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 U.S. in its sole week on the chart. Most 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. There are two exceptions; these are "Gardening at Night" (Different Vocal Mix), which was on Eponymous, and "Cant Get There From Here" (Radio Edit) which was on Singles Collected, both compilations having been released in the U.S.. Although they were also I.R.S. Years bonus tracks, "Crazy" and "Toys In The Attic" had also appeared on the band's b-sides compilation album Dead Letter Office.
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 between 1985 and 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 durations listed inside the album cover are inaccurate.