R.E.M. announces breakup… a primer on the reactionary articles

Originally posted 2011-09-22 06:28:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

R.E.M. is a band that I feel like I have always known about, a group that has somehow worked its way into the cultural fabric of the past several decades.  Watching a post-apocalyptic thriller, the chances are better than not that you’ll hear “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”  The number of classic, epic, and usually beautifully simple ballads that they’ve released is staggering: “Losing My Religion,” “Everybody Hurts,” and “The One I Love” to name only a few.

Now, after over thirty years as a band, they have, according to the official announcement on their website, “decided to call it a day as a band… [and] walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.”

So, before you take the time to scour the internet, looking for articles, yearning for some sign that this might all somehow be a mistake, allow me to save you some time.  First: as of this writing, my best advice would be:

Skip the articles and go directly to the R.E.M. H.Q. official home page.

That’s where you’ll find the band’s official announcement, direct messages from each of the band members, and the Warner Brothers press release.  All the other articles I’ve read have simply copied and pasted from these sources, and added little or nothing to the conversation.  The only other vital piece of information has come from owner of the R.E.M. fan community Murmurs and former Senior Vice President of Emerging Technology at Warner Bros. Records Ethan Kaplan, who has suggested that internal pressures at the label may have been the catalyst for this breakup.  For that, you should cruise on over to Wikipedia and prepare to hate all things corporate even more than you might have before.

I suppose there isn’t much to say right now.  There isn’t much to do, except cue up some R.E.M. on your iPod, reminisce about their hits and misses, and prepare for the slew of retrospective articles and “essential songs” playlists that are certain to saturate the world wide web in the coming weeks.  While I wait, perhaps I’ll add my own brief story to those even now being written around the world:

My knowledge of R.E.M. in a vague sense finally passed away the day I stood, as a college student between classes, in the aisle of Best Buy, interested in their greatest hits.  Of course, there wasn’t one definitive collection, so I stood pondering between the best of the I.R.S. years and the best of the Warner Bros. years.  Eventually, I chose the pricier third option of buying them both!

What I heard didn’t thrill me at first.  And, even to this day, I understand the opinion I’ve heard from others that “all their songs sound the same.”  That being said, discovering the music of R.E.M. has been like an adventure for me, one that began not with the greatest hits, but with 2008’s Accelerate.  The grungy, subversive rock and roll vitality of this album turned me on to the band in a way that none of their other music did or has since.  Since then, I have been picking up their back catalog one used CD and one remastered Deluxe Edition at a time.

While it has been a very rewarding experience and I’ve developed a serious appreciation, and even a love, for R.E.M., nothing I’ve heard has equaled the force of Accelerate (and I realize I’m about the only person on the planet who feels this way).  This year’s Collapse Into Now is a marvelous record, if only for the manner in which they merged the energy of Accelerate with the classic sound they created in their youth and developed over a long career.

I will end with a plea to all those paid writers out there now, preparing their pieces for the major magazines and websites they work for:  Please avoid the mundane reductions of this band’s massive career.  And please — pretty please — don’t add to the “R.E.M. had declined recently” rhetoric that is still out there.  The late nineties and early 2000s was a period of decline to be certain, but they had recently undergone an infusion of energy and vitality that I, for one, have been excited about — it has been the one force, of all their various talents expressed throughout the years, that has interested me in their music — and it will be sorely missed.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” (REM Cover)

Originally posted 2012-03-11 09:58:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Good evening to you!  I just had a wonderful run of Dynamis, then realized “Oh yeah, I am fresh out of videos for today!”  Thankfully, I had one ready to play and record, and you are in the right place to listen to it!

The song I have selected for today is by one of my favorite bands from my entire life, REM.  This song “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” was a single from their album “Monster”, which is home to some of my favorite REM songs.  The album itself has a wide range of sound, but a common element is the “fuzz” guitar sound that seems constant in nearly every track.  This song is not an exception to that trend, but naturally here at laptopsessions.com, we give you acoustic guitar and an in-tune voice to go along with it!

There’s been some debate to the last line of the song.  Most places i’ve read lyrics to the song say the last line is “I’ve never understood, don’t f*** with me, uh-huh”.  However, the radio play version I have heard countless times does not alter this last line that is in the CD version.  It leads me to believe the last line does not include the f word.  However, I still can’t figure out what it is.  So you will notice a change in the last line which does not change the meaning of the line at all.

This is also unique because the song has no acoustic guitar track, so hearing this played back is quite unique to me as well.

I hope you enjoy this latest installment, and I know you’ll be back tomorrow for our favorite day of the week, as Jim dips into his library of original goodies for a great session installment.  I’ll be here to watch it, and I know you will be as well!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

Reflections on Rock Music: "Alternative" to What? (Part One in a Series of Articles)

Originally posted 2012-01-23 10:00:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

PART ONE: “Alternative” to What?

