Sunday, February 27, 2011

'i was central, i had control, i lost my head, i need this...'

I've clearly been on an REM kick this weekend. Not sure of the why of it, but I'm happy to let it flow.  It's been awhile since I've listened to them.

I was a late bloomer when it came to those boys from Atlanta. I knew a song here and there. StandRadio Free Europe. It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Pop Song 89Get Up. Loved The One I Love. But I didn't get into them for real until falling hard for Losing My Religion, off the phenomenal Out of Time*,at the tender age of fourteen. This is still, as far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest songs of all time.  I mean, what fourteen year old can't relate to those lyrics? That empty room?  Michael Stipe with hair?  And those dance moves?? (Not to mention my friend Ben's rendition of this song at one of our annual high school cabarets...)

But of this whole phenomenal album it was Country Feedback, that slow, strangely staggering song, that made my adolescent heart feel like it was ice-cold, shattering slowly, and that I couldn't stop listening to. (Also it had the word "fuck" in it, which still shocked my mother back in 1991, which was a great pleasure at the time but  which is no longer the case.)

(Also this gorgeous live performance)

REM has had some good stuff since then.  Leave. Nightswimming & Drive. E-bow the LetterLet Me In is quite possibly one of the most haunting songs ever sung.  How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us is quite possibly one of the best song titles ever.  And that's about as far as I got in the ongoing saga that is REM.

I think there were a few songs off Up that weren't bad.  I have a soft spot for Leaving New York, though I don't really like it all that much.  But there was something magical about their earlier work.  I don't mean to sound like one of those pretentious music snobs -- I'm well aware that it was at least partly my age, those under-20 years, that made those old songs so magical.  But it's nice to realize that a bit of that magic is still there, despite being almost 7/8ths of the way to the over-40 set.

*This was also the album that introduced me to Kate Pierson via Shiny Happy People, and opened up the world of the B-52s: Roam, Topaz, and most especially Deadbeat Club ("I was good, I could talk a mile a minute on this caffeine buzz I was on..."), which I think indirectly got me drinking coffee, late nights at the diner. Black. Of course.

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