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R.E.M. - They Set The Pace

For those that come here that might not have read my comments, I did write a post about R.E.M. on my other site.
 
I do want to thank the band for 31 years, and for 25+ years I have been a fan of.
 
I would also let those know that this break-up has seen an increase of activity at Dime with both demos/rough mixes from Murmur (Stephen Hague demo included) as well as a cleaner copy of Out of Time Demos. I would encourage all fans to check them out when they have a chance.
 

Sabbatical?

It's record store day and it would appear that the 3 LP Singles released by R.E.M. are about as rare as an entry on this site.
 
I will not write some "That's It I'm Out of Here" post but I have to say that over the years of following R.E.M., collecting their bootlegs and listening to their music there is not much that I feel I can "Grow", in terms of writing about their music. I have followed them, applauded, criticised them when I felt like it but the comments at some point just become the same revolving themes over and over again.
 
I had begun this site with trying to bring an element of discussion back into the forefront. Speaking frankly as a fan with my own obsessions, it was as much about me as the band and that fateful connection to their music and my life took me along many different turns. I wrote about plans and ideas and some of them never came to fruition. Quite honestly, it's much more difficult when you are doing something out of passion rather than getting a paycheck to do it.
 
I love writing because I honestly believe that I suck at it. I read stuff by Mr. Marrone, my cohort for a bit and outside of his weak attempts of trying to put me down find him a better writer. I speak at about a 35 words per minute rate, figure my vocabulary was derived from a Cliffs Notes dictionary and would probably drive any editor up a wall.
 
I write because I try to figure it all out. When it appears on the screen I can read it and think about it again, maybe make a couple backspaces or erase it altogether.
 
I write because being a fan of a band like R.E.M. is not a certification that you have to renew every year. The music that drove me to this place had a passion and I wrote to try to figure that all out. It was a premise to figure out why I liked or disliked the music.
 
I have realized over the past couple years that my tastes have shifted, my criticisms have become multiplied and it's stopped being fun. After the R.E.M. album was released and all the fanfare around it subsided, I wanted to continue to write and while my other site is miniscule compared to this one, it's brought a level of joy that this one has not. Writing about something that you might not be all that familiar with brings it's own challenges but it's challenges that I want to take.
 
This site is not going anywhere. It will not be deleted. It will still be here and you will be able to read any posts that you deem important.
 
For those that want to follow me, I would encourage you to go to The Zimmermann Note (http://thezimmermannnote.com). If you follow me on Twitter you can still follow me there.
 
Thanks to the few of you that have read this site and I hope that it has encouraged you to think about your own passions for R.E.M., good and bad.

 
 
 

Reading Into the Reviews

Reading Ethan Kaplan's post on Murmurs about how this is the best reviewed album since Hi-Fi is at best just propaganda and maybe a bit of revisionism.
 
Now reviews are a bit of a failure to begin with. Many times, it's a critics intial opinion about an album when it is released. They often do not have time to completely digest an album and at times those feelings could change dramatically as to whether the album has initial pleasures and feels a bit old after a year or so or whether the album slowly begins to grow and develop over time. We are all guilty as music lovers of knowing that tastes change both for the better and worse.
 
Now the reviews for R.E.M.'s albums in the 21st Century can all be found here and it's telling that 'Collapse Into Now' is currently in 3rd place among studio albums (although presently this could change as reviews are still coming in). Out of all the albums, Accelerate appears to be the clear winner and it's telling that it received quite a few outstanding reviews whereas Collapse has received several "Good" reviews.
 
I think the statistics speak for themselves, however, I do think it is a bit bothersome to see a site become the "Fox News" of R.E.M fandom.
 
It's only a test of time whether we can say whether an album will become better, worse or stay the same but one thing for sure is that it is (as of writing this) undeniably not the best reviewed album since New Adventures.
 
 
 
 
 

Pitchfork's Review of CiN

Well of course Pitchfork gives it a 6.8.
I would have to disagree with its comments about Walk It Back, which I find to be a wholly inferior song. However, I guessed the score correctly and pretty much I guessed the issues are pretty much the same as I would expect.
 

Collapse Into Now - Review

2 Stars out of 4
 
The reason that I have always appreciated 90’s albums like Out Of Time, Automatic, Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi is that each of them incorporates that ‘classic R.E.M. sound’ that reverberates through each of them. I still remember the time that I bought the Automatic for the People the day it came out and said to myself, that finally the band had returned to that “Classic” sound.
 
