REM: Classic or dud?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
I've always wanted to ask a "classic or dud" question, and some recent posts have me curious about this one. I went to college in the States in the 1980s, so I'm required to love REM's first four albums (and I do so without reservation.) I started to lose interest around Document, however, and haven't heard the last 3 or 4 at all. So what do you think? Did they start strong and peter out? Were they always crap? Do you still love everything they put out and look forward to the new one?

Mark Richardson, Wednesday, 17 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

R.E.M. slowly descending into dreaded dud status. Used to like them (hey my indie credentials are impeccable ;). I started to lose interest around "Automatic..." which still has a couple of great tracks, after that: whatever. In the end I think they only made one classic: Fables of the Reconstruction/etc.

O. Munoz, Wednesday, 17 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Like everyone else - well, no, probably some people were too sensible - I used to like REM. I loved the idea of a band where you couldnt even hear the lyrics but I discovered pretty quickly that you could and they weren't that great anyway. Even so I was a big fan circa Green and a lukewarm fan circa OOT, and then thought they'd cracked it with Automatic but suddenly after a month or so of loving it had the Damascene revelation that it was terrible.

And I've honestly not really been able to listen to them since. Memory tells me that the first album or so is OK. The myth of REM, that they came along and saved American rock or something, always struck me as odd - did American rock need 'saving'? I'm not that up on my history of early 80s US rock, but the ecstatic reception of REM strikes me as being a kind of reaction to punk - OK the need for new music is appreciated, but does it have to be this noisy and nasty? Ah, here come some 'proper songs', good. A similar thing happened in the UK with the - perceived - difference between new wave and post- punk, maybe.

Tom, Wednesday, 17 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Not so much classic or dud as 'unimpressed.' Never really liked REM, except when Michael Stipe was on "Pete and Pete"

We'll give them dud, for kicks.

JM, Wednesday, 17 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Very much "comfort zone" music, the choice of hip but unadventurous twentysomethings (now in early thirties) everywhere. Art made unobjectionable. But, uh, is that a bad thing? I can't decide, but Stipe's falsetto when he covers Femme Fatale is precious, so I say classic.

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 17 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

No band is good forever, so based on my favorite REM material I'd have to say classic. But it feels odd giving that designation to a band that's about as interesting as Matchbox 20 to me now (I'm sure Matchbox 20 is actually great to all you wannabe Chuck Eddys, but you know what I mean ;-)

Tom, I think the way college radio (and students) embraced REM in the 80s was more of a reaction against new wave than it was punk. Something about the Byrdsian harmonies/guitars was so firmly "rock" (and more specifically American rock) and yet also perceived as "different" (probably due to the muttered vocals and murky production.) That's a powerful combination when you're talking about an American pop music movement. I always felt like REM existed beside the punks pretty easily, touring w/ Husker Du and The Replacements and so on.

Mark Richardson, Thursday, 18 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I read a comment recently in which one of REM claimed that what punk meant to them was the possibility of mixing everything up together, breaking the rules and so on--but what it transpired that he meant was that they could play folk music instead. Which has to mean DUD.

That said, having missed out on REM the first time round, about from the indie disco classics, I've been having a go at their early records. So in two months I may be a fan, but on current form, probably not...

alex thomson, Friday, 19 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

The strange thing with R.E.M. is that I always knew people who liked them so heard a lot of their music (at least, music from Out of Time, Automatic, and Monster), but never owned any myself. That said, with napster I've checked them out quite a bit, and while a lot of their stuff isn't bad, it's not particularly strong either... that is, except for one song, which I actually feel is one of the most haunting I've ever heard, and that's "E-Bow the Letter" off New Adventures in Hi-Fi. From the constant drone in the background to the lyrics to the amazingly good idea of having Patti Smith on back up vocals, the song just plain works, and is surprisingly powerful, at least to me.

