Another love letter to my pen pal from NYC. This review is quite short as I just have to say that bad is bad.
‘Walk It Back’ is a pretty awful song. In fact, the discussion that I would rather have is whether it’s one of the worst songs in the R.E.M. canon.
“Whaaaaaaat, What would you have had me say, instead of what said?”
Of course the song should be loved by men that stick their foot in their mouth. A constant complaint, I would imagine that women have with their significant others is the fact they stick their foot in their mouth and well have to “Walk It Back” or backtrack on their comments. But a piano ballad is not going to inspire me when I am listening to this while walking down Clark Street to buy some Fresh Guacamole at the Fruit and Vegetable Market. It will not inspire me when riding the 147 home at night either.
The uber-corny piano ballad feels like it should be featured on one of those Teen Drama’s inspired by a LiveJournal where the writer will confess everyday about their sad lives such as the lint that builds up in their dryer as some metaphor for the waste building up in their lives. It solidifies itself as the B-Side to ‘Make It All Okay’, an equally deflating work.
I guess I question where someone actually thought that this was worthy of being released as I find it almost reprehensible to listen to more than once.
It’s really hard to delve any more into my true distaste for this song other than to give it the famous Pitchfork rating of 0.0.
As of my posting this, Matt Malone has not responded to my comments about ‘All the Best’ which leads me to believe that there is a great biopic about the New York Mets on or is working on the perfect mix CD to give to the woman of his dreams. Actually that would be a good follow-up question to ask Mr. Malone to create your perfect first date mix cd because lets be honest, we have all been in that situation where our significant other does not like the racket that we are playing or vice versa and maybe the female is not really into the Innocence Missionary Position.
Presently, I am sitting here writing this while enjoying PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’, a concept album in that it focuses on the events of World War 1 but I figure the events speak as much about the past as well as the future. Art is a concept of interpret culture and history and Harvey is exquisite in offering her anthems such ‘This Glorious Land’ with the final chorus: “What is the glorious fruit of our land? Its fruit is deformed children. What is the glorious fruit of our land? Its fruit is orphaned children.” Presenting this in a powerful response to empire building.
Writing an album about World War I is not the singular reason to like this album, but by taking a subject such as this, her focus, lyrics and meanings can be much clearer to the listener rather than a pile of angst.
And there of course are songs like ‘The Words that Maketh Murder’ that reminded me of Joe Strummer and I would be walking down the street and swear that Mr. Strummer was singing this song. Maybe I am just going crazy. Some on this site might think so.
In the end, I have to say that it’s been the highlight of the year.
Dear Matt Malone,
While for much of our discussion you have berated me for showing no loyalty to a band that has been in the business over 30 years, I have to say that for the first time ever I can speak of a song that I truly love.
I think at this moment that ‘Everyday is Yours To Win’ is the best song on the album. In terms of post 9/11 tragedy albums (We should stop thinking about R.E.M. in terms of Pre and Post Bill Berry and get with the schedule that the rest of the culture is accustomed with, and yes, you might bring up the technical issue that Reveal was released in May of 2001 but is Reveal good enough to even be considered an ‘Album’?). Wikipedia, sure but my HATEREMring dictionary says no.
Fact is, that even with Reveal included, this song would probably make my Top 10 list. Write this down because 2 years from now, you will have to use it against me. J
I read one statement about a fans opinion of this song as if Michael was a father figure and well from that impression there is a just enough Oedipus Complex in the tone of the song to allow you to draw your own conclusion.
My initial and continuing thoughts about the song was that it instantly reminded me of the band Beach House and wished that Victoria Legrand from the band cover this in her sultry sexy voice. In which case if I take the opinion of the reader there would be something Oedipal about that.
I read one statement about a fans opinion of this song as if Michael was a father figure and well from that impression there is a just enough Oedipus Complex in the tone of the song to allow you to draw your own conclusion.
And while there is an obvious boost of confidence in the song there is just enough mango sweetness in the air to get that all over your hands and lips feel a bit sticky afterwards. It has one of those lazy hot and humid summer feeling songs.
The only big problem with the song is the first line or two. I still cannot get beyond Stipe’s obsession with Tick Tock. They are great when you need to rhyme with words like Cock, Rock, and Fock but there needs to be a desire to open up the rhyming dictionary and find better words.
Those issues aside it still sits atop the songs of the album which might be an unfortunate precurser to some.