Bad jokes and sarcasm aside, the new R.E.M. album does try to leech off some of the sights and sounds from the past instead of moving to the future. This album feels like New Adventures in Hi Fi’s twin, although never really matching up.
 
I would easily say that Hi-Fi is my least favorite of the 90’s R.E.M. albums (although the album is still very solid and would give it a 3.5 stars out of 4 review) but I would say that the pieces that did get me interested in the record or at least keep it fresh are some of the songs that push the envelope. For me it was songs like E-Bow, Leave and How the West Was Won that pushed the boundaries a bit in the way that the R.E.M. canon had progressed.
 
That was some of the beauty of going out and getting a new R.E.M. album at that time was that they did try to challenge themselves in different ways from album to album. Even through Reveal, there is growth or at least a thematic sound that they are trying to achieve. Around the Sun fell short but Accelerate returned to this trend and I see Collapse as never really striving anywhere.
 
At the time of it’s release, New Adventures at least felt like a growth forward, or at least an extension past Monster. There was a bit of direction as Peter Buck had alluded to at the time of trying to make an entire album on the road that extended not just in the music but also in the themes of the music.
 
This album does not feel like a step forward but rather step backwards and while the music at times is very solid, the lyrics and singing becomes a slight distraction. 
 
As has been described, this album is much more personal than some of the prior efforts (Around the Sun, Accelerate), however, as a personal album is concerned, it’s a matter of connecting with the songs.  For me, the album just sort of seems to be there, a tale or multitude of songs that just do not feel thematically to take me anywhere and at times a very boring musical choice that sounds more like one of those alternative-flavor-of-the-month acts that have made it big.
 
Discoverer and All the Best do not harken back to the progressive R.E.M. of the 80s with a leadoff like Begin the Begin and These Days nor does it try to give you the glam with What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? And Crush with Eyeliner.  When taking those albums there is, if anything, substance and not just what feels like a blank filler of a song.
 
It would be almost as if the album seems to be about nothing but there is no examination or rumination of what is wrong. Uberlin particularly rambles on without any thoughts on what is going on around them. The songs are vague but not in a good way.
 
While lyrics do not need to be a central premise of a song, they do when you are not hiding them. As the years have gone on, Stipe has become more front and center and it doesn’t take more than a couple listens or a quick glance online or YouTube in that there is no secret to what is being said. However, the quality of work on some of these songs could be equal to that of Curly of the Three Stooges. I am not expecting a masterpiece but I am expecting something that I can put on the stereo and not have people run out of the apartment.
 
To me the difference between R.E.M. and any other jangy-pop-rickenbacker-rock-alternative-indie-college group was their ability to be the thinking person’s band, a band that you can rock out to with a purpose. There was a way that they could be progressive without being too preachy, to explore without giving away the mystery, to be intimate without sounding too corny. When the band came out with Be Mine, I believe it was Scott Litt that mentioned after a take that it sounded like a Whitney Houston song, something that bothered the band.
 
 
 
Consider the opening lyrics for ‘It Happened Today”:
 
This is not a parable
This is a terrible
This is a terrible thing
Yes I will rhyme that, after, after all I've done today
I have earned my wings
It happened today. Hooray! Hooray!
It happened. Hip, hip, hooray!
 
Now of course, the song plays itself as the next Hey Jude, but fails in many respects including but not limited to the corny use of earning wings and “Hip Hip Hooray”. I mean, let’s all join hands and sing Kumbaya.  It is also indicative of the problem that I spoke of above that I do not connect with the song.  I do not feel any connection to anything that was written above so how can I sit here and say how great a song it is when I am getting nothing out of it?
 
‘It Happened Today’ is pretty much the trend to write something relatively meaningless and so I am left feeling quite bored by the entire product. The album is filled with more fluff than substance and when Michael Stipe is not making up corny phrases or bad rhymes, he is stealing from his past albums using the same phrases that made them popular, (‘Tick Tock’, ‘4 am’, ‘The storm. . . . ‘).  With varying degrees of success or failure he’s sounding more like an artist that is covering Michael Stipe of yore and would be curious if he sits and writes fan mail to himself.
  
If the lyrics do not bother you then the singing does. Once lauded as a crooner by Bono, his singing at times feels stilted. He enunciates every word on Uberlin. He has gotten in the habit of shouting on others to the point where you might have to ask yourself if it was better if the band just came out with an instrumental version of the album.  It just does not feel natural and while the sound of his voice has changed for sure over the past 30 years, the delivery seems to be the bigger problem.
 
Even the stronger songs like Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter and ‘That Someone is You’ with their simple charm cannot squeeze a good review out of me.
 