Sean Patrick O'Toole, Tuesday, 23 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Mark: Touring with the Replacements and Husker Du doesn't really mean anything in and of itself (certainly nothing to do with punk rock) given that both bands were probably trying to be REM by that point in their careers ('mats should've quit after Hootenanny, and Husker Du should've quit after Zen Arcade, or probably Metal Circus to tell the truth). REM was a pathogen; they killed American punk rock by pointing many novel and hopeless bands/labels into saleable (so they thought!) half- assed college rock directions (look at SST records for example...starts out with some seemingly decent aesthetic principles, puts out some outstanding Black Flag and Minutemen stuff, and ends up vomiting forth coffeehouse jangle- nothings like Trotsky Icepick, Angst, later Minutemen etc.) Cosloy goes from GG Allins band(!) to Matador records (the best release on which is the La Peste retrospective which is a better link between REM-culture and punk rock since La Peste were an actual punk rock band and yeah, obviously this is much later but REM created the climate for this whole indie rock thing, where "alternative music" somehow becomes the only music worth listening to). Even the Angry Samoans (who I'm sure hated REM) got kind of boring! Not counting metal (broadly defined to include everything from Testament to Union Carbide Productions to Celtic Frost to Cinderella, all of whom were excellent) and Sonic Youth, there was basically no good American rock music at all in the late 80s, was there? Halo of Flies?!? And now you've got all this alt-roots junk, which is also REM's fault probably, and I blame REM for sanctimonious junk like Live and Creed as well.

Basically REM sucks eggs. "Real World" by Matchbox 20 is a lot better than any REM song. The best thing about REM is that they still show "My Breakfast with Blassie" sometimes on TV.

Kris P., Tuesday, 23 January 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

their best album for me is still "reckoning", which was released in, what, 1984? best song--'camera'.

geeta dayal, Tuesday, 6 February 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Oh classic, probably, I think...er....I used to love 'Automatic..' when I was 14, and though interest has petered out over the intervening years, they still hold a place in my heart. Now, like most people, I prefer their earlier stuff, and though I found much of 'Monster' and 'New Adventures..' dull and insipid, on their last album, 'Up', they still managed to pull some gems from their now slightly more ample behinds. There aren't many bands in their mid forties who are still any good at all. In fact I can't think of any. So I salute them.

Ally C, Friday, 9 February 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I would tend to distinguish between 80s and 90s REM. 80s REM has an engaging sense of being genuinely offbeat (vocally and lyrically - but musically very easy to get along with), whereas 90s REM has an air of strain, lack of inspiration, grandstanding, being 'so humble we're arrogant', 'so ironic we're compassionate', and other atmospheres that I can't do a very good job of putting into words.

I like everything pre-Green - I think that LRP and Document may be the masterpieces, for all their US80srock flourishes. The repetitive jangle of things like 'Cuyahoga', 'Welcome To The Occupation' or 'Heron House' is the sort of predictable thing I like (but I could never have predicted it). I must admit, I do like a lot of the 90s material too: I liked Out Of Time when it came out, recognize that there are good tracks on Automatic (but it got so grotesquely overrated), even have a soft spot for Monster ('I Don't Sleep, I Dream' is splendidly large, thudding and echoing), despite its lack of melodic quality. The real clunker, in my book, is New Adventures In Hi-Fi - BY FAR the worst REM record ever. After that, Up could only be a move up, and it has its moments (none better than 'Daysleeper', as far as I recall). Still, by the mid-90s there was something sadly insufferable about the tone, the image, the projected persona(e) of REM.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 13 February 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

They just left me...cold, somehow. I like a few of their songs on an intellectual level, but the playing, lyrics, and _especially_ the singing seem utterly rote and passionless. Still, like I said, on an intellectual level (chords and notes n' stuff) I like a lot of their stuff. My single favorite song of theirs is "Electro Light," I never hear that one mentioned.

Jack Redelfs, Wednesday, 21 February 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I was surprised and interested by that last entry that said 'on an intellectual level (chords and notes and stuff)' REM were OK. I am interested in chords and notes and stuff - but from an utterly amateur, non-musicological perspective - and I would be interested to hear what is meant here - cos REM strike me as being really relatively uninteresting from that particular POV.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 February 2001 01:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
If ever there was a band that should have been called "The Emperor's New Clothes," REM was it. This is what they were: a lead singer/songwriter with nothing to say, taking it to the point of making nothing to say a "style"; and a halfassed backup band that never met a cliche it couldn't use. This is a band that goes around bragging about how hard they don't work on their music -- it just comes out of the air, it only takes twenty minutes for them to write a song. Well, gee, imagine that. And here I thought it only took them ten minutes to write them.