By Chris Moore:

Classifying and categorizing, partitioning and labeling.  As humans, we love to take hold of vast, mysterious expanses and sort through them, putting neat little tags on each of the pieces and placing — sometimes forcing — them together into nicely packaged puzzles.  We call it “studying” and academia has often been dominated by experts who take pleasure in putting their knowledge to good use.

Now, this is certainly not all bad, but it’s certainly not all good.  On the one hand, we need labels to help us understand relevance and form connections across time periods and genres.  It is vital to understand that romantic writers are different from realist writers for a very specific set of reasons, a very specific set of beliefs about human nature and life itself.  This being said, on the other hand, we sometimes get to a point in certain subjects when the labels, tags, and titles become cumbersome.

Rock music, I assert, has become one of those subjects.

If you are a fan of any band and have done any research online, then it should not shock you to learn just how many different genres of music there are.  Indeed, it is not so much that there are too many genres, yet it seems there are too many categories or sub-genres.  I understand there is a clear and necessary distinction between classical music and pop/rock music.  I even understand the need for titles such as “Neo-Classical” and others that serve the purpose of tracking music over a number of decades, even centuries.  However, rock music, for all intents and purposes, has only been around since the 1950s.  In less than sixty years, music critics and rock historians have managed to accumulate quite the catalog of titles by which to…um, catalog…rock music.

Tonight, I’ll tackle the term “alternative” rock.

I love alternative rock.  And, having said that, I must admit that I’m not sure at times what alternative rock actually means or includes.  For instance, the term alternative rock — or alternative music or alt-rock — has come to be used as an umbrella term for a wide range of acts in the 1980s, 1990s, and beyond.  Alternative rock has branched out and flowered into dozens and dozens of subgroups.  There’s punk rock, grunge, new wave, and post-punk just to name a few.  I like to think that I’ve done my research and I’ve listened to a wide range of rock music, and yet I have little to no idea of the specific criteria that separate one sub-group from the next.

What I find most interesting — and what I’d like to focus on in the remainder of this article — is the idea of “alternative” rock.  We all know that rock essentially began in the 1950s and 1960s, starting with its roots in folk and country and blues.  (This could, of course, be fodder for an entirely different article!)  After the age of classic performers like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry passed, the age of songwriter performers was ushered in by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and many others.  The seventies unfolded another series of events in rock music history, probably most notably the beginning of the unraveling of the relationship between pop and rock.

Then came the 1980s.  With the eighties came the popularization of technology in music, which we all recognize today in the signature synthesized sounds of many if not most popular eighties singles.  In retrospect, many look back on this and laugh.  The eighties have been the breeding grounds for some hilarious parodies and comedies in the 1990s and even more recently.

That being said, there were some bands in the eighties that wanted to play rock music, and yet they did not seem to fit in to any particular mold.  Take R.E.M. for example.  R.E.M.’s debut album, Murmur, sounds nothing like the popular music of 1983.  Still, as Mitch Easter points out in the liner notes to the re-release of the album, they didn’t necessarily sound like anything that had come before, either.  This is interesting because this alternative rock band chose to play the same instruments that rock musicians had been playing for decades — guitar, bass, and drums.  The basics.  R.E.M. may play the classic instruments, but the overall sound was drastically different from other rock music.  In addition to Peter Buck’s guitar sound, Michael Stipe’s vocals are characteristically difficult to understand on their early work.  This is quite a departure from the multi-layered harmonies and lyric-centered rock of previous decades.  Although they would go on to develop and mature in their style, that first album seems to have set a tone that many look back to as an early marker in the alternative rock music movement.

Since the eighties, more and more bands have sought to create an “alternative” to the norm.  Some bands keep more of the traditional elements than others, and some have more of a respect for the rock of old than others.  This idea of “alternative” really does appeal to me, as I believe it appealed to a great many avid listeners in the 1980s and 1990s.  I came of age in the late nineties, just as alternative music’s hold on the national attention was waning.  Nirvana had come and gone.  Somewhere along the way, “alternative” rock seems to have been born, risen to popularity, and then receded into the background.  I hear some remnants of alt rock in some of the indie and the punk/emo music being made now.  And yet, it feels fractured and insignificant to me.  It truly feels as if I am a man out of time — if only I could have appreciated the music that was being created, recorded, and performed when I was a toddler!

As I scroll through the Wikipedia post on alternative rock music, I find the range of subgenres to be daunting.  There’s Britpop, college, rock, geek rock, gothic rock, noise pop, post-rock, twee pop, alternative metal, industrial rock, and so much more.  I’ll have to check out math rock — that’s one I’d never even heard of!

In my relatively brief time as a consumer of all things rock, I have felt a more and more profound splintering of the genre of rock.  Particularly in the alternative rock category, it feels as if any semblance of unity has been abandoned to a vast multitude of record labels, genre titles, and music magazines.  I wonder if there ever actually was a more unified feel to the alternative music of the 1980s and 1990s, or even of the classic rock of the 1950s and 1960s, but I suppose I’ll never know.

I suppose I can only continue to thumb through the used CD racks and fill in the gaps one album — one song — at a time.