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Band: R.E.M.

Vote and debate.

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R.E.M.?

Crap
72
32%
Not Crap
153
68%
 
Total votes : 225

Postby Superking on Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:38 pm

I have fond memories of REM and a great love for many of their fine records. I am especially fond of Automatic. Always loved Dead Letter Office as well. Didn't hate Monster, but after that it all went downhill for me.

Saw them on that tour (for Monster) and that's when I knew the honeymoon was over. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I expect a band playing in a hockey arena -- and charging hockey-arena prices -- to put on an arena show. Can't put my finger exactly on what they did wrong, but they did it wrong.

And downhill from there, and au revoir Mr. Berry.

Still enjoy the old records. I'll give the new one a chance -- out of respect to young Bradley's unwavering insistence that they're still tits -- but I fear the worst.

What do you think of the new one so far, Bradley?
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Postby run joe, run on Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:43 pm

This is quite timely for me; why, I was just discussing this very matter - nay, this very band - the other day with a friend.

There's a post by Steve where he says how completely and thoroughly baffled he is by the success and popularity of The Rolling Stones. I feel exactly the same way about REM. I just find it to be the most ordinary, middle of the road, reasonable kind of rock. I don't even think they're terrible. I like a few of their songs. I like one or two of their songs quite a bit. But it's the adulation among musically literate, intelligent and friendly people that really weirds me out. I'm not trying to piss on anyone's chips (like anyone would give a shit anyway), but I just do NOT hear anything special about them.

The thing Bradley was talking about, I recognise. I have the ability to notice when I am disliking a band because of (sub) cultural bias and me just being an arse. An example of this would be The Clash. I don't like The Clash, but I'd concede that (at least maybe) it has more to do with a reaction I've had to Clash fans and certain journalistic trends rather than their music itself. So I know this goes on. But I don't feel like this is the case with REM. I just hear a competent blandness in their records that sits very awkwardly with the reverence and love thrown their way by some discerning music makers and fans that I know.

I used to feel similarly about The Smiths, but while I still don't love The Smiths, I have reached a point in my life where I can make some sense of their popularity, largely by taking them in their historical context, and understanding their music and purpose in relation to the culture that spawned them.

And so I think there may well be a point when I can look at, and listen to REM, and say, "Aaaaaaaah. I see."

If anyone can be arsed explaining it to me, I'm always keen to learn. REM bring joy to some very good friends of mine and I can't have too much of a problem with any band that does that. In fact, that just reminded me of a life lesson I learned one day. This is perhaps a digression, but fuck it. It's 3.10 am now and I'm not getting any recording done tonight so here goes.

I used to like dissing bands I hated, and spewing vitriolic scorn over people who liked shit bands. I would seethe with rage about sub-standard bands and the idiots who bought those bands' cds. I still lapse now and again, but I'm much less harsh and far more forgiving than I was. What happened was this. I was watching some documentary on TV, and I had missed the beginning or something. And there was this girl, just hanging about in her room, walking in the park, and her voice over saying about the things she liked to do. This girl liked Bon Jovi. There was Bon Jovi music on in the documentary. Not even classic (if there is such a thing) Bon Jovi, but the later, even more heroically piss poor stuff that came out around, ooooh, '94-ish. The documentary pointedly showed the girl putting Bon Jovi cds on, and looking at the cd box with a smile. I wanted the girl to get trampled on by a horse. She was at best a figure of ridicule; at worst an evil little tyke supporting the most horrible side of the music industry. I did not like the girl. I was making jokes up in my head about the girl and they were not nice jokes. Then it was revealed that the reason why she liked Bon Jovi so much was because her mum had killed herself, and the Bon Jovi music she so loved had helped this poor kid get through it. Then her dad, unable to cope with the suicide of his wife, had also taken his own life. And that's when she REALLY needed Bon Jovi. And, over an unbearably sad shot of the girl looking out of her bedroom window, her voice over quite calmly and humbly said that she honestly felt that Bon Jovi had saved her life. It was this one thing that she could hold on to, and in her darkest hours was the only thing that helped her through. It made me cry.

So. I still think Bon Jovi are shit. I still want to hit people with whatever comes to hand if they tell me they like Robbie Williams (doesn't happen that often, thankfully). I think of people who like Dido as little more than barely educated animals. But boy, I learned a lesson, and that lesson was that somebody loving something counts for more than me hating it. At least where music is concerned anyway.

This really doesn't have much to do with REM but that's where I ended up.
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Postby Mr. Chimp on Tue Sep 28, 2004 10:26 am

I could have sworn that I had written something on this topic.

Nonetheless, REM:

I had heard the occassional song here or there from mix tapes and friends' older sibs, etc. "Wolves, Lower" was always caught in my head, but it didn't go too much further then that. Until one night in, what, late '86 or early '87 I came home/was up late and turned on one of those old network Saturday night music video shows to sit entranced by the video and music for "Fall On Me."

This to me still remains one of the best songs written in the 1980's.