I know that you getting excited there and thinking that I am finally the fan that I claim to be but lets not get too hasty. You have not read my review on ‘Walk It Back’ yet…
So Mr. Malone surprise me and lets share a moment together not as enemies but as friends and put the song on repeat drinking something strong and watching an old reel of baseball blooper reels from the 80s.
Eric the Tick Tock Clock
For the record regarding those on both sides of the aisle regarding the new R.E.M. album is that the commentary will continue.
I would argue after listening to this album a couple times is that it would probably not be as much a "Return to Form" or their "Classic Sound" but a band that is breaking with it's fans and moving onto a younger generation or a different generation.
Listening to the band well over 20 years, I am probably coming from this from a different point of view all my own that some of you might understand and appreciate and others will want to spit at the computer screen with.
Truth be known, if I was 16 years old, I might find this new album to be pretty amazing stuff and I say might because being 16 in 1988 was much different than being 16 in 2011.
I had questioned whether to continue this site, these reviews or this commentary with that New York Mets fan commonly known as Matt Marrone. What I am finding with the listening experience has been a clearer understanding of what R.E.M. meant to me, what it means to grow up in this 21st Century world of ours and well, to provide a different voice.
There is no doubt that I have accepted the direction that R.E.M. has chosen to take. They are in a predicament all their own, with their own pressures of having to sell albums, touring, doing promo work.
I was reading a story by one Jim Derogatis about a fake Twitter account @MayorEmanuel. The author of said account outed himself and ended up being one Dan Sinker, a colleage of Jim's at Columbia College here in Chicago. Outside of the fact that I think that Dero got it all wrong, I was bothered by a linked story in the Chicago Tribune that quoted a student of Sinkers who was surprised that her professor ended up being Fake Emanuel.
"I squealed when I found out," said Mirretti, who had Sinker for an introduction to journalism class last semester. "It's so crazy, I can't believe it."
Mirretti said she didn't even know who Emanuel was until she discovered the fake Emanuel posts. She signed up for the feed immediately.
"I would have voted for him just because of that fake Twitter account," she said.
What really bugged me more about this story was how a journalism student in the City of Chicago does not know who Rahm Emanuel is. For those of you that do not know, Rahm Emanuel was just elected the next Mayor of the City of Chicago and if someone studying for a degree in a profession that reports on the news I wonder how she is going to report if she does not know what the news is.
How this relates back to R.E.M. is whether complex subjects are worthwhile to even discuss in a song or have we become so self-absorbed in our little lives not to really realize what is going around us. We are tweeting and Facebooking about Charlie Sheen and working on our Farmville rather than knowing what countries have had revolutions within the past month or two.
And what I see from many fans that have commented to me is that I have not heard 1 single word why this album is good and what it provides to them. It just feels like we are being sold the same line that a certain song sounds like (Insert Album Title Here), but its not the sound that sells me on a particular song.
If Coca Cola changes it's formula do you still buy it because of the brand? Does the "R.E.M." brand currently exhibit excellence? I don't think so.
I have thought that maybe it's also time after this is over to go back and review some of their older material for some proof to this why those songs will be included in the soundtrack of my life.
To continue upon the tradition of song reviews with the Italian Stallion, Matalian Marrone, we have decided to look at the rest of the songs on 'Collapse Into Now' that have not been covered as of yet. As most of you should know by now, the album is streaming right now on that liberal website NPR.
I figured the best way to attack these songs would be to go in sequential order, thus the second song on CIN is 'All the Best'.
‘Let’s show the kids how to do it fine . . fine .. fine’
This would be a great addition to Guitar Hero if only it was still being made. Fact is, this sounds like a B-Side from New Adventures in Hi-Fi which is not necessarily a bad thing. I look at one of these songs actually in positive light as that “Dumb Rock Song” ala “Star 69” that allows for a quick dose of adrenaline. However, a song like ‘Star 69’ is not the feature track on Monster. The problem of course is that in the context of the entire album I do not like it when the dumb rock songs become the strong suits of the entire album. It’s also possible my appreciation for the ‘Dumb Rock Song’ genre is pretty low.
Yes, you might sit there at your wits end to stop comparing it to previous R.E.M. tracks but even the albums that I would give half a glance to typically do not feature songs of this sort.
A song, I think, needs something to hold onto. There is no mystery, and it is the second song in a row where it feels fairly emotionless. My only solace in this song was that the band is in some sorta midlife crisis and I do hope that they exit that soon.
I do not know if this song is R.E.M. by numbers but rather just American Idol by numbers. All that is missing is regular airplay on that “Alternative” Station that plays all those crappy songs by Green Day and Foo Fighters.
