It may be too much to say that bands who lose drummers lose their souls, but they certainly lose something. The Who was never the same after Keith Moon died, even with the very able and terminally underappreciated Kenney Jones filling in for two albums (three if you count his collabouration on the 1975 Tommy movie soundtrack retrofit); how much worse, then, when REM filled in for Bill Berry with session mercenaries and drum machines? I have conflicting feelings about this album, and I know the band definitely did while they were making it. It has some of my favourite REM tracks, including the incomparably rich "At My Most Beautiful" and "Daysleeper," and the unexpected pleasures of "Why Not Smile" and "Parakeet." But these are the slow tracks, with no beat by definition; by contrast, the supersynthetic lead-off "Airportman" is one of their worst efforts, aimless and monotonous, setting up the album for failure. "Lotus" comes off like Lenny Kravitz on Thorazine. "Suspicion"'s rhythm section sounds like my old Casiotone, and not in a nostalgic way, and on, and on, and on. The musical direction Berry's departure forced them into was not a total loss because it did gradually evolve (Reveal in particular), but they proved replacement was impossible, only succession. (Content: mild innuendo.)