Within a week, using teenage logic, I had acquired a membership to a Record Club (Columbia House) and dealt with the harsh learning curve of such a company for over a year. However this did allow me to acquire the whole of REM's records, through Life's Rich Pagent & Dead Letter Office.

Can I tell you how fascinating this band was to me then? REM was not the only thing I listened to at the time, but it constituted a hefty percent.

About the same time I had purchased a bass guitar. With the acquisition of these records, as well as Smiths, Husker Du, Minutemen, Joy Division, I proceeded to "learn myself how to play" over the course of several months.

In retrospect, I guess that REM filled that place in time for me where other folks listen to the blues, to country music - songs of impact undiminished by the fact that the same 6-8 chords are being used.
Bored one rainy Saturday, the band that I subsequently joined ended up trying to play every REM song we could think of - this went on for four hours.

Document was a powerful record, and still is, despite the "End of the World..." song that has mutated into an unstoppable cultural monstrosity.

I was blown away (still am) by Green, even on top of the music I was getting into - Scratch Acid, Pussy Galore, Soundgarden, Jane's.

I can honestly admit that I have been disappointed with every record after Green. The closest I got to enjoyment was a full soundtrack experience with UP during a sunny early morning drive, never having heard it before. I purchased that record, listened to it a number of times, but it did not last.

In conclusion, REM maybe are no longer for me, but they certainly are not crap, even if the direction of their recorded output has expanded beyond my appreciation.
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Postby Bradley R. Weissenberger on Tue Sep 28, 2004 11:05 am

Superking wrote:What do you think of the new one so far, Bradley?

It's slow, weird and lush. Strangely synthetic.
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Postby run joe, run on Tue Sep 28, 2004 11:24 am

I am going to borrow REM's early albums and listen to them.
Back off man, I'm a scientist.
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Postby Andrew L. on Tue Sep 28, 2004 11:25 am

Bradley, your unapologetic appreciation of REM makes me happy. Not because I like REM, but because it makes no sense. Especially after following your link – I thought that when music got this shitty it was supposed to do ‘a 180’ and redeem itself via the ‘so-terrible-it’s-great’ phenomenon. No such luck! What tired, terrible, irrelevant music!

Salut, Mr. Moderator!
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Postby Bradley R. Weissenberger on Tue Sep 28, 2004 11:44 am

LAD wrote:Bradley, your unapologetic appreciation of REM makes me happy. Not because I like REM, but because it makes no sense. Especially after following your link – I thought that when music got this shitty it was supposed to do ‘a 180’ and redeem itself via the ‘so-terrible-it’s-great’ phenomenon. No such luck! What tired, terrible, irrelevant music!

Salut, Mr. Moderator!

I could not follow the fractured logic and prose of this post. I really couldn't follow it!

Perhaps you could revise your post to read simply: "What tired, terrible, irrelevant music!"

Now that is clear commentary. I can follow it!
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Postby 6-4-3 on Tue Sep 28, 2004 2:27 pm

With Bill Berry, R.E.M. was the furthest thing from Crap there was.
Without Bill Berry, R.E.M. has fallen into the shitter Crappy. When he left, so did the chemistry and the band's backbone. Since, they have become a parody of themselvels. I'm sorry, but that new song "Bad Day" proves just how sorry they have become - is that song not just a bastardized version of "It's the end of the world (and I feel fine)" ???
I will never believe that Bill Berry would allow that song to get past the third chord upon hearing it. He would've pissed all over Peter Buck's guitar, Michael Stipes lyric sheet and Mike Mills' bass and quit.
Remember, this is coming from a guy who burned holes through "Life's Rich Pageant", "Reckoning", "Murmur", "Document", "Automatic for the People" and on and on atop my CD player. I remember buying "Out of Time" at a midnight opening at an Auburn University record store with 100 other kids, that's how excited I was to hear the next incarnation of R.E.M.
They were truly the first band that made me think about music, not just listen to it. Unpredictable and grounded at the same time - truly amazing.
I simply will never get tired of their music. I could listen the "Little America" ten times over right now, or "Oddfellows Local 151" "Feeling Gravity's Pull" or "Swan, Swan, Hummingbird" blah, blah...
But since Bill Berry took his sutured head back to the farm, I hate to say it, it's been piss poor.
But alas, this is Crap/Not Crap.

R.E.M. Never shall be the Crap.
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Postby same on Sat Oct 02, 2004 1:20 pm

Angus Jung wrote:Their drummer wasn't too hot. Peter Buck was born without the 'rock' chromosome.


i have to disagree and say he's a perfectly adequate drummer for the band he's in. he kind of has that rigid "white" drummer thing going, but then, i'm kind of a white drummer supremacist.

i don't know exactly what you expect from the drummer in a band like like rem, but i know they sound alot better with peter buck than they would with the drummer from the dave mathews band.
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Postby Bradley R. Weissenberger on Mon Oct 11, 2004 3:19 pm

I have listened to this new R.E.M. record, this "Around The Sun".

I have listened to it many times thorugh various playback equipment.

