While I never worshiped at the altar of REM (more HERE), the band kept a strong hold of me till 1994's Monster. While the first single, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" lived up to album's idea of a louder, rawer rock n' roll sound, much of the rest album ("Crush With Eyeliner" might also get a pass here) just fell flat*. And from then on my interest in REM never really returned. I've heard albums the band's released since '94 that sounded just fine but that sense of vitality, that sense that this is music people will remember for generations just evaporated for me.
* Of the albums legacy, Wikipedia dryly notes, "Despite generally positive critical reception, used CD stores received a large number of copies of "Monster" from sellers seeking to unload the album. A large pile of "Monster" copies was often the only used option for buyers looking for an REM album. Some used CD stores stopped buying the album due to a growing overstock and little demand from buyers."
So to bring us back to the vital era, let's offer a bootleg CD that collects up the band's fanclub-only Christmas singles from 1988 to 1996. While there are definitely a few holiday-tunes here, the lion's share of the tracks are intriguing cover choices by influences like Television, Mission of Burma, The Vibrators, CCR, Spizzenergi, Suicide, Johnny Cash, Flipper, Roky Erickson and Richard Thompson.
Did your interest in REM drop off at some point? Let us know in the COMMENTS section (which is where you'll find the Rare Frequencies link).