Can I see myself listening to this song on repeat? No. There is no secret combination, there is no mystery. The lyrics are pedestrian and would have done better if Stipe just stole the lyrics right from a teenager’s journal.
It’s missing the emotion to become a great song.
I have received a couple comments so far regarding my challenge. Andrea Musso wrote this before my commentary and has stated very eloquently, in fact, an opinion of being a fan of R.E.M. but also a fan of being a fan of music in general. Unlike some of my barbs directed at R.E.M. I think she is very fair regarding her commentary. I also want to compliment her use of the English language as she is from Argentina so be kind in that respect.
I've been questioning for quite a while my 'fandom' for REM. I don't like to say I'm a fan, because to me that implies a blind praise to an artist’s work, so I rather consider myself an admirer with the ability to discern between good stuff and utter crap.
I can't blame Collapse into now for my 'losing my faith' in the band. I guess it's something that has been gestating in my mind for some years (at least from around the sun on) but when the track list for CiN came out, with names as 'me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I', 'every day is yours to win' -out of a self help book, I immediately thought- and the other crappy ones, it just didn’t feel right to me, despite knowing I was prejudging them. Then Discoverer came out, I downloaded it and I think I must have heard it no more than 10 times. Chatting to other murmusians I sort of felt bad at the moment because they implicitly questioned my lack of interest. Truth is I couldn't spot any of the other released tracks if my life depended on it because I haven't listened to them more than ten times.
So I started wondering why wasn't I interested in them as I had before. I've been listening to their music since 1998 and for most of my late teenage years and early adulthood they were the ones that, with their music, kept me sane in my hardest moments. At that time, I admired their artistic integrity, and their choice to put music over business in a world that in general terms put money over music. Very naive of me, I know.
I think I can define my relationship with music in three stages. The first one took place during my childhood, with my approach to local artists, which to this day are one of my favorites (namely the greatest Argentinean songwriter of all times, Charly García). The second one was my REM era, where I would only listen to all of their CDs most of the time and nothing else. The third, and definitive one, came when I was in college and met a guy who was into a wide range of music, while simultaneously getting Internet access at home. That really opened my mind and I began exploring a lot of different artists and genres, up to today.
Back in September I came across with a Vampire Weekend song (cape cod kwassa kwassa) while I was listening to some 'indie' radio. Something struck me right away about their music, and I think it was the African beat. I’ve always had a thing for that kind of music and really enjoy the Eastern vibes, so I was kind of curious about them. I got their albums and discovered a richness, both in lyrics and music I couldn't get my hands off. I'm no music expert and I only guide myself with what I like, despite the hypes and critical acclaim, but to me it was one of the greatest discoveries I made this year.
I've been wondering ever since what made this band so appealing to me. At first I guess it was the ‘music of the world’ beats mixed with string arrangements, that sort of east meet west kind of mash up, but then (and specially in the second album) I discovered the complexity of their music, the multiple layers of instruments and samples, all and the (machinery like) mechanisms that makes it work so perfectly, going from a flawless rhythmic base to the baroque works of the keyboard, guitars and voices. I am aware that it’s not like they invented TNT, I can acknowledge their influences and I know they’re not the greatest band in the world either, but mesmerized as I was, I began searching on these guys and found out that they had a self produced album (the keyboardist is the band's producer) and had toured the US for quite a while by themselves. At the same time, they were sending their demos to blogs and such. Pretty much, it was four smart guys hanging out who ended up making decent music, recording it/mixing it with a laptop and consequently hopping on a van to tour somewhere and making themselves a reputation via the interwebz and the way of word. I guess it’s rather simple to do that today, without depending on a label to launch your work to the world (despite being successful or not) and I was curious enough as to try, and ending figuring out that that was the way (again, at an initial level, not taking into account all the hype that was created among them) to do things right. I also discovered that VW not only does interesting music, but they’re also very down to earth in regards of their own popularity, (something that I can speak of) and most important of all, they seem to have fun while they’re at it.