I know that some might point to the song Blue as being pretty innovative, but I look at that as the bastard child of E-Bow + Country Feedback giving Patti Smith the same luxury she had over 10 years prior of offering her vocals to a song but could have done itself a favor by just ending up as a B-Side somewhere on a single. By ending the album with a snippet of Discoverer is just not all that impressive and feels almost as if the Credits are running through my head while doing so.
 
While some might suggest that I have been too critical of the band, I question how far is a band supposed to drop before they become irrelevant? I thought that Accelerate was not as much a return to form but a moment when the band made a conscious effort to at least feel like a band again. I am not getting that same love on this release and I do not see how this album would supersede those albums. For me this is the most out-of-the-box bored I have ever been with an R.E.M. album.
 
For many out there that might feel that I am trying to relive past expectations, the simple fact of the matter is that even without these expectations this is just not music that I would listen to right now. While the album does not fall flat on it’s face, it’s simply R.E.M. by numbers and if I wanted to waste my time listening to a Tired Pony I would do so. 
 

R.E.M. - Blue

Dear Blue Lou,
 
Now of course we have a song like ‘Blue’, with its oh so meaningful words (not). Word is that he wrote this after going to a Mets game when David Wright went 0-5 and made an error in the field.
 
I read somewhere, not sure now, that someone said that this song is better than E-Bow the Letter being its “Wiser Cousin”. Oh please, give me a break regarding how much corporate dick these reviewers are sucking. Does R.E.M. hand out lipstick in their Press Kits?

 
I think R.E.M. has become the Eagles.
 
This is a combination of Country Feedback and E-Bow gone horribly wrong and the ending with Discoverer just solidifies this as a mess.  It works as a B-Side minus the Discoverer ending but I do not give them kudus for basically doing the same thing over again 15 years after you mastered it the first time. Who gives a fuck if it didn’t become the #1 hit single you expected? It was a beautiful song, and still the best thing off of Hi-Fi no doubt.
 
And this bastard cousin had to come around and urinate all over it. Patti is reprising her role on this for whatever reason why, doing her interpretive thing to add some “Art” where necessary my only question would be Where is KRS-1 for their Rap Song about Stipe’s internet Radio station on Last FM and how he is getting sick of it always playing Coldplay and Dashboard Confessional Songs?
 

So there we have it. An opportunity to go through every song on Collapse into Now. Next will be the long awaited official review however, as you can tell already I doubt you are going to see any 4 star rating from me.
 
 
 
 
 

R.E.M. - Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I and Chicago Style Pizza

Finishing up the last couple of these. . . .

 
Dear Matthew

 
But before that since you wanted to ask my opinion of Chicago Style Pizza, I will offer my thoughts about that pretty quickly. The overriding opinion that I hear more often than not is that Giordano’s is the preferred deep dish pizza. However, if it was my choice, I would put my money on Bacino’s. The reason why I like Bacino’s is pretty simple. Out of any pizza that I have they have the best cheese.

 
There are others out there like Pizzeria Uno and Gino’s East but these other pizza joints as well as Giordano’s also have been given a bit of celebrity status and can be a little bit more touristy. Gino’s can be fun because you can write on the seats, the table, pretty much everywhere.
 
Outside of a weird event happening Bacino’s is more your typical “Pizza Place” and a good place to get a pitcher of beer with your Pops and relish in a Yankee win after defeating the Cubs.
 
This is the Hairshirt of this album with the exception of the line “run a carbon black test on my jaw”. That pretty much is as succinct as I can get with this song. With the exception of comparing the two songs you notice there is a substantial difference between Stipe’s voice circa 1988 and 2010 (when this was recorded).
 
However, the more that I listen to this song and compare it to ‘Hairshirt’ makes me realize just how brilliant ‘Hairshirt’ was and how I never really gave it the time of day.
 
I mean at least compared to Marlon Brando, you realize just how good an afterthought of a song like Hairshirt would be today. Could you imagine that it would be the highlight of Collapse into Now? Is anything on CiN better than Hairshirt?
 
 
 
 
 
 

R.E.M. - That Someone is You

Mr. Marrone finally responded with quite a bit of bologna and no substance.
 
For the record, I do think that videos will become more predominant in our Facebook/YouTube/Twitter universe then they were during more recent past as we like to post videos of songs on our Facebook profiles. My commentary on why people did not seem to like the video was only based on my own observations. Of course, for many of them I seem to find them on Dashboard Confessional Websites.
 