Rock and roll is deader than jazz, anyway. The answer to all your questions is, yes, REM really does suck as much as it seems, now that you've emerged from your childhood. Christ, I'd rather hear the Cowsills on any given day than those smarmy assholes.

Just my humble opinion...

Douglas Fletcher, Friday, 6 April 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
FYI: Cee-Fax one-line review —

REM "reveal" melodic side once more

There seems to be an awful lot of hatred quietly sedimented into those otherwise meaningless claw-quotes, or am I just projecting?

mark s, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Tom's R.E.M.-success-as-reaction-against-punk theory up there sounds pretty unlikely to me. From a mainstream regular-person non-music-freak point of view, punk did not exist in the U.S. back then. It had no exposure whatsoever. It certainly couldn't have been perceived in any way, shape or form as such a threat that people would need to rally around the first jangly guitar band that comes along.

Patrick, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

More like cynicism / sarcasm, I think, Mark.

Robin Carmody, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

REM/U2 etc. - the best worst bands or the worst best bands ?

geordie racer, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

The reation against punk threory makes sense in the limited realm of college-radio where REM grew from. It could perhaps be more said that REM's sound allowed it uniquely to hold an underground base while also climing the charts.

Sterling Clover, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

One of those bands I'd like to like, seeing as almost everyone else in the entire world does (possibly an exaggeration), but they're just...well...boring. Sorry.

DG, Sunday, 13 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Anybody got "Reveal" yet? Thoughts?

Dr. C, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

utterly shit on TOTP last night, along with RADIOHEAD, fuxache this type of bollux i ask ya !!!

geordie racer, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Lost interest sometime around 'Automatic', but 'Fables of the Reconstruction' is still lovely. At least Stripe has finally come out, good man.

Stevo, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Yeah, TOTP...he was using an autocue!

DG, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I've only very recently picked up a few REM albums and really have no sentimental attachment. The first few albums still sound pretty fresh, I think, although I can't put my finger on what's really interesting about them. My favourite at the moment is Up; there's clearly a fair amount of filler but Suspicion, Sad Professor, Daysleeper and Lotus still affect me, however underwritten they might be.

As opposed to apparently every critic around the world, I'm quite disappointed by Reveal. The last thing we need now is another apathetic 'Hey, everything will be alright' album. The tunes are pretty enough but I can't hear anything with the passion of Murmur or Lifes Rich Pageant. Maybe the computers just took it out of them a little.

John Davey, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
I too was in college in the 80's and at that time, REM was without a doubt my favourite band. Document made me think they were going the way of U2, but the band remained on my "buy without hearing list". I can't even remember which was my last. It was the one with Texarkana on it. Anyway, there are two REMs. All albums after LRP just aren't any good even though good songs can be found there. Murmer, Reckoning, Reconstruction and LRP are about as good of a 4-set as you will find in history,IMHO. The simplicity should be acclaimed, not criticized. I suppose for me, the deathblow was Buck's experiments with the mandolin. When the guitar left, so did I, and I haven't heared a reason to go back.

Paul M Lafleur, Thursday, 5 July 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...
Stop press. I am very sceptical of any REM after about 1991. Imagine my surprise to find myself thinking: cor - this Reveal record is pretty good!

the pinefox, Saturday, 21 July 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

pinefox - Is Reveal the first record you like of the zero decade? Except Lloyd Cole of course who is doing quite well on his latest actually!

alex in mainhattan, Sunday, 22 July 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I don't want to overrate Reveal. It's not that great - just a slightly pleasant surprise.

Records I like in the zero decade include: Lloyd, The Negatives; 6ths, Hyacinths & Thistles; Costello / Mutter, For The Stars; B&S, FYHCYWLAP. Of these, I think Lloyd's is the best. EC does what he does. 6ths and B&S are patchy by their authors' standards. I can't think of many others.

the pinefox, Sunday, 22 July 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

three months pass...
Pinefox, I was the one who professed to enjoying R.E.M on a intellectual level, "chords and notes and stuff." I think what I mean is that they sound to me like a GM midi file: No matter the tempo or style, the band just plods along professionally, without any surprises or sudden jolts. They're just not very dynamic. ESPECIALLY Stipe. That said, the actual content of there songs can be quite good, and I really enjoy what I've heard of _Reveal_.

