RE: The relevance of R.E.M.

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rnolan66
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REM

Postby rnolan66 » Sun Apr 16, 2006 11:32 am

OVER 30

For me they jumped the shark pretty early, as far back as Document really. They recorded some beautiful songs after that to be sure, but Michael Stipe grew increasingly more unbearable around that time. Those first 4 lp's (and CT ep) have mystery to them. We weren't sure exactly what he was singing or singing about, the artwork featured blurry pictures of the band or none at all. Those discs still sound like they could have been recorded in 1966 or in 2006. With Document they started to sound very current and increasingly tied to pop culture icons and preachy politics of the moment. Peter seems to have let Stipe take over musically as well as visually. The Rickenbackers have been replaced by generic sounding keyboards and slick, radio friendly guitar tones.
Check out the cable show 'Iconoclasts' that features Stipe and food tv chef Mario Bataili if you still can't find a reason to hate Michael Stipe. It is mindblowingly great celebrity narcissism.

worpswede
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Postby worpswede » Sun Apr 16, 2006 12:52 pm

There's a common theme that's getting tossed around here that I agree with: the mystery is gone. It's true, those early albums sounded mysterious and cryptic. It's also true that the band during the 80's worked particularly hard, averaging an album each year until "Green" and touring almost as frequently too. I'm not suggesting that since they've taken their time on every album since "Out Of Time" that they'd be more relevant, but certainly they wouldn't have time to negotiate every nuance of their music.
As annoying as Stipe is, I don't think he's the entire blame for their downfall. I really liked "Automatic" and "Monster," and both of those albums sound like Peter Buck played a huge part in their direction. "Hi-Fi" sounds like a group effort (read: hodgepodge) and from what I've read their last album that actually sounds like a group effort.
What I do blame Stipe for is seemingly enjoying his role since '88 as a rock star. This has made it impossible for the band to truly "return to form" because how can it ever be mysterious again when you've got Michael Fucking Stipe on cooking shows? Cooking shows!?
So what can they do to bounce out of their funk? Get Bill Berry back? Make Buck play only minor key arpeggios? Push Stipe's vocals back down in the mix? Or is it too late for this band?

Mixmaster Shecky
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Postby Mixmaster Shecky » Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:19 pm

I don't think it's ever too late for a band, but I think it's near-impossible for REM. Way too much baggage.

If they break up, fade from the spotlight for awhile, regroup and rethink their music, maybe in 5 years or so they might pull off a stunner. But I'm not holding my breath.

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Over after Automatic

Postby eriknorm » Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:35 pm

Over 30:

I loved these guys -- I was in college when they went from "known" to "huge," and I didn't mind a bit until "Monster." While I loved the fact that Peter Buck was shredding his guitar, for the first time, they sounded clever on that record, and for all they were, they never tried to hard. It's tough to think of a band that sounded more organic through Automatic.

For all the shit Out of Time takes, there are moments of real beauty on that record, that Automatic only advanced. But I have not purchased one of their albums since 1994, and while I still play Reckoning, Automatic, Out of Time, et al., regularly -- well, that should tell you something right there.....nothing of theirs since 1992 is in my regular rotation. But you know what? I still miss 'em a lot....

russ
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Postby russ » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:31 am

Over 30

In the early days, they all lived together in Athens, Ga. and they had the magic of being friends with no money, in a rock band.

Then they hit it, and even though they had a little money now, they still all stayed in Athens and had the small town home-grown vibe going for them. They were "rock stars" but were very visible in the community and bars.

Then Bill Berry left, & the original line up changed forever. A big chunk of the vibe and magic left with him and was never going to be the same.

Then Pete Buck moved to Seattle, and another part of the vibe was gone with him not being with Stipe and Mills in Athens.

So the band who lived together in the same town, now had one member gone and the lead guitarist on the other coast.

No wonder the songs and the band in general lost its vibe and its way.
They closeness and vibe they once had is gone.

It was inevitable. R.E.M. would have been like The Beatles if they had called it quits after "Automatic For People" or "New Adventures In Hi-Fi"

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Postby steve-o » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:48 am

Mixmaster Shecky wrote:I don't think it's ever too late for a band, but I think it's near-impossible for REM. Way too much baggage.

If they break up, fade from the spotlight for awhile, regroup and rethink their music, maybe in 5 years or so they might pull off a stunner. But I'm not holding my breath.


