Sunday, November 20, 2005

That bright, tight forever-drum


Summary: At any given time, I might have a current favorite group. I might say, "Oh, Coldplay is my favorite" or "Sufjan? He's my favorite." That generally means that at that moment, what I am listening to most and with the most passion is that particular group. I tend to speak in superlatives. But if asked to name my all-time favorite, I would answer quickly and assuredly, "R.E.M."

A Brief History of the Band (from Yahoo! Music): R.E.M. mark the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock. When their first single, "Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981, it sparked a back-to-the-garage movement in the American underground. While there were a number of hardcore and punk bands in the U.S. during the early '80s, R.E.M. brought guitar pop back into the underground lexicon. Combining ringing guitar hooks with mumbled, cryptic lyrics and a D.I.Y. aesthetic borrowed from post-punk, the band simultaneously sounded traditional and modern. Though there were no overt innovations in their music, R.E.M. had an identity and sense of purpose that transformed the American underground. Throughout the '80s, they worked relentlessly, releasing records every year and touring constantly, playing both theaters and backwoods dives. Along the way, they inspired countless bands, from the legions of jangle pop groups in the mid-'80s to scores of alternative pop groups in the '90s, who admired their slow climb to stardom. It did take R.E.M. several years to break into the top of the charts, but they had a cult following from the release of their debut EP, Chronic Town, in 1982. Chronic Town established the haunting folk and garage rock that became the band's signature sound, and over the next five years, they continued to expand their music with a series of critically acclaimed albums. By the late '80s, the group's fan base had grown large enough to guarantee strong sales, but the Top Ten success in 1987 of Document and "The One I Love" was unexpected, especially since R.E.M. had only altered their sound slightly. Following Document, R.E.M. slowly became one of the world's most popular bands. After an exhaustive international tour supporting 1988's Green, the band retired from touring for six years and retreated into the studio to produce their most popular records, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992). By the time they returned to performing with the Monster tour in 1995, the band had been acknowledged by critics and musicians as one of the forefathers of the thriving alternative rock movement, and they were rewarded with the most lucrative tour of their career. Toward the late '90s, R.E.M. was an institution, as its influence was felt in new generations of bands. (read more . . .)

My History with the Band: Like other bands I have posted about, such as The Smiths and New Order, R.E.M. formed part of who I was in high school. I first became familiar with R.E.M. when I heard their songs "The One I Love" and "It's The End of the World as We Know It" when I was in 7th grade. I liked what I heard, but I did not buy their album Document right away. At the beginning of high school, my brother and I started our subscription to Rolling Stone, which opened us up to a lot of new music. I remember reading what a big deal it was when R.E.M. signed with Warner Bros. after years of indie success on I.R.S. Records. So their first big-time release was their album Green, which featured the singles "Stand" and "Orange Crush." I was hooked. So as I did with previous bands that I had newly discovered, I rushed out to Musicland and bought their previous albums: Murmur, Fables of the Reconstruction, Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant, and Document. My friends and I became huge fans (I have previously mentioned my gang of alternateens.) My favorite albums were Document and Life's Rich Pageant, and I listened to them more or less nonstop.
There are so many things that I loved about R.E.M.: Michael Stipe's fascinating voice, the cryptic and often political lyrics, the pure rock and roll of Peter Buck's guitar. The album Green came out at a time when the environmental movement was picking up steam, and R.E.M. was at the forefront of the movement. I also became heavily involved. My friend Lisa and I even started an environmental awareness group at our high school, which we called The Green Society.
I have many fond memories of hanging out with my friends and just singing along to R.E.M. songs, sometimes while we drove around the country roads.
One of the highlights of my high school life was when we got the chance to go see R.E.M. in concert. My friend Kelley got to borrow her dad's van, and about nine of us piled in and drove down to Indianapolis. And it was the most amazing concert -- they played all of our favorite songs, and we all felt very special.
When I was a senior, R.E.M. would have their biggest hit with Out of Time and the song "Losing My Religion," and like all music snobs in the world, my friends and I were all about "Well we have liked them for years, before they were famous." By "years" we meant 3 years.

