Sound — 7
Very mellow. It all sounds the same, but not in a bad way. If lyrics are your thing then you'll have a rough time, they're the best way to distinguish between two tracks but they don't stand out much. However, once you've listened to the whole album all the way through with no breaks, no distractions or anything, it will really hit you what a masterpiece it is. Also, listen for the intro to Electron Blue (a personal favorite) and the outro of Around The Sun (I don't think it's that great, but that's my opinion, and it's in no way bad).
Lyrics — 8
They don't stand out much. They are very good though, when you listen to them, because they really mean something. It really paints a picture/movie in your head (Often a very beautiful one) and with each stroke/frame you see how much more beautiful it is, each time you listen to it.
Overall Impression — 8
It really is quintessential R.E.M., and it is a good test of whether you'd like this sort of stuff or not. I'd say the best songs are Electron Blue, Wanderlust, The Boy In The Well, and The Ascent of Man. The only thing I would say I hate about it is sometimes I would say it's a little too mellow, but that's what Led Zep IV's for. As for everything else, I love it. I'd get it again for sure, it's worth the $$$$, and I'd probably get a copy of New Adventures In Hi-Fi just for E-Bow The Letter, they're that good.