Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Musical temptation

Pretty much once I got to college R.E.M. became my favorite band. It started happening in early high school with the release of Out of Time; looking back, not the band's best work but Losing My Religion and Belong really hold up. (Side note, I saw Mike Mills at a restaurant the other night). It was Automatic for the People, which featured video after video in heavy rotation on MTV, especially Alternative Nation, that converted me.

"Nightswimming" (the sonic embodiement of cherished innocence and daring) is still in my top 2 favorite songs ever, along with Rilo Kiley's "Pictures of Success."

And for a few years after that they continued to be my IT band releasing great albums like Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi (largely overlooked in the catalog, but very strong). Then drummer Bill Berry decided to leave the band and the band's sound changed. Not that they were ever a hard-driving rock band, but with Up and Reveal a mellower R.E.M. emerged, I'm sure not coincidental with the members' aging. Despite the mellower vibe, they were decent albums, especially Reveal.

However, mellower but decent ended with Around the Sun, which kinda blows. It's BORING, perhaps the worst indictment against any art. Perhaps Michael Stipe was more focused on his political activism or other creative endeavours, but the formerly oblique lyrics gave way to unmoving platitudes. (If it weren't so late I'd look some up, perhaps I'll revise this entry).

Had the band of my incredibly impressionable college fire burned out? It couldn't be. I've seen them three times: 1995, 1999, 2003, and each time was significantly better. The 2003 show, which was in support of the band's greatest hits album, is one of my Top 10 shows ever probably. They clearly still had it in them when they were presenting great music.

So for the last few years, I've held out hope that something big was coming. One last hurrah. Dave has held that they had one great album left. As someone about my age and from a similar background, he also was a big fan who fell into a recent disillusionment. He's also Mr. Rolling Stones so he knows of aging bands chasing the dollar and going through the motions. Wow, I'm employing lots of cliches in my late-nightinshness.

Anyway, the good news is that all fall the band holed up in Ireland to work on Accelerate, which is due April 1. The buzz has been hot. They've plugged back in (some at least) and played a bunch of working rehearsals that got great reviews in Rolling Stone and in forums. This is promising too ...

1 comment:

The Reel Man said...

It's going to be the album of the year! Crap, did I just jinx it?!