R.E.M. In the Attic – Alternative Recordings 1985–1989 was the fourth R.E.M. compilation released by I.R.S. Records. EMI-Capitol, which acquired the entire I.R.S. Records catalogue upon the label's failure in 1996, released In the Attic in 1997 without the permission of R.E.M. The album failed to chart in the UK and only reached #185 in the US in its sole week on the chart. All of the songs had appeared on the European reissues of the band's IRS albums but this was their first official release in the US.
The album is mostly composed of tracks previously released as bonus tracks on the IRS Years editions of the R.E.M. albums in 1993, but this was their first release in the US. It includes live studio and concert versions of previously released songs, as well as alternate recordings of songs, including a radio edit of "Cant Get There From Here." The final track, "Time After Time, Etc." was a live medley from 1987 in which R.E.M. started out by playing "Time After Time (AnnElise)", the fifth track from Reckoning, then began playing Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain", followed by "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)", before finishing off with a verse from "Red Rain."
Despite the title limiting it to recordings from 1985–1989, there is a live version of "Driver 8" from 1984. The album was released in 1997, but the album cover says "Limited Edition – 1998" and several of the song times listed inside the album cover are inaccurate.