Well, college came, and my love affair continued, but at a small, liberal, liberal arts school, I could share my love with many more people. Then, at the beginning of my sophomore year in college, the album that would become my favorite album was released: Automatic for the People. And I don't mean my favorite R.E.M. album; it is my favorite album of all time. Automatic is gorgeous, lush, orchestral, and heartbreaking, and it became the album of my dorm floor that year.
R.E.M. followed with their most rock album, Monster, which of course I loved. Best of all, I got to see R.E.M. in concert twice with my friend Kathy on their Monster tour, and both shows were amazing. (Radiohead opened for them on the first leg.)
Next came New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which delved into some religious imagery, and has one of the best love songs ever, "Be Mine." R.E.M. has continued to make great music, though it is a much different sound now. I saw them again in St. Paul at Midway Field with David Devine when they toured in support of their album Up, and then again at the Target Center on their Greatest Hits tour. That show, which I saw with Brakke, is the best concert I have ever been to.

R.E.M. is my go-to group. I know that if I play one of their cds, all will be well in the world. When I got my iPod last week, the first thing I did was load every R.E.M. album into it.

Favorite R.E.M. Album: Automatic for the People

Favorite R.E.M. Songs: "King of Birds"; "Nightswimming"; "You Are the Everything"; "Fall on Me"

Other Seminal R.E.M. Songs: "Radio Free Europe"; "Gardening at Night"; "Driver 8"; "Begin the Begin"; "The Finest Worksong"; "The One I Love"; "It's the End of the World as We Know It"; "Exhuming McCarthy"; "Stand"; "Pop Song '89"; "World Leader Pretend"; "Orange Crush"; "Radio Song"; "Half a World Away"; "Country Feedback"; "Losing My Religion"; "Drive"; "Everybody Hurts"; "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite"; "Find the River"; "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"; "Crush with Eyeliner; "Tongue"; "Star 69"; "Leave"; "Electrolite"; "New Test Leper"; "Be Mine"; "At My Most Beautiful"; "Hope"; "Walk Unafraid"; "Falls to Climb"; "Daysleeper" and many many more . . .

The stars are the greatest thing you've ever seen
and they're there for you . . .
for you alone.
You are are the everything.

Past Band Posts: New Order / The Smiths / Belle and Sebastian / Underworld


At 9:38 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

i have every REM album ever at home right now... technically theyre my mom's, but she never listens to them, so i adopted them.

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

oh yeah, and i like them too...

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Johnny V posited...

While I'll be the first to admit that the whole early 80's post-punk music revival produced some of the greatest music in the past 50 years... by some of the greatest, I mean greatest actually... Anyways, my point being that I don't really like R.E.M. that much but I definately like "similar" bands ie The Replacements/Husker Du.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger matt posited...

you wrote those lyrics when you signed my yearbook.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

They are some of my favorites ever, from "You are the Everything."

"here's a scene: / you're in the backseat, laying down. / the windows wrap around / to the sound of the travel / and the engine. / all you hear is time stand still in travel / you feel such peace and absolute / the stillness still that doesn't end / but slowly drifts into sleep / the stars are the greatest thing . . ."

They hold special meaning for me.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger chris posited...

the video for losing my religion is really cool. surreal I think. and you cant beat Stipe's chaotic dancing. Also, he and Frank Black show that bald men CAN be rock gods.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

That is indeed a great video. Much of the imagery for the video comes from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Johnny V posited...

CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD. I'd rather read Young Men and Fire anyday.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger chris posited...

mmm wyes windspeed mm yes

screw YMAF, worst. book. ever.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous katja posited...

I actually liked the first half of the book. I hated how Hewitt did the test.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Josh posited...

Zen Arcade is one of my favorite disks ever, John

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Johnny V posited...

The Zen Arcade, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig trifecta. What, they were released over like a year and a half?

At 9:17 PM, Blogger waintingnrain posited...

nightswimming.. it is one of my all time favorite songs by any band. I can listen to that five times in a row after a bad day.. and everything but the exhilerating, relaxing idea of a peaceful carride after sneaking a swim goes away. it's kind of like chocolate that way.

At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Erin posited...

Michael Stipe is pretty great and all, but, well, I'd have to say Mike Mills is my favorite.

I'm sorry. But how could I resist?


Post a Comment

<< Home