“Living Well is the Best Revenge” (R.E.M. Cover)

Originally posted 2008-06-27 11:36:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to an all-new weekend edition of the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song video blog! We’ve been doing a lot of work on the site recently, in terms of adding new features and new material to the Laptop Sessions site as well as promoting it so that we will bring in new fans to this great venture. For instance, by this weekend, we will be adding category descriptions for each of the artists we have covered — these will provide interesting background information on their songwriting, information on both original and cover songs that the artists have produced, and share some information about what material has been used for the Laptop Sessions thus far.

And now, without further ado, on to the Laptop Session of the day! I am pleased to bring you the album starter from this year’s R.E.M. release, Accelerate, “Living Well is the Best Revenge.” When the album first came out, I was interested in it, but I had my doubts. I do own both volumes of R.E.M.’s greatest hits, but I really only love about half of the tracks — I would have personally preferred a one disc greatest hits, but that’s just me. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t sure how I would feel about an entire album, especially when their last few albums have received mediocre music reviews. Still, I was interested, so I took a shot…

And I’m so glad that I did! The album is one of my favorites from this year. The music is upbeat and rocking, the vocals are strong and the lyrics interesting, and there is really only one song on the album that I’m not crazy about. The packaging of the deluxe edition (which, yes, I bought — I’m a sucker for attractive CD packaging…) is impressive. There is a booklet tied together loosely with string and a subtitle on the front cover that reads “This will fall apart.” And I don’t doubt that it would if I pulled on the pages too hard…

This song, “Living Well is the Best Revenge” is a great album starter. The verse is really only one chord, so I hope I’ve done it justice. Without the fullness of the other instruments, it just doesn’t sound the same, but you need to watch one other YouTube video after mine — the official R.E.M. music video for the song. They recorded it while driving in a car — the drummer, who is driving, is literally using the steering wheel for the percussion in the song. It’s a great idea that I wish my band MoU had thought of before, as we have been known to rehearse for gigs in the back of our bassist’s van!

That’s all from me for now; make sure to check back tomorrow for an all-new, amazing video blog entry from Jeff…

See you next session!



R.E.M.’s “Accelerate” (2008) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-07-11 23:30:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  5 / 5 stars

Raw energy, often the domain of a young band, is that elusive intangible that surges and passes and that, even when it is present, cannot always be tamed.  Sadly, it can be lost in veteran bands, and replaced though it may be with the polished products that come with years of practice, it is a poignant loss.

On Accelerate, R.E.M. recaptures this element for the first time in years with some of the most engaging recordings of their career.  Considering that their discography stretches a quarter of a century across fifteen studio albums, it is significant to claim Accelerate as one of the strongest albums in the R.E.M. catalog.

And it is.

Barely passing a half an hour in length, Accelerate — true to its name — attacks numerous focal points in politics and society with distortion guitars and biting lyricism.  Somehow, the band manages to strike a balance across the eleven tracks, including slower, more introspective tracks like “Until the Day is Done” and “Hollow Man” in what is otherwise a full-on alternative rock assault.

A less seasoned band might have forgotten to take the time to breathe.

The aforementioned tracks are not the standouts, but they are the pillars of the album.  “Until the Day is Done” is a thinly veiled protest song, thumping out the thematic pulse of the album as a whole.  Michael Stipe sings of “an addled republic, a bitter refund” and warns that “the verdict is dire, the country’s in ruins.”

Written near the end of George W. Bush’s time in office, Stipe’s references are crystal clear.  How have we responded to our state of affairs?  “We’ve written our stories to entertain these notions of glory and bull market gain.”  He goes on to conjure an Orwellian society as he sings, “An easyspeak message falls into routine.”

This is a stark vision, punctuated as it is with the self-doubt of questions like “What have I done?” and “Where are we left to carry on until the day is done?”

Lest this album be represented as preachy or whiny, it stands to be noted that there is just as much self-reflection woven into these tracks.  Consider “Hollow Man,” a song which finds Stipe reflecting on “saying things I didn’t mean and don’t believe.”

The voice that Stipe takes on here is one quite familiar to many individuals in a modern age driven by so-called ideals of productivity and consumerism: “I’m overwhelmed, I’m on repeat.  I’m emptied out, I’m incomplete.  You trusted me, I want to show you I don’t want to be the hollow man.”  It might be easy to overlook the reflective aspects in Stipe’s lyrics amidst the more scathing remarks, yet the album’s greatest strength is its balance between pointing out external as well as internal inconsistencies and failings.