Jack Redelfs, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

five months pass...
Ugh. I am on of thsoe mid-30's people who luckily caught on to REM fairly early on (about '84). I don't recall them to be claiming punk/new wave/ post-pop/college/alterna....they were just a breath of fresh air when pop music wsa dominated by total shite.

Yeh, anything after 'document' or even 'lifes rich pageant' for that matter is supsect but ya kind of had o be there to understand the significance at the time.....

I but them at this time at of sentimentality

Michael D, Sunday, 31 March 2002 01:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

three years pass...
There are nowhere near enough "classic"s on this thread, so... CLASSIC!! No matter how terrible their new records get, they're still one of the best bands ever. How many great albums have they made? Ten?

Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Saturday, 30 April 2005 13:23 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Well, it's no secret that I think they are classic and are still a pretty good band even though they seem to be in decline. I'm sure they will continue to write quality songs and play good live shows.

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Saturday, 30 April 2005 13:59 (twelve years ago) Permalink

classic, but they bore the shit out of me and always have.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Saturday, 30 April 2005 14:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Haven't made an album that isn't really good yet!

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Saturday, 30 April 2005 15:32 (twelve years ago) Permalink

classic, of course. but really, i'm only posting to point out that kris p.'s post from 2001 is the most ridiculous thing i've ever read on ILM.

xpost:
tim, i think that post could cut both ways...

john'n'chicago, Saturday, 30 April 2005 15:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink

If they had broken up after Hi-Fi I could be so much more unreserved in my fanship. Hard to believe THAT album is almost a decade old.

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 15:39 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i would stretch anthony's comment to UP and think they would've been fine. monster turned 10 and that record was thrilling to me as a high schooler.

still classic, even if i hardly ever take these discs off the shelf any more. i used to debate the merits of gardening at night with my trig teacher.

blackmail.is.my.life (blackmail.is.my.life), Saturday, 30 April 2005 15:53 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I think that Reveal and Around The Sun are below average in terms of their back catalog, but still have some really great songs on them. I fault R.E.M. for making albums that are only half-good but I give lesser bands a lot of credit for making albums that only have two or three good songs. So grading on a curve really hurts them.

Matthew C Perpetua (inca), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:08 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I think that when Michael Stipe when from being completely introverted to Courtney Loving it up, it was a real trap for the band's overall feel. Shiny Happy People seemed like such an aberration, and then Automatic was a slickly produced return to form of sorts, even if it opened the floodgates further. Monster didn't bother me as much as some folks, and I really like(d) New Adventures and Up. But Reveal was the first album that I found completely ridiculous and middle-agey, even New Age-y. Around the Sun I've never even heard.

I thought The Great Beyond was a lovely single, as was Imitation of Life (even Bad Day fits into this category), but those seem more like lucky accidents than an indication that they could record an entire album as consistent as those 15 years ago.

blackmail.is.my.life (blackmail.is.my.life), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:12 (twelve years ago) Permalink

And let's not underestimate the impact Bill Berry's departure had on the band's chemistry. He was more than just the ugly drummer; he wrote quite a few songs. Moreover, when you lose a drummer as solid as Berry, your band's gonna be awful slack in the rhythm department. That's how the remaining members justified their boring "electronic" direction to the press (all those gratuitous allusions to Eno, etc).

If "Hi-Fi" had ended with "Be Mine," it'd be classic REM, probably in my top four or five.

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:31 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Reveal was definitely the heartbreaker for me, esp. since "Imitation Of Life" was the best song they'd made since frikkin' who knows. Stuck out like a silver thumb and made the rest of the shit seem downright willfully awful. Ending with Hi-Fi would have a) allowed them to maintain that we-four-are-REM beauty (R=4!) and made "Electrolite" their curtain call. "I'm not scared, I'm out of here"!

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Classic in the 80s, semi classic through the 90s, shit since 'Reveal'.

I.M. (I.M.), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:39 (twelve years ago) Permalink

They're definitely one of those bands where little flaws have become so crippling that it taints previous albums because I can see how little mistakes would evolve into tragedies. Stuff that would be forgivable if that's as far as they'd take it are now offensive.

