Hey, hey, hey (Say what?): Slate and the 99% Invisible podcast survey the world-shaking importance of R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” longbox. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is why no album in the history of recorded music has had as large an effect on politics in the United States as R.E.M’s Out of Time.” Welllll…that sounds a bit hyperbolic, but I do remember sending in that Rock the Vote Motor Voter card back in the day.
In Salon and excerpted from his new book A Perfect Circle, Tony Fletcher chronicles the last days of R.E.M.. There’s a touch of the hagiography that accompanies music books like these — I’m a pretty big R.E.M. fan, but, as I said when the band retired, both Collapse Into Now and Accelerate seem like relatively uninspired U2-style conscious-comeback albums, and, in terms of the last decade, I prefer the band’s more experimental work on Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun. Still, worth a read if you’re at all REM-inclined.
The official site has been keeping up with the various encomiums and remembrances on the web. For my part, here’s the list of my 50 favorite R.E.M. songs that I posted in 2005, along with the R.E.M. archives and reviews of Around the Sun and Accelerate. To be honest, I feel like the band has been flirting with U2-covering-themselves territory on the last two albums, but, as a whole, I’ll stand up for their often-maligned later work — Up in particular.
Growing up in the South in the 80’s and 90’s, R.E.M. was ubiquitous. I remember Life’s Rich Pageant accompanying elementary school hayrides, everyone wearing their “Turn You Inside Out” concert tees to school in 8th grade, and crooning “Losing My Religion” with what passed for my high-school band at GSSM. To many of us down in “South Carolina-ravaged South Carolina,” they — and the nearby Athens, Georgia scene — represented a smart, cosmopolitan, and activist left that was still distinctively rooted in the South. Basically, they proved that being southern and being progressive were by no means mutually exclusive.
When I got to college, R.E.M. let their hair down, shook off the earnest stylings of Out of Time and Automatic for the People and decided to release a Monster. It, along with the Beastie’s Ill Communication, are basically the reasons I spent my early sophomore year shorn. (This was taken a few months later.)
And in November of 2004, a few days after Dubya was re-elected, I caught REM as the Garden, where, for the first and only time, they opened with “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” It summed up the moment, precisely.
And, speaking of new albums, R.E.M. has named their upcoming 15th one: Collapse Into Now, due out this Spring. As some who’s come to prefer Around the Sun over Accelerate, here’s hoping it’s more like the former.
“Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine,’ Morello said in a statement announcing the effort. ‘The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me.’” A group of musicians including Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, R.E.M., Billy Bragg, Pearl Jam, the Roots, Rosanne Cash, and David Byrne demand that Gitmo close, and that their music stop being used for torture. “If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued,” Reznor promised.“
“It’s funny. Johnny Marr has a place there, and we are kind of friends. I walked into this ice cream shop, and the guy goes, ‘Jesus, what a weird day.’ He goes, ‘Johnny Marr walked in here like 20 minutes ago, and now you. Is this like indie guitar 80s day or something?’” While cutting a few demos in the Portland area, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck discusses the band’s songwriting process, and his aspirations for the next record. “There are some really pretty acoustic things, some really total noisy rock, and some kind of poppy stuff. It runs the gamut. Ideally, if it were me making all the decisions, I’d say the record would be a lot broader than the last one. But still, I want to do it really quickly and immediately and not do a huge amount of overdubs.“
“In my mind I’m barely scratching the surface here, and not because of what my interpretation means or what inspired the actual lyric, but because there are so many possible interpretations and mine doesn’t really that much matter in the long run. So no, I don’t think I’ll regret sharing a few ‘secrets’ with those who really care about the songs.” (I finally talked to Michael Stipe, he touched me on my arm…) In honor of Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog completing his recent R.E.M. side-project, Pop Songs ’07-08, Stipe drops by to answer your questions about the lyrics. [Part II, Part III.] Great score, Matt, and congrats on finishing up the R.E.M. oeuvre.