Taking this heart on one’s sleeve approach into consideration, these two tracks in particular, may serve to bring the remaining nine tracks even more sharply into focus.

R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" (2008)

R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" (2008)

“Living Well is the Best Revenge” is an excellent opening track; the instrumental components are reason enough to set this song on repeat, driven as it is by Peter Buck’s gritty guitar parts, Mike Mills’ frenetic bass line, and Bill Rieflin’s breakneck pacing on drums.  Stipe’s vocals set the tone for the other songs to come, spewing out lines about poison spinning into “the life you’d hoped to live” and lashing out with epithets like “you weakened shill.”  Likewise, “Living Well is the Best Revenge” serves up the first round of religious allusions, Stipe singing of lambs to slaughter, “sad and lost apostles,” and asking “the gospel according to…who?”

This is followed up by “Man-Sized Wreath,” which boasts lyrics on par with the best Stipe has ever written.  The song opens with a continued reference to the media (think: “camera three” from the previous track, in addition to numerous later lines), “Turn on the TV, what do I see?  A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up for me, wow.”  It would seem from these lines that the “man-sized wreath” is the metaphor for those news anchors and other television personalities who contribute their “empty gestures” to the “pageantry” of the boob tube.

Later, Stipe sings that our “judgement [is] clouded with fearful thoughts,” but by the end of the song, he asserts that “I am not deceived by pomp and odious conceit.”  This song could be a call to buck the system – “Throw it on the fire, throw it in the air; kick it out on the dance floor like you just don’t care” — or a tongue in cheek request to join in the “festivities” that so many seem so comfortable to be a part of — “Give me some…”

Either way, there is something quite sad about the way in which Stipe states, “I’d have thought by now we would be ready to proceed.”

It doesn’t get much darker than three tracks later on “Houston,” as they kick off the song with an opening organ barrage that sounds like a cross between industrial noise and a funeral dirge.  Stipe fires off with “If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will,” although he quickly adds, “Gotta get that out of my head.”  For all his harsh words, there is still hope and beauty in the places that Stipe sings of — Texan cities: coincidence? — as he clarifies that the “meaning has not been erased.”

By “Mr. Richards,” the frustration lurking underneath “Houston” is directed at one man, to whom Stipe asserts, “You can thump your chest and rattle, stand in front of your piano, but we know what’s going on… we’re the children of the choir.”  This is a shift from the perspective of “Man-Sized Wreath” — whereas before it was Stipe against the world, now it seems that there is a sense of unity with his audience.  Mr. Richard’s “camp moved on” and “the public’s got opinions,” “we’ve begun to bridge the schism.”

Progress is being made.

Stipe is practically cheery by the next track, “Sing for the Submarine,” reassuring that “It’s all a lot less frightening than we would’ve had it be.”  Here, “lift[ing] up your voice” is the way to fight the machine: “we’ll pick it all up and start again.”  Still, the instruments and even Stipe’s vocal delivery belies the hope expressed in his words:  the drums plodding, the bass playing ominous, and the guitar haunting.

In “Horse to Water,” Stipe notes, “I could have kept my head down.  I might have kept my mouth shut…  You lead a horse to water and you watch him drown.”  This firmly establishes “Horse to Water” as a statement on the album as a whole, particularly with Stipe following up in the chorus by singing, “It’s not that easy.  I am not your horse to water.  I hold my breath, I come around, round, round.”

In the special edition lyric booklet, a full two page spread is devoted to the final line of the song: “this run around… IS BOUND TO POUND THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOU.”  Bottom line?  The state of affairs that Stipe and company have cut a path through to expose and expound on are very real.  Earlier, on the title track, Stipe sings, “I’m not alone, a thousand others dropping faster than me,” so Accelerate is clearly an album that calls for community.

It is primarily an album that digs into the uglier aspects of our private lives and the least sunny undercurrents of our society, and yet does so with a sense of unabashed honesty and even, at times, levity.  Take the single “Supernatural Superserious,” which deals with identity via the metaphor of the “humiliation of your teenage station.”  “I’m Gonna DJ” is only the second outstanding end-of-the-world rocker that R.E.M. has cooked up, and it’s perfectly placed as the closing track.