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:41 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i've argued with matt perpetua elsewhere about this, but i agree with anthony here - i can't listen to automatic anymore because i think it's so poorly paced. i know there are folks who'd disagree, and i love "side 2" but it's just such a jarring side 1.

having missed the monster tour - which would've been awesome as a high schooler - i was equally thrilled to see them on the UP tour as a college senior. they were ecstatic and did their best to include some older stuff...that the crowd booed!

blackmail.is.my.life (blackmail.is.my.life), Saturday, 30 April 2005 16:53 (twelve years ago) Permalink

The warner bros. four-piece years are so tied up with my youth that I find it really hard to judge them critically - the idea of explaining what makes them 'good' is fucked because the appeal was so much less concrete at the time I memorized every melody (if not lyric). If I try to imagine how these albums come off to the unfamiliar I have to assume they're all patchwork nonsense. I'd probably throw Chronic thru Fables at an arty newbie as the early stuff has dance beats and Gehman-Litt haven't brought in the whole awkward arena element.

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 17:02 (twelve years ago) Permalink

PC Zeppelin really. Should have broke up when the drummer died.

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 17:03 (twelve years ago) Permalink

PC Zeppelin really

once they moved from dance clubs to theatres

miccio (miccio), Saturday, 30 April 2005 17:04 (twelve years ago) Permalink

It's as impossible to explain REM's allure to neophytes as it is to explain the Beatles. ("But they wrote really GOOD songs!")

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Saturday, 30 April 2005 17:08 (twelve years ago) Permalink

It's also really thick and punchy sonically. My vinyl copy of Reckoning is tinny as fuck.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 21:41 (one week ago) Permalink

Not sure if anyone's familiar with Twitter poet Brian Bilston, but his 'tribute to R.E.M. in the shape of an R.E.M. song' is something to behold.

https://s29.postimg.org/ckld0d2c7/Screen_Shot_2017-06-20_at_11.52.12_PM.png

dorsalstop, Tuesday, 20 June 2017 21:59 (one week ago) Permalink

Ha!

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:04 (one week ago) Permalink

Alfred- surprised how high you placed "Superman", didn't know anyone particularly liked it

― Robert Adam Gilmour, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

it's fun!

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:16 (one week ago) Permalink

I love Lifes Rich Pageant, but hardly ever feel like playing it nowadays.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:24 (one week ago) Permalink

"these days", you mean

attention vampire (MatthewK), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:33 (one week ago) Permalink

'These Days' is my favourite track on the LP!

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:36 (one week ago) Permalink

i love Lifes Rich Pageant but hardly ever need to play it bc it's all available in my head any time.

Larry Elleison (rogermexico.), Tuesday, 20 June 2017 23:24 (one week ago) Permalink

rogermexico OTM, it's like Nabokov's Russia: all that I need of it I have here with me at all times.

Superman is quite fine; not known (by me) to be a cover until much later.

rogan josh hashana (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 00:04 (one week ago) Permalink

"Superman" was the second R.E.M. song I ever heard on the radio (the first was "Can't Get There From Here," and only once). The big Chicago FM rock station put it into regular rotation, and one of the station's DJs had a great oldies show that started regularly playing the Clique's version. I was always impressed by how R.E.M. rearranged it.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 00:31 (one week ago) Permalink

xp Turrican just a crap joke caused by my misreading "nowadays". My fave track too.

attention vampire (MatthewK), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 01:19 (one week ago) Permalink

Side 2 of this album is a bit of a train wreck imo. Real odds and sods feel (which is essentially what it was, lacking new material)

Master of Treacle, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 01:23 (one week ago) Permalink

The more I listen to HiFi, the more I like it.
So far my favourites are "Leave", "Be Mine" (somehow I get a MBV touch from it), Electrolite (classic REM that could have been on Automatic) and "E-Bow" which I liked from the start.
Monster on the other hand... I tried to give it a spin yesterday and while I wouldn't say there are no good songs on it, the whole thing is not really pleasant to listen to.

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 08:44 (one week ago) Permalink

I can understand that - the guitar sound on the record is a little too consistent at times.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:19 (one week ago) Permalink

Also, if you like your vocals to be high in the mix and not smothered by the instrumentation, you'll find stuff like 'Let Me In', 'I Took Your Name', 'Circus Envy' etc. not to your taste.

