REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

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REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

Postby cyberyukon on September 27th, 2011, 9:35 am

When people think of 80s bands they tend to think of, well, you know. The standards. The pop. Duran Duran. Michael Jackson. George Michael. The Go-Gos.

Not many people remember that REM, this little grassroots college band, grew out of the same period. They offered not synths and wild hair but jangly guitars and mumbled lyrics. The lead singer, introverted and lopped over in a chair with with shaggy hair, huge glasses and pouty lips almost immediately grabbed the bona-fide American college aesthetic. And certainly a prelude to the more anti-establishment sound that would emerge from Seattle at the dawn of the next decade. And there was a power to those songs. A defiance that wasn't being seen elsewhere. They were young; they were hope despite the times.

In 1987 the tune "It's the End of the World as We Know it" became a skater anthem. "Automatic for the People" was more than an album. It was a monument. Monument about death, loss, bonds and night swimming. Monument for the people? "Monster" was, with it's heavy distortion, an attempt to ride the grunge wagon. It was unclear why a band who were trend-setters (and on the path to become one of the greatest bands ever) chose to change gears and instead become trend-followers. This happened again several years later with "Up" as the band tried to play with the electonica/tech bubble that was, in the late 1990s, gaining some (short-lived) attention.

"Reveal" and "Around the Sun" were a bit muddled. Each had some great tracks, though, but many of the tunes seemed wandering and unfocused. The b-side alternate tracks of "The Lifting" and "Beat a Drum" were far superior to the versions included on the album. To this day I don't know why they weren't included.

With 2008's "Accelerate" the band roared back with a sorely missed attitude. "I'm gonna D.J. at the end of the world!" singer Stipe waved, capturing a sense of guitar-pick nihilism not seen in twenty years. In fact, when Rolling Stone called this the band's greatest album ever they may have been right. Perhaps, after many years, REM found the elusive combination of strong musical arrangement and majestic lyric writing. Ditto with this year's "Collapse into Now." "Uberlin," "Blue" and "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I" are some of their most stirring and finest stuff yet.

Which is why their break up hurts. Hurts? Yeah. Hurts. It's hard when a band who have been your virtual companions for so long, and who have been there through the many milestones of your life, promptly leaves a quick "Dear John" letter on the table and walks away. It's hard to not feel a sense of separation. Growing up and old with REM has been a wonderful experience. And I truly consider myself one of the "old ones" who remembers watching them knock down a gig at a small campus venue, way back before that song came out about losing a religion. I went to my first job interview with "Green" playing in the cassette tape deck. I moved to the southwest with "Supernatural Superserious" playing on the iPod. While other bands came and went REM sustained. Through the Reagan years. During the Clinton years. Through the Bush debacle. And into now.

We kind of knew their time was due, though. REM should have been...deserved to have been...a band that stayed young and vital forever. The twinkle in Stipe's eye, that youthful grin. The Stipe who tells us that "it happened today, hooray!" and "Houston is filled with promise; Laredo's a beautiful place" really sounds like the same Stipe who once also sang "Got my spine, I got my orange crush" and "You wore your expectations like an armored suit." But the reality isn't the case. As much as their last two albums offered resurgence it was hard to avoid singer Stipe's increasingly gray, weathered and yet conservative appearance. These days he looks like a college professor and all the while singing songs like a college student. More like Gene Hackman in "Enemy of the State" than, say, Neil Young.

And that's the contradiction, and maybe the reason why in the end an end is okay. REM could never be a band that could accept its identity as mere nostalgia; not a band fueled on political vigor such as their's. I'm not sure where the band could go now or what they could do as they approached their sixties. So maybe they now remind us in their one, final message before they bow and leave the stage: yes, we all grow old.

The band will be missed. It is the end of en era.

