R.E.M. Listening Club


#201

Just having a cursory listen through for the first time in a while as I’m cooking tea, and fuck me - how gorgeous is Wendell Gee?

Not an R.E.M. song I particularly recall on my radar before.

Need some more time with the songs which never truly clicked before see whether I concur with @Scagden’s take or whether they’re just tougher nuts to crack.


#202

Yeah I should re listen before wading in. Was going to do fables tonight but I’m only halfway through a new Steve reich box set and can’t see myself finishing it before bed time


#203

holy shit for some reason i forgot Green Grow the Rushes was on this album! Buck’s most gorgeous riff imo. that trio with Life and How to Live It (absolute bliss) and Kohoutek (up there with E-Bow The Letter as one of their most evocative and mysterious tracks) are the peaks, but somehow they don’t stop the album from feeling like a cohesive travelogue or narrative, a nice world to get lost in. it’s my favourite REM album, as you can probably guess, but i completely understand how it’s not for everyone.


#204

i like how every track has these really cool moments to guide and navigate you through the ‘murk’ (overstated imo, but yeah true in comparison to the unclutteredness of Reckoning and Pageant either side of it) - that really neat descending guitar line of Gravitys Pull, those ghostly backing vocals on Maps & Legends, that lonesome harmonica struggling to be heard over the din of Driver 8…


#205

It’s a beautiful song… Mills backing vox are stunning.
Kind of a precursor of sorts to Find The River I think, could have fit quite easily onto AFTP.


#206

if the album was just the guitar part of Life and How to Live It it would still be a pretty damn good album


#207

Really looking forward to revisiting this album. Didn’t comment on Murmur or Reckoning because I didn’t think I could add anything to what’s been pretty eloquently said above. Will get a listen in this evening.


#208

Absolutely, it’s a stunning track. The stand out on the album by a nautical mile for me.


#209

this is the best r.e.m. album, love how swampy it is, really evocative of a very particular place even if it wasn’t actually recorded there. first four tracks are all basically perfect, really love stipe’s voice on life and how to live it. the second half is maybe slightly weaker but even then, the only song I’d ever consider skipping is auctioneer.


#210

It’s not a bad track but I still think ‘Can’t Get There from Here’ breaks the flow of the album.

Love this version of ‘Maps and Legends


#211

I really like how you get this weird unexpected funky explosion following the slow murk of old man kensey


#212

yeah if there’s a weak link that’s it.


#213

Can’t Get There From Here would work in a John Hughes film. Could soundtrack a scene in Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club.


#214

I missed doing Reckoning properly last week, so I reckon I’ll go for a double header this evening. So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) is playing as I type…


#215

I got Reckoning on Christmas Day 1995, two days after receiving Murmur. I’ve always preferred the former, but nowadays I listen to the latter more and even though it’s clearly magnificent - no difficult second album syndrome here - I probably don’t appreciate it as much as I should. It’s less mysterious and ornate, more direct and in your face; amusingly enough, in places I find it even harder than Murmur to parse the lyrics.

Harborcoat - an astonishingly catchy beginning; Bill’s drums never sounded so tight and perfect here. Does Mills or Stipe come up with those countermelodies and alternative lyrics? So much additional beauty and meaning! That last chorus when Buck’s overdubbed guitar line comes in = heaven

7 Chinese Bros. - a bizarre historical allegory and/or song about (by his own admission) Stipe splitting up a couple and shagging them both. I doubt I could recite a tenth of the lyrics.

So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) - Part II of the couple incident, where Stipe has messed something up, wants redemption and can’t find it. It’s a lovely song, but I honestly consider it overrated compared to the colossally high esteem it gets from critics.

Pretty Persuasion - a song about swingers, says Stipe, and could also be read as an early admission of his bisexuality. Such a wonderful riff. One day I’ll master this song on guitar (no I won’t, I’m too shit.)

AnneLise (Time After Time) - Finally, the band’s Velvet Underground influences come to the fore. I always adored this song, which very much goes against the critical consensus. Now I know why I love it: this song is an unashamed dirge, drone, mantra, which my jaded adult self worships. The bridge (middle 8?) is heavenly. Stipe loves this song, and he kens better than most.

Second Guessing/Letter Never Sent: two “slight” songs to clear the palate. Both are good, and I appreciated them all the more after the 2007 “Live at the Olympia” recordings. I love the weary cynicism of “what will you look this season? Who will be your book this season?”

Camera: so, so, so heartbreakingly beautiful. About a photographer friend of the band (and onetime girlfriend of Stipe) who died in a car crash when they were away on tour. Even knowing that, you could still parse this song in a dozen different ways and reach a dozen different truths. For me, a year after my wife died, I listen to that gorgeous chorus and hear: “You’re no longer with us, and it’s up to me to guard and treasure and preserve your memory forever and all. But without you here to inspire me, I can only ever fail” and it hurts so much.

(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville - another great, “simple” palate cleanser. Nothing to say other than that.

Little America - I appreciate the subtle change Stipe made to the lyrics after Jefferson Holt left REM HQ for as yet undisclosed unpleasant behaviour: altering “Jefferson, I think we’re lost” to “Washington, I think we’re lost” is wonderfully simple yet so clever.

25th Anniversary edition note: the album sounds a lot brighter and clearer, but again is probably too loud. When I first got this I was shocked to hear the unfinished song snippet after “Little America” - it had apparently been excised from CD editions until the remaster came out.

Summary: yeah, I love this album. Up there with R.E.M.’s best, but much better is yet to come…


#216

Having never really listened to an REM album all the way through I’ve started with this (Remaster).

It’s quite appealing actually (3 songs in).


#217

Yeah I enjoyed that. Nice.


#218

Fables is a weird one. I feel like it promises a lot opening with Feeling Gravity’s Pull with all it’s atonal sparse riffing and existential lyrics (wouldn’t sound out of place on some of Modest Mouse’s 90s albums), but then I find the rest of the record to be a bit run of the mill, and not as conceptual and experimental as I want it to be. I guess it’s the least ‘rock’ of the IRS albums. I do think I like the hooks on it better than the hooks on Reckoning though (Driver 8, Wendell Gee).


#219

Nice post @mil_c, though I’m really sorry to hear about your wife. Hope you’re doing ok.

My sense (though only conjecture) is that Mills comes up with the backing vocals, on the basis that he approaches both bass lines and BVs in the same way - always looking for the little gaps where melodies and counter melodies can be added rather than just following root notes or pitching harmonies a third/fifth above the main melody. On Harborcoat and Maps & Legends he’s so great at incorporating those extra layers without jarring.


#220

time for you to go back to Chronic Town and Murmur, then!