One thing about this record, too, is that Stipe uses vocal approaches that he hadn't really used before, like on 'I Took Your Name' and 'Tongue' ... for some reason it took Stipe 9 albums to discover the potential of his falsetto.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:25 (one week ago) Permalink

well, I really like some songs on Out of Time and a few from what I've heard from their 80s stuff but basically I think the things I like about REM are all in Automatic and I could do with only that album from them (+ "Losing my religion" for nostalgic reasons) !

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:45 (one week ago) Permalink

It feels strange to me how hardly anyone seems to talk about Automatic for the People anymore.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:20 (one week ago) Permalink

I mean, for a "classic album" which is generally considered to be part of "the canon", it's strangely under-discussed these days when talking about this band. Like, when I think about discussions I've had about this band since the split - and possibly even longer - most of those discussions seem to have been about what happened after their big success with Automatic for the People: Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, what happened post-Berry etc.

Automatic for the People is also a bit of a weird one in terms of "classic albums" in that it's an album that hasn't been dissected to death in the way a lot of "classic albums" have been. There's been no big documentaries about the record, no real in-depth articles about the making of the record and the whole process and all that stuff - it's like the band themselves treat it as "just another R.E.M. record", but one that they happened to get lucky with creatively and commercially.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:27 (one week ago) Permalink

indeed. Does it even appear in all those "greatest albums of all time/90s/whatever" ?
like, for me, it's much better than OK Computer (thought about that example since there's an ongoing thread) which is often cited in the top of these lists...
and I like both of these bands without being a fan.

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:31 (one week ago) Permalink

ah xpost !

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:31 (one week ago) Permalink

xxpost:

Like, even when R.E.M. were still together and making music, whenever the topic of Automatic for the People came up, it's like they didn't even really see what the big deal about the record was or see it as something that they should try to recapture - maybe Warner Bros. did, though. But to the band, their attitude was basically "yeah, it's a record we made, and here are some other records we made."

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:32 (one week ago) Permalink

Yeah, you still see Automatic for the People in all those lists.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:34 (one week ago) Permalink

ah, for Warner, the fact that the band itself didn't seem to care much for Automatic was certainly a 80M$ problem !

AlXTC from Paris, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:36 (one week ago) Permalink

Perhaps key to the mystique is that the band didn't bother touring behind it, which is unusual for a huge rock act. I mean, how weird is that? R.E.M., a band born on the road, did not tour behind their two highest selling records.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:37 (one week ago) Permalink

I'm sure there are people out there who are genuinely disappointed that R.E.M. didn't make Automatic for the People II, but I don't think they could have done even if they tried. I'm not even sure they knew what they were making when they made Automatic for the People anyway - if you believe the band, it was an album which they wrote and recorded in the same way as any other R.E.M. and it just happened to naturally turn out that way.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:38 (one week ago) Permalink

I recall one of the band saying in an interview circa Monster that the record was conceived to give them material that was more suitable for the type of live performances they wanted to do than the material on Out of Time and Automatic for the People - but then, they ended up playing a lot of the material on those albums at shows from the '90s up until they split, so it wasn't as if they were unable to perform them.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:40 (one week ago) Permalink

I don't know my REM live history at all, but how many songs from Out of Time or Automatic were ultimately never performed live?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:44 (one week ago) Permalink

OK, I looked, at from OOT apparently only Texarcana was never played live, and from Automatic Ignoreland, Sidewinder and New Orleans Instrumental #1. But I wonder how many of those songs were only played once or twice?

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 11:47 (one week ago) Permalink

I was just about the post that they played pretty much every song off Out of Time and Automatic for the People live, even stuff like 'Star Me Kitten' and 'Endgame' ... 'New Orleans Instrumental No. 1' was never played live, and I don't think they attempted 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' or 'Texarkana' ...

... they did play 'Ignoreland' live though, when they toured Accelerate.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 12:03 (one week ago) Permalink

Personally I think Automatic was their apex. I just think that album is perfection from beginning to end.

And to be fair I think REM's attitude toward all of their albums is "that's an album we made / here are other albums we made"

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 13:31 (one week ago) Permalink

"Belong" is on Tourfilm even.

I'm too corny about Automatic to talk about it here.

droit au butt (Euler), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 13:39 (one week ago) Permalink

All this discussion has been really fun to go through!

Several years ago on my blog, I did an R.E.M. marathon review thing; check it out.

It's kind of long, but even after all this time, it remains one of the most visited posts on my blog.

