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.

“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. **

Music Review: R.E.M.’s “Live at the Olympia in Dublin: 39 Songs”

Originally posted 2009-10-30 17:25:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

Sometimes, the big publications just get it all wrong.

In his Rolling Stone review of R.E.M.’s Live at the Olympia in Dublin, Will Hermes writes, “This two-CD/one-DVD document captures intimate, occasionally great performances.”  He goes on to add, “If Michael Stipe sometimes sounds like he’s reading lyrics off his computer, it’s because, well, he actually was.”

If I have to read one more cleverly phrased review bestowing a mediocre rating upon a release I love, I swear I’ll lose it.

Live at the Olympia in Dublin spills over with positive energy, the kind of energy that leaves fans breathless and voiceless after a night of singing, screaming, and giddily laughing.  Stipe’s voice is hardly robotic, as Hermes might have you understand.  His vocals alternate between smooth and clear deliveries at some points, alternately cracking in all the right places at others.

And the computer is hardly a crutch.  It’s more a means of on-stage schtick for Stipe and the band.  It is apparent that he is getting a kick out of reading others’ interpretations of his eighties-era, admittedly very mumbled lyrics.  (He has since come over to the good side, including lyrics in all R.E.M. booklets since Up.)

And it’s genuinely funny to hear him reading them, reflecting on them, and moving on to the present day, namely his evolved sensibilities and more recent material.

What really gets me is that Hermes refers to the tracks I had most looked forward to — the Accelerate outtakes — as “solid.”  This is an overstatement.  I was far from impressed with the outtakes, and although I had so hoped to tout them as the forgotten gems of their 2008 sessions, I simply had to admit to myself, Well, I suppose these guys knew what they were doing when they assembled Accelerate.

And that is precisely what has renewed my interest in R.E.M.  I’ve always liked Stipe’s attitude, and I’m continually drawn to R.E.M.’s unique, raw-but-refined instrumental sound.  And yet I’ve been hard-pressed to find any albums that stand out to me, certainly not enough to stand up to some of the great albums of all time.

Then, along came Accelerate.

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

Their 2008 studio album — their fourteenth at that — is a tremendous record.  There are catchy electric hooks, acoustic underpinnings, great lyrics, and Michael Stipe’s perfectly ragged vocals seasoning and binding it all together.  What truly distinguishes this record is the energy that simply oozes from the seams.  And this doesn’t come across as some aging group of rock and rollers embarking on a pitiful attempt to recapture past heights — after all, R.E.M. never was known for being all that rocking a band.

Watch the music video for “Living Well is the Best Revenge,” and you’ll immediately observe the youthful, creative force of a group of men who love what they do.  The song is performed while driving around in a car, acoustic guitars squeezed into the small vehicle, the steering wheel converted — while driving, mind you — into the percussion instrument of choice.  It looks like they’re having a lot of fun, and that comes through more than anything else on the record.

Rolling Stone reviewer Hermes apparently longs for the days when “Stipe’s vibrato-seizure vocals and Rorschach-blot ‘lyrics’ clung to songs exploding at the seams.”  He comments that, instead, “The stitching is tighter now, and drummer Bill Rieflin often holds things together too neatly.”

Say what you will about Rieflin’s drumming — and it’s not groundbreaking or award winning, but it gets the job done.  I draw the line at his allusion-dropping, not-so-subtle riff on Stipe’s vocals, as if to imply that something has been lost.

If that’s true, then something has been lost on me.

R.E.M., as Live at the Olympia in Dublin continues to suggest, is more alive and well than they have been in a good long time.  If living well is truly the best revenge, then Stipe, Mills, and Buck are bound to have the last laugh.  Their on-stage personas, musical chemistry, and ability to dig deeply into their catalog to populate their shifting set lists — never mind their willingness to exercise their unfinished work during live, recorded performances — continue to breathe new life and vibrancy into all their work, both past and present.

If you’re ready to live in the moment, then you should really give these guys a listen.