Call it what you will: alternative rock, guitar pop, college radio. For better or worse, R.E.M. were responsible for making it—and making it big. Even a casual listener knows when they hear an R.E.M. song. Theirs has always been a definitive sound: Bill Berry's frenetic drums, Peter Buck's jangly guitar, those literate stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and, of course, Michael Stipe's vulnerable voice, leaping from plaintive wail to cooing croon to murmur (pun intended), often within the same song.
They started out weird. Pretty, sure, but still weird.