It’s saying something when a song about the end of the world is a welcome, light respite from the topic matter of the first ten tracks.

Throughout, R.E.M. succeeds in handling the topic matter with the perfect sound and a fitting sense of the greater scheme of things.  Even the booklet is branded with the caption “This book will fall apart.”  Aside from the fact that they’re not kidding (seriously: it’s tied together loosely with some thin thread), this is a nuanced manner of adding to the overall theme of decay.

The chorus of the title track, itself situated at the heart of the album, says it best:  “Where is the rip chord, the trap door, the key?  Where is the cartoon escape hatch?  No time to question the choices I make.  I’ve got to fall in another direction.  Accelerate.”  The message seems clear enough, a call for change that is desperately needed.  Read this as you will, either as a personal statement or as an indictment of the nation.  Regardless, the determination to be realistic and forthcoming is a quality we all too often lack when faced when crises come creeping into our lives.

It is human to see “the future turned upside down” and it is oh so very Prufrockian to “hesitate.”

If I read Stipe right, hesitation simply is no longer an option.  The solution seems to be to change direction and… you guessed it: accelerate.

“Living Well is the Best Revenge” by R.E.M. – Chords & How to Play

Originally posted 2010-07-14 23:30:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Living Well is the Best Revenge”
R.E.M.

B
It’s only when your poison spins into the life you’d hoped to live
and suddenly you wake up in a shaken panic
B            A         B
now…

You had set me up like a lamb to slaughter,
Garbo as a farmer’s daughter.
Unbelievable.  The gospel according to… who?
I lay right down.

F#
All your sad and lost apostles
A                             E
hum my name and flare their nostrils,
F#                                                     A
choking on the bones you tossed to them.
F#
Now I’m not one to sit and spin because
A                       E
living well is the best revenge, and
D               A                    E
baby, I am calling you on that.

Don’t turn your talking points on me.
History will set me free.
The future is ours and you don’t even rate a footnote.
now…

So who’s chasing you?
Where did you go, you disappear mid-sentence in a judgement crisis…
I see my in and go for it.  You weakened shill.

All your sad and lost apostles
hum my name and flare their nostrils,
choking on the bones you tossed to them.
Now I’m not one to sit and spin
because living well is the best revenge,
and baby, I am calling you on that.

You, savor your dying breath.
I forgive but I don’t forget.
You work it out.  Let’s hear that argument again.  Camera 3.  Go.  Now.

All your sad and lost apostles
hum my name and flare their nostrils,
choking on the bones you tossed to them.
Now I’m not one to sit and spin
because living well is the best revenge,
and baby, I am calling you on that.
baby, I am calling you on that.
baby, I am calling you on that.

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s).  They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

My 100th “Favorite” YouTube Video!

By Chris Moore:

Hello all you faithful Laptop Sessions viewers!  I’m back so soon after my previous post to announce a milestone that, in all actuality, doesn’t really mean all that much to anyone other than me…

…my 100th “favorite” YouTube video!!

That’s right, today I clicked on the “Favorite” button for the 100th time since I signed up for YouTube on October 26, 2007.  I figured that it was time to take a retrospective glance back through my 100 favorite videos and choose the top ten best videos — my votes for the ten best videos on YouTube.  You may not agree with me, and you may even outright disagree with some of my choices.  But you can tell a lot about me based just on these ten.

So, without further ado, here they are in reverse order:

10)  “Please Stay” Live at the Webster Theatre

Possibly my all-time favorite moment touring with MoU, and it’s captured here on video!  We played not only the Webster Theatre but, as a last-minute promotion, the main stage!  This is probably one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written and my favorite performance — for once, I think we all felt like we had, if only for a moment, made it to the big time.

9)  Counting Crows – “1492” Live in the Studio

What a cool video — an inside peek into what the recording process looks like for one of my favorite bands, as they recorded one of my favorite albums of the year!

8)  The Wallflowers – “Beautiful Side of Somewhere”

This is the official music video for this Rebel, Sweetheart track.  It’s such an interesting concept, incredibly rendered.  I love to watch it.  I love to listen to it.  And I NEVER would have seen it without YouTube for two reasons — one, I never watch music video television, and two, those stations would never play the Wallflowers anyway.  (Which is a big reason why I don’t watch them!)

