Thursday, March 29, 2012

R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction

R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction
I.R.S., 1985
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2010
Price: $2

Oh yeah! I forgot I had this R.E.M. album too. Sadly, I still don’t get it. It’s like when I was 16 and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had just come out to rave reviews and I was just starting to get into music-music and I just for the life of me did not understand Wilco not one bit. Then a few years later it all clicked and they became my favorite band until I converted to GBV. Maybe that will happen with R.E.M., I don’t know, but I find it incredibly hard to find elements that make them compelling outside of the fact that they were pioneering this sound. But it’s ancient history. Sure there’s influences a-dozen, a-million even, but the music feels flat out of context. For me, at least, but I have no context. I don’t know why I feel such guilt about thinking R.E.M. is boring. It’s like some sort of fake credibility gauge in my brain that says I have to at least appreciate what R.E.M. was doing, and I do I do I do, but there’s this other part that says I have to like it and I know that’s not true. And maybe this is all something that will be rectified when I do this “Guided Tour of R.E.M.” thing and listen to their output album by album. Maybe that’ll manufactures some artificial context that is impossible for me to have organically. Fables of the Reconstruction is only an album removed from Murmur, and it sounds so much more advanced, like the progress that this band makes is exponential and I can see how that kept them pioneers and such. And I don’t hate it. The second half was more pleasant than the seemingly dark and brooding first (“Green Grow the Rushes” is extra pleasant right now). And I suppose “Driver 8” is a pretty rock solid jam, even though I’d never be like “Oh man I wanna listen to ‘Driver 8.’” Just one of those songs that if it came on I wouldn’t change the station. I just hope I can revisit this post later and be all “Pff what the fuck was I talking about this record is the JAM.”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

R.E.M. - Murmur

R.E.M. – Murmur
IRS, 1983
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $1.50

The biggest “living the dream” moment I had while working at KJHK wasn’t the sense of unity I felt, the sense of responsibility I gained, or the fact that I finally found something that I truly loved to do. It was getting to takeover hosting duties of my favorite radio show. After a year and a half in my self-imposed indie-pop ghetto, I got Alternative Flashback. It was an important moment for me. A little triumph. It was important because Alternative Flashback is the show that made me start to dig deeper. To take the modern music I loved and trace it back to the 80s and 90s. It was effectively a time machine that sent the listener back to the golden age of college radio for two hours every week. And somehow I hosted the show without ever listening to R.E.M. It seems really bizarre now. I knew a bit about college rock, etc (not nearly as much as Justin or Gabe, mind you) going into it but I was thrilled to learn on the job, and yet somehow R.E.M. eluded me due to the simple fact that I thought they were boring. And still to this day I can’t think of a single R.E.M. track that I’ve heard that I remember thinking “goddamn that’s an amazing song!” Maybe that’s not true. I picked up a scratched up copy of New Adventures in Hi-Fi for a buck at work and enjoyed it, but then again, I can only remember that high note Michael Stipe hits in the first song. Anyway, I don’t know how someone who hosted a college rock radio show did it without knowing one of the (if not THE) most important college rock band there is. It just feels like I missed the boat and where people five or so years my senior are safe asail the good ship R.E.M., I stand like a cartoon character with three question marks drawn over my head. BUT, I’ve been listening to Murmur a lot lately, making a real go of it. An honest effort. And the more I listen, the more I peg references used by other bands (read: every other jangly pop band that came after) past and present. “Shaking Through,” "Catapult" and (natch) “Radio Free Europe” are the two jams I can easily remember upon relistening with an “Oh yeah I like this one” sorta fondness. It’ll be interesting to see what a little immersion does.