Oh--that "nude" pic/video of Stipe? If you've seen it you know that it's really no big deal. It's a rapid flipboard-like animation of him wearing various sets of clothes and on one or two occasions not wearing anything. The images race by so quickly you have to really want to be looking for something to find it (no offense, Michael--you know what I mean). There's an artistic message in there somewhere that was completely passed over by a media who's looking for a more sensationalist angle.
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Re: REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

Postby Buck's Student on September 27th, 2011, 4:25 pm

That's because there was a pause button on the video. As I said in the last thread, I had to make a rule on OurREM.com for members to not post links to his tumblr, but a member or two were ready and willing to post the stills of Michael from the video (They were shared through email to several members - I sure didn't see them, though).

REM changed my life when I was eleven, and I have played music ever since. I remember the first times I wrote lyrics, they were always trying to imitate Michael in some way.

To name one album out of their catalog as the best would be wrong, because they changed their approach so many times and came out with good results, for the most part. For me, it's Murmur and Out of Time; one is a milestone unto it's own, the latter their own Pet Sounds.
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Re: REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

Postby thxforsendmeanangel on November 3rd, 2011, 3:20 pm

As an R.E.M. fan myself I remember the summer between my senior year in High School and College. I worked as a camp counselor at a summer camp and was turned on to the group by an older counselor who was already in college. My formative years in college were 1985-1989 and as I remember there were two groups on campus that defined rock. One was U2 and the other was R.E.M.

People tend to forget that R.E.M. was the leader of the underground college radio movement that soon coined the phrase "Alternative Rock". I would have to say for me their early albums were my favorite, back when you couldn't understand Stipe's lyrics. If I had to pick definitive albums then Lifes Rich Pageant and Document were as good as it gets from the band.

And while I agree Accelerate was a fine album the band pretty much lost me after their Monster album. Oh I still checked in with the band from time to time, but after Moster IMHO R.E.M. became less relevant as the years went on. I think they were past their prime and kind of stayed at the party way too long. That said what a great body of work and I will be forever grateful for having seen them live before they broke mainstream in front of an audience of about 500 people.
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Re: REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

Postby cyberyukon on November 14th, 2011, 9:17 am

It's interesting that you say that about being at the party too long. Stipe would agree: in the song "All the Best" from "Collapse into Now" he sings "It's just like me to over-stay my welcome."

"Life's Rich Pageant" was a great album. And their first solid rock album. "Fables" was too unfocused for me. "Murmur" too sedate. "Reckoning" was good, but it was "Pageant" that set the band on fire. And "Document" followed. It was the college album of '87.

The songs on "Green" started to lose the edge. The band was more political than rocking. And this si the first album where the songs were like crayons in a crayon box--each a different color. Some too bright and shiny. "Out of Time" was a fantastic album, but totally unlike "Pageant" and "Document." Here we were seeing the soft side of Stipe, not the long-hair side of Stipe. And it was also the crayon-box approach. Hard to believe that the same guy who wrote "Disturbance at the Heron House" and "Begin the Begin" wrote "Shiny Happy People."

It's odd that they end their career with the new song, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," which sounds more like Stipe siding up with Burt Bacharach.

:biere:
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Re: REM: A Eulogy of Sorts

Postby Buck's Student on November 18th, 2011, 9:42 pm

cyberyukon wrote:It's interesting that you say that about being at the party too long. Stipe would agree: in the song "All the Best" from "Collapse into Now" he sings "It's just like me to over-stay my welcome."

"Life's Rich Pageant" was a great album. And their first solid rock album. "Fables" was too unfocused for me. "Murmur" too sedate. "Reckoning" was good, but it was "Pageant" that set the band on fire. And "Document" followed. It was the college album of '87.

The songs on "Green" started to lose the edge. The band was more political than rocking. And this si the first album where the songs were like crayons in a crayon box--each a different color. Some too bright and shiny. "Out of Time" was a fantastic album, but totally unlike "Pageant" and "Document." Here we were seeing the soft side of Stipe, not the long-hair side of Stipe. And it was also the crayon-box approach. Hard to believe that the same guy who wrote "Disturbance at the Heron House" and "Begin the Begin" wrote "Shiny Happy People."

It's odd that they end their career with the new song, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," which sounds more like Stipe siding up with Burt Bacharach.

:biere:


Murmur is sedate? Most diehard fans think its their best, one in the top three! :?:
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