7)  Jeff Tweedy – People Talking During Concert

This is the video that officially pushed my interest in Wilco and Jeff Tweedy to the next level.  I officially felt like I had reached fan status after watching this and cracking up, loving his onstage presence and personality.  I could see Jim or I wanting to say this to some of the crowds we have played in front of!

6)  TNA: Sting arrives to help Christian Cage

One big change for me this year has been my loyal viewing of wrestling.  I never would have believed it if someone had told me even a couple years ago that I would spend every Thursday in Jim’s parents’ movie theater of a basement, eagerly awaiting the next match on TNA: Impact!.  But I do, and this video is one of my all-time favorites.  Does it get any better than seeing Christian Cage in the ring (albeit a not-so-flattering moment for him) and then seeing the lights go down, only to come back on to the sight of Sting clearing house?  The answer is no!

5)  Elliott Smith on David Letterman

One of my absolute favorite videos and truly proving the merits of YouTube, as I would never have seen this performance of Smith’s “Stupidity Tries” otherwise.  It’s not just that it’s a great performance, but I love to watch this because — if only for three minutes — the typically reclusive Smith took center stage on a primary late-night talk show, playing one of his best tracks from perhaps his greatest album.  I love it!

4)  R.E.M. – “Living Well is the Best Revenge”

This is the music video they released for this track off their 2008 album Accelerate.  What an intriguing concept: play the song in the car, while driving!  This is exactly what Jim, Mike, and I would do when we were in high school and college, just driving around and making up ridiculous songs (especially when accompanied by Alberto Distefano)!  A great YouTube find…

3)  Adam Sandler – 50 First Dates

This is the first of two videos that Jim will no doubt recall… as I played him this Adam Sandler clip about 100 times this past year.  He already had a similar clip on his iTunes that I used to beg him to play every time I saw he was on his computer with iTunes open.  It’s hilarious, classic Adam Sandler combined with a reference to the Beach Boys.  How could it get any better?

2)  Barenaked Ladies- “Pollywog in a Bog (Extended Version)

I first chose the Kevin Hearn-illustrated “Drawing” video for this list.  Then, I remembered this amazing music video for this Snacktime track.  This is one that you will enjoy — any age, any musical preference, whether you like BNL or not.  Puppets playing musical instruments, a reggae-style middle, and did I mention REALLY cute puppets?  Yet another case of BNL creating impressive work that relatively few will ever see.

And, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

1)  Super Troopers – Farva food scene

Okay, this comes with the disclaimer that this is some mature language in this clip.  And by some, I mean a lot.  But it is, hands down, my favorite YouTube clip of all time.  It is my favorite moment in the Super Troopers movie.  It makes me laugh no matter how many times I play it, and I’ve played it a lot.  If I played the Adam Sandler clip for Jim 100 times, then I played this one for him 1,000 times!  And, whenever I watch or even think of it, I am reminded of spending fun, relaxing times with my closest friends of all-time, watching late-night movies, eating late-night snacks and Taco Bell, drinking fruity-flavored beers, and just enjoying life.  So, this video wins based on all the criteria I can think of — number of times played, memories evoked while viewing, overall quality, etc.  Go ahead, you know you’re interested…

http://www.youtube.com/chrismooremusic

Okay, I can’t resist.  Here are the “HONORABLE MENTIONS:”

– “Sting Custom Titantron (TNA Theme)” – Very appropriate (and oft-employed by yours truly) while turning the light off and on, appearing with a baseball bat to beat up a friend.  Jim can vouch for this one!

– “The Wallflowers – ‘One Headlight’ (Feat. Bruce Springsteen)” – The clip isn’t the best quality, but the performance is top-notch, the duet is a match made in heaven (in my mind, at least), and I would have completely missed out on this great video if it hadn’t been for YouTube!

– “Cowboys of Moo Mesa intro” – For some reason, I found this online after a conversation with Jim and just played it and played it.  And played it.  And played it some more.  I think Jim, Mike, and I will someday do a full-band version of this… that’s how well we know it now!  And YOU tell ME — how many people do you have in your life that know the “Cowboys of Moo Mesa” lyrics by heart?  There you go ladies, that’s at least one reason to look up my number and cross your fingers…  :-)