It's hard to remember that no one was writing music like this before R.E.M. made it sound so natural (and important). Equally inspired by the Byrds' jangle, the Velvet Underground's artfulness and punk's energy, R.E.M. created their own mysterious din. The 21 tracks culled from their first six I.R.S. releases aren't arranged chronologically, so you don't hear the band evolve so much as ricochet around, which is appropriate, as that's exactly what Stipe and Co. used to do in dives too small to contain them. This collection gives you a taste of just how thrilling that period could be.