Twenty years after its original release, Demon's third album sounds dated, lackluster and tired, despite having been remixed and remastered for its reissue. Even by 1983 standards, this one's second-rate—a vaguely hewn Orwellian concept album that lacks any real spark. Not poetic or progressive enough to compare to prog rock bands like Marillion, nor bold, heavy or technically stunning enough to stand up next to the Queensryches of the metal world, The Plague would be laughable if not for the fact that Demon got better as the years went on. Skip this and check out The Best of Demon.
Equally brilliant and boring, R.E.M. put "college rock" firmly on the map, despite the fact that infinitely more engaging bands like Camper Van Beethoven and The Feelies deserve at least as much credit for birthing the aforementioned subgenre. But R.E.M.'s musical brilliance—and perfect, if accidental, timing—produced hit after inarguable hit, making this collection absolutely safe for human consumption. Simply put, R.E.M. managed to blur the line between artistic relevance and trendy, skinny guy-with-bad-haircut culture that basically resulted in an entire generation of preachy, pretentious college grads who extol the virtues of a Leonard Cohen they've yet to hear.
For God so loved the world that Ani DiFranco finally saw fit to get back to her roots on this, her millionth album since 1990. Well, almost. Educated Guess eschews the band format of DiFranco's previous 900,000 releases in favor of DiFranco herself playing all the instruments and providing all the vocals. Frankly, her new album is the freshest thing DiFranco has done in more than a decade. But if you've never been one to admire her offbeat mix of spoken word, punk rock approach to acoustic guitar and the often-grandiose liberty she takes with vocal melodies, stay away.