Austin, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 14:47 (one week ago) Permalink

There's also an Unplugged "Belong." In certain moments of unmoored perspective I have reflected that "Belong" is not just my favorite REM song or favorite song but my favorite thing that has ever happened, full stop. I usually sober up and regain a sense of priorities.

rogan josh hashana (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 15:38 (one week ago) Permalink

This makes me want to try to map Michael Chabon's career onto REM's -- like, you have the early phase of his work which was loved by critics and in retrospect is really the best

Mysteries of Pittsburgh = Murmur
Wonder Boys = Reckoning

then the gigantic hit that makes them a household name but in the end you don't find yourself going back to it

Kavalier & Clay = whichever of Out of Time and Automatic for the People you don't like anymore

then the ambitious later work that's actually really good but didn't really find its market

Yiddish Policeman's Union = New Adventures in Hi-Fi

and then a lot of other stuff that comes later and that true fans find merit in but no one pays attention to

Telegraph Avenue, Moonglow, etc. = Reveal, Accelerate, etc.

― Guayaquil (eephus!), Wednesday, June 21, 2017 2:48 PM (one hour ago)

scott seward, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 16:37 (one week ago) Permalink

from another thread...

scott seward, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 16:37 (one week ago) Permalink

Alfred- surprised how high you placed "Superman", didn't know anyone particularly liked it

― Robert Adam Gilmour, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

everyone loved this song when it came out! college radio played it forever. i loved it too. and in concert people went nuts and everyone would hold their arms out like superman when they played it. they probably still do that though.

scott seward, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 16:39 (one week ago) Permalink

I heard it on college radio a fair bit even during the Green era.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 16:41 (one week ago) Permalink

it's a crowd pleaser for sure. plus, its just a really good faithful cover. the original and the cover are equally cool.

scott seward, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 16:46 (one week ago) Permalink

Even in retrospect, I don't think that Murmur and Reckoning were the creative pinnacle of this band. Reckoning is undoubtedly one of my personal Top 5 R.E.M. albums, but there's a certain type of R.E.M. fan that overrates the shit out of Murmur.

The Anti-Climax Blues Band (Turrican), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 17:21 (one week ago) Permalink

murmur and lifes rich pageant are the only albums i would listen to in 2017. murmur has my fave songs/sounds. and i love the mellencampania of LRP a ton to this day. "begin the begin" might actually be my fave r.e.m. song! which is a weird thing to say in public for some reason.

scott seward, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 17:51 (one week ago) Permalink

I find myself singing Cuyahoga all the time now. "Lets put our heads together, and start a new country up" - i've lost all hope in fixing America and think we need to accept that our fathers fathers fathers tried - and failed. Anyway, Cuyahoga has been on my mind just about everyday since January.

brotherlovesdub, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 17:58 (one week ago) Permalink

I think the sequence LRP/Fables/Document/Green would suffice to supply almost everything I need in this world. It omits early obscurantist fumblings, overlaps their ascent to global fame, and skips out before they got too navelcentric again.

There are some key tracks that aren't in that sequence, so some caveats must be allowed, but even so I'd be pretty happy with those four.

rogan josh hashana (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 18:02 (one week ago) Permalink

if chronic town = obscurantist fumblings then
moar plz

Larry Elleison (rogermexico.), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 22:13 (one week ago) Permalink

Amazes me all this about "Superman". I vaguely remember hearing it was a college radio hit. It's among my least favourite of their 80s output.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 22:19 (one week ago) Permalink

Their Pylon, Television and Mission Of Burma covers were fantastic though.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Wednesday, 21 June 2017 22:21 (one week ago) Permalink

i love the mellencampania of LRP a ton to this day

^^^ this.

In fact: TS: R.E.M.'s "Life's Rich Pageant" vs "Document"

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 22:32 (one week ago) Permalink

Re: "Superman," jangly Rickenbacker + ringing snare is an unbeatable formula (see also: "Earn Enough For Us").

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 21 June 2017 22:44 (one week ago) Permalink

I think the great thing about Superman is it shows a band that didn't take itself too seriously.
see also DLO.

campreverb, Thursday, 22 June 2017 15:05 (six days ago) Permalink

I don't think REM were ever at risk of being seen as a face-like-a-slapped-arse punk band

Robert Adam Gilmour, Thursday, 22 June 2017 15:43 (six days ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.