Dear Shredder,
 
That Someone Is You
 
One of the shorter songs to make it onto an official album not counting instrumentals and this is not including the brief “I’m Not Over You” that is included on Up.
 
The sound harkens back to the early days with a definite punk-indie feel to it and on the surface it’s one of the more fun straightforward songs on the album.
 
Now, if we actually went back to the old shows of the early 80s with songs like ‘Hey Hey Nadine’, ‘Dangerous Times’ and ‘Lisa Said’, if I didn’t know any better someone could make the claim that this song has been lying dormant for 30 years, a song that just never made it to tape or a concert recording and eventually got scrapped.
 
The question of course would then be has R.E.M. come full circle? Do songs such as this suggest that the band should try to rerecord some of those old early songs for posterity sake or should they remain embedded on the early tapes as a reminder that this band grew into something different?
 
Still the track has some spirit and doesn’t feel like something Matchbox 20 came out with so that is good.
 
I bet it’s Carlos Beltran’s favorite track.

Sincerely,
 
Raphael
 

R.E.M. - Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter

Another in a long line of pen pal messages sent to Matty.
 
Dear Matt,
 
I imagine that your absence is due to the fact that you have been jamming out to this album the past couple days on your iPad. You have to make good use of it because I would imagine from your post on iPad version Dos, it will become a relic, almost like R.E.M. is.
 
An alligator climbing up an elevator.  What will Stipe think of next? Pushing an elephant up the stairs?  Here we see that Michael Stipe has once again ventured into Wild Kingdom to give us another rocking song.
 
Do you ever visit one of Mario Batali’s restaurants hoping to meet up with him?
 
We also hear Peaches on this track and in my honest opinion she offers the best “Guest Vocals” of the three stars brought in on this album. I think her tone gives this song a bit more insurgence and comparing it to the other rocking “All the Best” it seems to not feel as vague as that one is.
 
Although I have to admit that I am having problems trying to figure out the different characters in this song and how they relate to each other.  I guess the way that I would see it is the Alligator being portrayed here is being chided by technology and their message is seemingly a hypocritical one considering the Alligator would symbolically stand for survival or adaptability.
 
So telling an Alligator that they have a lot to learn is like telling Steve Jobs he doesn’t know anything about Macs.
 
Or, conversely, the message suggests that technology and innovation has been ignorant to nature and the environment.
 
Of course I can just turn all the lyrics off and just jam and walk around the neighborhood like the guy in the Uberlin video, but alas, I am not that guy.
 
At the end of the day it’s a pretty good song. I like the part where they put the underline symbol between the words in the song title.
 

R.E.M. - Uberlin Video Commentary

Much of what I have read about the video to Uberlin seems to be of utter disgust from many fans.  Before I saw the video, and just listened to the song, I was always having a problem getting around the lyrics to the song which in my opinion felt very self-absorbed.
 
Coming again from my own opinion, if you see me walking around the city of Chicago there are typically two earbuds (not Apple mind you) and a selection of tracks being listened to. I have to say that there is some excitement to listen to music and let go and see what is going on around me. For me it’s always the amazement of walking down the city streets late at night and listening to Yo La Tengo or the lakefront on a Summer evening listening to Up.
 
But while there has been a great deal of admiration for the song, for me I have not been able to get my head around it because it felt in many cases self-absorbed in itself. While I can stare from time to time and daydream it was not a song that initially “Hit” me but rather accepted it for what it was, give it a satisfactory grade and move on.
 
The video, ‘however’ seems to convey the same feeling that I did, an individual dancing along the city streets without any clue as to what was on around him and somehow I find that a bit sad. Because if the intent or arc of this song is to comment about the sad nature of living within our own selfish thoughts then it would be something that is difficult to find putting this on repeat.
 
I compare this with another song, The Beatles, ‘A Day in the Life’ which is much more complex in its orchestration showing differing viewpoints, with the McCartney section being a blueprint for this song. Outside of the pieces of this song compiled together it creates a unique complexity of a person being heavily influenced by a news story and one totally absorbed in their daily routine not to see anything or anyone.
 
If Stipe’s meaning of this song is to make a social commentary about being lost in our brains I guess I find some people out there questioning the video’s intent. If people do not like what they are seeing and the song is being ruined for them, did they listen to what Stipe was saying?
 
Coming from my own point of view, it is something that I mentioned about what this album’s audience seems to be and that is about those that are ignorant to the world around them.
 
This song is Stipe’s moment ironic moment for those that love the song and hate the video for Stipe to plaintively state to them: “Well, that person in the video is you”.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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