Sunday, September 25, 2011

Random Rock Bloggage: Farewell to REM

I never did see REM in concert, but I did play their music on college radio in the early days. How early? So early, that they were still a college band, and Michael Stipe was still a longhair. The radio station I was on was tiny, couldn't be heard off campus, and the preppie student body was deaf to our offerings (though I'm sure many came around years later). Pretty much no one listened except the staff. Now, of course, the music we played is on the nostalgia stations, or filling out endless re-packagings of that era's songs. Of all those bands, U2 and REM are the only ones I can think of offhand who have endured and had their greatness affirmed by both the critics and the buying public.

I liked what Mike Mills said one time: "We're the acceptable edge of the unacceptable stuff". I didn't like what Michael Stipe said, though: "I've always referred to the Beatles as elevator music because that's exactly what they were. I've never sat down and listened to a Beatles record from beginning to end. Those guys didn't mean a (expletive deleted) thing to me." It isn't because it offends me, but because the influence is screamingly obvious. All of REM's music sounds like it's descended from, an exfoliation of a single Beatles song, "Rain". Come on, now: you can easily hear REM covering it in your mind, can't you? Just goes to show how fecund The Beatles music was.

I enjoyed their early albums up to and including Lifes Rich Pageant, still do. "The Flowers of Guatemala" is probably my favorite song of theirs. I enjoyed many of the singles that appeared on the radio once they hit the top, too, but by that time I was beyond getting emotionally involved with bands. Had they continued releasing Fables Of The Reconstruction II, III, IV, V, etc., I probably would have never even known they were still together, when they announced their breakup. So congratulations to them for starting out edgy and literate, and bringing those same qualities along to mainstream success, and happy retirement to them.