 200[41] 96

Certifications[edit]Edit

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Austria (IFPI Austria)[42] Platinum 50,000x
Canada (Music Canada)[43] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Germany (BVMI)[44] Gold 250,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[45] Gold 25,000
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[46] Gold 50,000^
Sweden (GLF)[47] Gold 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[48] Gold 25,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[49] Platinum 350,000[50]
United States (RIAA)[51] Platinum 994,000[16]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[52] Platinum 1,000,000

  • sales figures based on certification alone ^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]Edit

Like all R.E.M. albums since 1988's GreenNew Adventures in Hi-Fi was released in a limited edition packaging containing a 64-page hardcover book designed by Chris Bilheimer and featuring photos from the Monster tour. In 2005, Warner Brothers Records issued an expanded two-disc edition of the album which included a CD, a DVD-Audio disc containing several new audio mixes of the album (5.1-channelsurround sound, high resolution, AC3, Dolby Stereo, and DTS 5.1) done by Elliot Scheiner, and the original CD booklet with expanded liner notes. In addition, the DVD includes a video documentary, lyrics, and a photo gallery.

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Worldwide September 9, 1996 Warner Bros. Compact disccassette tapedouble LP 46320
United States September 10, 1996 Warner Bros. Compact disc, cassette, LP 46320
United States September 10, 1996 Warner Bros. Limited edition compact disc 46321
Worldwide March 1, 2005 Warner Bros. Compact Disc and DVD-Audio 73950

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