My VW ode is in no way made to make an out of context comparison between them and REM because they both emerged in different times and I’m sure without the internet and computer aid, VW wouldn’t have the level of popularity and recognition they have today. But I think that at the end of the day, you have to make all variables work to end up with a decent work. These kids do, while REM seem to have lost interest in making something that apparently has to be both meaningful to them in an ‘artsy’ way, up to their standards and also that they can enjoy. To me, they have been working only because after NAIHF they had to make another six albums and couldn’t get rid of the deal. Should they have quit when Bill left and go making movies and tin foil sculptures because that was what truly made them happy? As far as I’m concerned, they could’ve done that, they don’t owe me or any other fans anything. Personally, I’d prefer to listen to the albums they made when they were satisfied with what they were doing, rather than having to ‘like’ something that is way below their standards. It should be a matter of dignity on their behalf, as I’m sure it would be to me if I ever find myself doing something I don’t enjoy anymore.
Does the ‘collapse’ of my admiration for REM mean I’m losing my coolness in regards to liking a band that most of 16-year-old girls seem to love unconditionally? I don’t know. Maybe I have and now I’m into a band that is liked by schoolgirls who won’t even pay attention to the complexity of the issues the lyrics talk about -mainly in Contra-, and even by the most elemental Argentinean hipster who loves ‘mansard roof’ because it mentions the Argies, despite it being a clear reference to the failures of my home country. Maybe I’m just prejudging the girls and the hipsters with my ‘I know better than you’ attitude. Maybe now I’m into a band that sells its music to Tommy H and Honda (and the girls are right), when ten years ago I would’ve fight to death the dignity of REM for not being ad ‘sellouts’, which is also quite arguable, I think. Or that I have become a cynic, as I grew older. In the end, I have to admit they’re all in it for the money; although for VW at least we should consider whether or not they’re whoring their tunes out.
I think Radiohead to be a very odd, out of the box example. Why have they done such little promotion? Because evidently, they don’t seem to need it. These are the guys who released In Rainbows for free and even gave you a copy of their album at their live shows. Can you even think of a more inappropriate financial suicide than giving away your stuff for nothing? Who works for nothing these days? (besides me, but that’s another story). As you clearly stated, there is more than one way to promote, even if it implies not promoting anything at all ‘the old fashioned way’. In these times of illegal music downloading if you can’t fight it, join it and take
your money out of touring, which in my opinion is where the real profits are. If you like the band, it doesn’t matter if you buy the album but I’m sure you’ll spend all your money for a ticket.
So yeah, times have changed and REM clearly needs to go with the new trends and figure out clever ways of promotion. Or just leave the boat while they can, with their amazing history and contribution to the music world intact. It’s not up to me, or you or Warner, it is up to them. I guess I’d feel more proud of them if they did that than having to put up with their boring stuff because otherwise I’d feel like I’m betraying them.
I am disappointed about REM and I’m not sure there’s a way back for me, as long as they keep releasing songs named autopilot, antimatter, antiwhatever but at least I guess I can relay to their older stuff while I go to concerts with eighteen year old girls who have a crush on a guy straight out of a Tommy H ad.
For those of you thinking that this site is going down a dark path, I want to encourage you at any time to feel free to offer your own counter-arguments or thoughts on what I am writing. It is quite easy to do. Write down what you want to say and fill out the contact form.
Write about anything that you like. You can agree or disagree with me all that you please.
Some possible things to think about.
- Has R.E.M. been relevant in the 21st Century? Should any of their albums this decade be considered "Classic"?
- Have the songs off of Collapse into Now offered anything fresh and inviting to the music or are we getting a retread of songs that sound as if they were left off of other albums?
- Is there a magic that is missing? Common response I hear is that it sounds like an R.E.M. song but things are not quite right.
- Isn't the opinion "I am just happy they are still together" a nice way to say that the music isn't good?
- Would this site change/stay if you were the webmaster?
Or think of your own subject to write about.
PS - I happened to write about the torture waiting for the new Radiohead album here.
On typical Monday mornings, it’s always a chore to get out of bed but not yesterday. Feeling invigorated after a cool band (Who is Arcade Fire?) won the Album of The Year Grammy, and before anyone could Let England Shake (and props to PJ Harvey for letting me borrow this from her REMring endorsed new album), the guys at Radiohead decided to announce to the world that they were coming out with a new record.
Oh, and the record was coming out this Saturday.
And I thought to myself, what the fuck is going on? How is it possible that a band can come out with an album without months and months of promotion? That is not how the big record companies do it and of course they are big and successful because of their superior knowledge in putting out music. This is what I am used to and not some willy-nilly, oh we are going to come out with a record within the week, and on a Saturday for Christ sakes. Who comes out with albums on a Saturday?
You know, Radiohead is completely fucking up my entire music listening experience, from the random song clip or the single being released on some website to build up my expectations. Their promotion sucks compared to that of R.E.M., oh with their months of preparation for this album.