Word to that. I don't care too much about them now anymore (from an under 30-er), but that would definitely be a reunion tour I would pay to see 5 years from now.

cat153
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Postby cat153 » Mon Apr 17, 2006 9:32 am

Over 30

I loved REM growing up and they were clearly a 'benchmark' band for me in developing my ear for music. Early REM has been and still is mucic that I come back to frequently. I still dust off their cd's when I am feeling nostalgic and the early albums still hold up and sound interesting and new to me. Then I get tired of them, retire them for a few months and the cycle continues.

I own all their albums through New Adventures. From there, I have sporadically purchased their new releases but really find that the new stuff just doesn't speak to me in any decernable way. I liked REVEAL but only in as much as it was a good record given the quality of their releases both before and after that.

I bought that most recent CD (can't recall the title and too lazy to go look it up) and really couldn't even get through it. I'm not sure why...just really frustated me. I remember thinking that they sound like caricatures of themselves. It sounded like they were shells of their former greatness.

Even that Greatest Hits CD...the one with the bonus B-Sides was frustrating. I was excited to purchase it thinking that the BSides might be as good or as interesting as the Dead Letter Office CD. It wasn't...and didn't come close. It seemed the difference was that the band used to mess around and just create whereas now they cone in with a list of songs that they wanted to record and only seem to work on those songs. No more messing around drunk in the studio. It seems that they used to just play together for the love of music and now it's much more a process of putting out another REM record.

I don't think the band is done but I do think they need to get back to embracing their early sound and drop the electonic flourishes, etc. It's sorta sad when Pete Buck's best work for the year is the new Minus Five cd.

Jake
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Postby Jake » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:42 am

Life's Rich Pageant sure was great though, wasn't it? That was my first exposure to REM. Bought it on cassette via the Columbia tape club for the song "Superman," ha ha. The rest seemed a bit too "country" for my taste at the time, although I gradually realized how great it was.

I remember around 1989 thinking that 1986 was an awesome year for music, what with Life's Rich Pageant and The Queen Is Dead both being released that year. I'm sure there were other albums I was basing my opinion on, but now I can't remember what they were.

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Postby quasarwutwut » Mon Apr 17, 2006 11:14 am

Jake wrote:Life's Rich Pageant sure was great though, wasn't it? That was my first exposure to REM.

I'm in the same boat. That album for me was the first and is still my favorite of theirs.

Myself and some friends have had a fairly simple theory for years on R.E.M. becoming non-essential, which is that Bill Berry brought an energy and "rockitude" to the band that separated them from their peers, and it when it left, so did my attention. You listen to the earlier stuff, pretty much up until Green, and the drums are fast, busy, and interesting (obviously not always, but when it counts). Somewhere around Green it sounds like he started pulling back, and I think that was the start of them slipping out of the rock/indie rock/college rock scene. Sure, Monster was a "rock" album, but a polished, not very vital sounding rock album. I'm not saying they were supposed to stay rock, or not experiment, or anything like that. They put out a bunch of great albums and that's more than most bands, so I think they can do whatever the fuck they want. I'm just saying that's when I got bored with them.

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Postby worpswede » Mon Apr 17, 2006 11:22 am

Lots of good explanations going on here and I agree with what's been said. "Dead Letter Office" was fun and I enjoyed the drunken covers too. !986 was indeed a very good year for music. Here's a list of some of the best from the top of my head:
R.E.M.-"Life's Rich Pageant"
The Smiths-"The Queen Is Dead"
Metallica-"Master Of Puppets"
Slayer-"Reign In Blood"
Sonic Youth-"Evol"
Big Black-"Atomizer"
Husker Du-"Candy Apple Grey"
Bad Brains-"I Against I"
Butthole Surfers-"Rembrandt Pussyhorse"
XTC-"Skylarking"
Run-DMC"-"Raising Hell"
The Smithereens-"Especially For You"
Peter Gabriel-"So"
Janet Jackson-"Control"
New Order-"Brotherhood"
Depeche Mode-"Black Celebration"
Siouxie & The Banshees-"Tinderbox"
Love & Rockets-"Express"
Firehose-"Ragin'...Full On"
Dag Nasty-"Can I Say"
The Flaming Lips-"Here It Is"
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds-"Your Funeral...My Trial"
Paul Simon-"Graceland"
Prince-"Parade"
The Go-Betweens-"Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express"
Spacemen 3-"Sound Of Confusion"
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians-"Element Of Light"
Billy Bragg-"Talking With The Taxman About Poetry"
Let's Active-"Big Plans For Everybody"
Elvis Costello-"Blood & Chocolate"
L.L. Cool J-"Radio"
Schooly D-"Schooly D"
Genesis-"Invisible Touch"*
*just kidding


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