More REM

Earlier I put up a post with a review of a very influential album on my listening tastes, Lifes Rich Pageant. I sort of left the REM story unfinished as regards me. I need closure.

After LRP came Document. Of course I ran out and bought it the second I could. It has some great songs on it, but one bothered me in particular – the most popular song from the album, “The One I Love”.

It has some of the classic REM over and under tones, but it just wasn’t quite right. A bit too poppy and weepy for me. But Document was still better than 99% of the music that was being produced during that time period so I decided to give REM a pass. I had a bad feeling that the writing was on the wall though, and it truly was.

The next album by REM was Green, their debut on Warner Brothers. My thoughts about Document were proven correct, and the bottom had truly fallen through. On Green are awful navel gazers like Stand. Ugh.

Also on this disc was Orange Crush. Are you kidding me?

Just awful. Then came stinkers like Shiny Happy People, and other nonsense. I abandoned ship, calling REM just another band that sold out. But dammit, it was REM. I am still sad.

For the next, oh, I don’t know, decade and a half I casually followed REM hoping like hell that they would snap out of it. They never did. It was like a part of me died.

But! Then! This!

That is the REM I love. That one came out last year and when I heard the first notes sung by Stipe of the tune on the radio I almost flew out of my chair thinking that my old band was back. When I came to my senses I decided to just enjoy the single and let be gone what was gone, what was done was done. I don’t think there really is any need for me to explore any new REM. I just have to be happy with the old stuff. I still might go see REM if they come near on a tour though – probably one of the few concerts that my wife and I would equally enjoy.

*hopefully the video links will stay, at Blogger EMI tends to make you travel to YouTube to play them

18 thoughts on “More REM”

  1. An accurate assessment of a band I’ve admired at a distance. Their tune “Everybody Hurts” came at a time in my life when the relevance made the song something of a solace…I’ve not thought of them in some time, as I’ve abandoned modern music for Bach, and ancient church music (and old country)…Great post…

  2. Love George Jones (my all-time modern favorite), Waylon, and old Johnny Cash…Ernest Tubb, some Buck Owens, a little Porter Wagner…and of course, old Hank. As his son said, “he lived the songs he wrote.”

  3. Dan, I’ll agree the song is firmly in the naval gazing category….but when I saw the bottom, I took comfort from the lyrics. One thing I’ve learned; no matter who you see and who they are, even if they have a smile on their face—-everybody has something that eats at them. No matter how bad we think things are, its almost certain someone else is there are worse—for that I’m grateful—the song sort of placed things in perspective, as it were.

  4. That’s weird — I loved those guys too, until they lost it. “Fables of the Reconstruction”, that was. I was so excited, ran out and got it, and it was a dud. “Pageant” had a couple of pleasant songs, but “Reckoning” was the last album they made that I still bother listening to.

    That “Supernatural Superserious” isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t set me on fire.

    I envy you. It would be cool as hell to have two or three more REM albums I like as much as “Reckoning”.

  5. George is great. But Merle and always will be the man. Everyone has their own favorites, their own memories.

  6. There is no quality difference whatsoever in the songs you moan about above versus anything on “Life’s Rich Pageant.”

    C’mon, you slag off “Everybody Hurts” as navel gazing but you’re going to claim “The Flowers of Guatemala” — on the sacred “Life’s” — is anything BUT navel gazing? A tedious non-tune that says nothing more than “Hey look, I’m noticing flowers! Hey look, I’m noticing flowers! Hey look, I’m noticing…”

    And we’re to believe that “Stand” is any less a dopey-but-fun pop song that “Superman”? Ummmm….

    I am, I am, I am Superman and I know what’s happening
    I am, I am, I am Superman and I can do anything

    REM was a remarkably consistent band. Like them or not, the quality differential between their early albums was small. Indeed, to cite one outside “authority,” here are Robert Christgau’s letter gradings on the albums before and after “Pageant.”

    Chronic Town [I.R.S. EP, 1982] A-
    Murmur [I.R.S., 1983] A-
    Reckoning [I.R.S., 1984] B+
    Fables of the Reconstruction [I.R.S., 1985] B+
    Lifes Rich Pageant [I.R.S., 1986] B+
    Document [I.R.S., 1987] A
    Eponymous [I.R.S., 1988] A-
    Green [Warner Bros., 1988] B+
    Out of Time [Warner Bros., 1991] A

    As a much more important band, The Sex Pistols, once put it: “The problem is you.”

  7. Pardon my stupidity, but what does naval gazing mean?

    By the way, I felt REM fell apart after the first couple of albums. Musically adrift if you know what I mean. Like the super smart kid at school who aces everything at the beginning of the year but by the end is just phoning it in to get D’s.

  8. Peterike – sheesh sorry man. I know LRP isn’t perfect, but it is pretty damned good to me. YMMV obviously. I like that the guy you quote gives the same rating to Green and LRP – that is laughable.

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