The Warner Brothers, the record company, had hours to sit in boardrooms to stare at blank walls and pick their noses to figure out how to truly make ‘Collapse Into Now’ a great record; to come out with all the catchy taglines such as ‘A Return To Form’ or ‘Back to their Classic Sound’. How to make all those wonderful videos with the lyrics.
They were able to share with all their favorite reviewers to assure that magazines like Spin put their most favorable R.E.M. fan in charge of the review of course before the fans or some of the fans start shredding it.
All we got from Radiohead was an appreciative statement that they were happy that we waited. With R.E.M. we got the same spiel we get after every record. Peter Buck thinks this is the best album that they have ever done. Michael is not talking, and a series of random facts and figures by Mike. Of course it would be possible to come up with an interview for this album based entirely off of past interviews and it would be completely believable.
We have to stop thinking about the common method for releasing an album is. What Radiohead is proving is that there are more than one methods for large mainstream bands wanting to release music and that does not necessarily mean spending 3 months hyping the shit out of it.
Whatever is in our brains, whether it’s releasing Singles, B-Sides, Tours, Press, no longer applies. We have to start from scratch and have no preconceived notions.
As a sidenote, I have been sitting here listening to the new PJ Harvey album as I type this and it’s continuing a standard for me that the new music that I am checking out and listening is 100 times better than what has been a total and utterly disappointing Collapse of My R.E.M. Fandom.
The songs on the new record blow, blow and blow again. I went from being slightly excited with this release to complete and utter boredom. The question is not whether I will actually like the new album or not to will I actually purchase it. I question whether I will have to change my site address to www.remringpre2k.com.
I wonder whether it would have just been much simpler to just release the album on December when Discoverer was promoted without any press because with fewer preconceived notions I think I would have been much more open to purchasing it.
I wonder whether my tastes and preferences are shifting and I question what is the point to writing about a band that I claim to admire when all that comes out of my mouth these days is crap, crap and more crap.
I question how anyone in the R.E.M. office likes this site. (And I do question why it has not been removed. Not that it would get me upset as I can totally understand a business having issues with a guy on a blog ragging on their wares).
I have done my spleen-venting and maybe it’s just time to move past the site to something better . . .
'It Happened Today' is now available in it's deconstructed parts whereby users can go, download all the tracks and recreate their own version of the song and post it here.
It is nice to see the band doing something a little forward-thinking in allowing the consumer to play around with the deconstructed tracks to assemble a completely unique song.
I haven't provided myself enough time to give Uberlin a fair shot as of yet, which is the reason for my delayed response in commenting on this song. And since Mr. Marrone is unavailable I will hold off on providing any correspondence this time around.
At this point, I feel that the song has the potential to be a grower if the new album is something that I am looking at playing pretty consistently (which is obviously becoming part of the problem so far). I would guess that it's in the same vein as something like 'Monty Got a Raw Deal', a good album track.
And I think that is the deal with the great albums is that on your typical awesome 10-12 track album, the ones that you admire that there are 6-8 awesome songs and the others fit where they may. However, over time you begin to admire these tracks more than some of the hits.
So I guess we will have to see how the entire album pans out and make the appropriate comments at that time.
Matt Marrone's Response:
As much as you might want me to, I can't convince you that the new songs are good and I can't force you to like them. I'm a pretty stingy, stubborn critic myself. But in my initial disgust over Around the Sun, I realized in horror that my worst fears had come true -- R.E.M. was no longer truly relevant. At first I was angry, bitter, resentful -- and all around a pretty miserable son of a bitch on certain message boards. But, as the weeks and months passed, I came to terms with it -- and, like many things in life, the worrying was far worse than the reality. I've since found new artists to take R.E.M.'s place on the pedestal, and ever since, I've been perfectly fine winning small battles with the band, without worrying about the greater war.
I think this paragraph sums it up for me. Yes, my heart says that I want R.E.M. to make that last great album and then ride into the sunset just like "The Masked Man" did with Tonto and the Horse. My brain, however, says that the writing is on the wall and that this is not possible so when my heart and brain meet for a summit it's been determined that they just be relevant. And I guess from the songs that have been provided so far is that relevance is not an option, either.
And lastly, between the bullshit 3 month marketing blitz that makes me want to vomit and comments from the bandmembers themselves, which promote the same crap, that by the time this album is going to come out I am going to be so exhausted I will not want to listen to it anyhow.
Ah the joys of blogging!