For a band that's been broken up for six years, R.E.M. have seemed extremely busy lately. Last year's expanded Out of Time reissue offered 19 demos and rough cuts (including an early version of "Losing My Religion"), and they contributed a live version of "World Leader Pretend" to the anti-Trump 30 Days, 30 Songs project before adding a live "It's the End of the World as we Know It" to the expanded 1000 Days, 1000 Songs. Peter Buck is off making grand, snarling rock with Corin Tucker in Filthy Friends and Michael Stipe is doing cool art installations, but R.E.M. chugs along.
An expanded edition of their classic Automatic for the People is due out later this month, but Thursday was the official 25th anniversary of the album, so they released a demo from the era to celebrate. "Devil Rides Backwards" is a somber acoustic song with a little background Hammond and some sparing piano chords. Stipe opens it up with a meditative hum and then winds into some half-apocalyptic, half-pensive lyrics: "The devil rides backwards on a mule named maybe / Down the road of indecision." It's a demo, so it has a frustratingly unfinished feel to it, but it's absolutely worth listening to below.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.