Man, this new R.E.M. record is really sterile. It's kind of beautiful, but it's an artificial beauty. It's tries to be sweeping, but it's forced and dull. There's a certain weirdness to it, but it's contrived (e.g., low creepy voices).

And "Wanderlust" is the most embarrassing song in a catalog that has a more than a few of them.

People of the Electrical music forum! This new R.E.M. record! It is CRAP!

Oh, terrible day!
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Postby Redline on Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:28 am

This new R.E.M. record! It is CRAP!


Man, not to rub it in, but imagine all the self importance and hand wringing that went into the Crap REM record's creation!

"Should we play this song for the interviewer, or this one?"
"Should we re-record this bass part a seventh time?"
"I really have to change this vocal part again, it just doesn't feel right.."
"This could be a single!"

UGH.
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Postby Bradley R. Weissenberger on Fri Feb 11, 2005 6:01 pm

Redline wrote:Imagine all the self importance and hand wringing that went into the Crap REM record's creation!

"Should we play this song for the interviewer, or this one?"
"Should we re-record this bass part a seventh time?"
"I really have to change this vocal part again, it just doesn't feel right.."
"This could be a single!"

Do big rock star bands really act like this?

I do not know! I would like to hear some big rock star band stories!

So I will post a new thread!

About rock star behavior!
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Postby same on Sat Feb 12, 2005 1:42 am

i've actually been listening to alot of r.e.m. lately (enough to realize that peter buck isn't actually the drummer) and i think i have to make an apology about my CRAP vote. they had a good run; perfectly minimal pop rock sensibilty without sounding like they're holding back. rekoning and life's rich pageant both sound good to me and i think because of what they were once capable of, i can overlook their overwhelming follies of the past fifteen years or so. NOT CRAP, sorry.
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Postby Brett Eugene Ralph on Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:01 pm

Bradley R. Weissenberger wrote:My R.E.M. hating friend then acknowledged that he might be hopelessly predisposed to hate R.E.M. simply because of a temporal accident. That is, R.E.M. arrived on the tail end of punk's cultural ascendence and possessed, at least superficially -- and to the chagrin of entrenched punks -- some of the same elements that a casual observer might perceive as "punk" (despite the fact that they have little to do with punk). Simply put, my friend felt that he might have had no choice but to hate R.E.M. simply because of when both he and they arrived, just as Duane Eddy and Link Wray fans might have disliked Buddy Holly.


This echoes a previous post, wherein Brad stated that no one is more readily predisdposed to unfairly dismiss REM out of hand than 80's punks. I recognize that there might be some truth to this. I wonder, however, if that matters. What I mean is that we tend to embrace our own musical loves above and beyond any logic, yet if someone denigrates one of those loves, we expect that enmity to hold up to logical critical scrutiny. Just an observation.

That said, if I can recall what was going on in my fifteen-year-old mind, I'll try to list the reasons I developed my initial dislike for REM:

1. The critical stink made over their "jangly" guitars. As someone who was already way into "power pop" bands like Shoes, the Flamin' Groovies, and Cheap Trick, not to mention The Byrds, I saw nothing innovative about this technique. There was no evidence that I could hear to support REM's being any more "innovative" at rehashing tried and true Rickenbaker strategies than Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, another outfit who early on strove for "street cred" while obviously harboring major corporate ambitions.

2. As a singer and songwriter who, even as a teen, prided himself on writing well-crafted lyrics, I suspected that Stipe's trademark mumble masked a total lack of substance, that it reflected, if not total-full-of-shitness, then at least a kind of cryptic vapidity.

3. I read an interview in Spin in which Stipe indeed came off as one of the most pompous, pretentious simps I've ever seen quoted in print, the kind of adolescent imagination that equates obscurity with profundity, evasion with mystery, obfuscation with real ambiguity.

In REM's defense, I was delighted to read that they once covered Lou Gramm's "Midnight Blue," one of the finest singles of the 1980's, a grossly underappreciated song.

In the end, however, Seven Chinese Brothers equal one big steaming pile of CRAP.
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Postby Bradley R. Weissenberger on Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:14 pm

Brett Ralph, you have made a beautiful post. I was delighted to read this post.

I am not being ironic. This is a beautiful and thoughtful post.

Salut, Brett Ralph of Kentucky.

Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:Lou Gramm's "Midnight Blue" [is] one of the finest singles of the 1980's [and] a grossly underappreciated song.

Brett Ralph, you and I agree on this thing!
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Postby steve on Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:52 pm

Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:1. The critical stink made over their "jangly" guitars. As someone who was already way into "power pop" bands like Shoes, the Flamin' Groovies, and Cheap Trick, not to mention The Byrds, I saw nothing innovative about this technique. There was no evidence that I could hear to support REM's being any more "innovative" at rehashing tried and true Rickenbaker strategies than Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, another outfit who early on strove for "street cred" while obviously harboring major corporate ambitions.

I agree with you that this dinky guitar is nothing special, and that we were told that it was.

I think Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (first three albums only!) are 10 times the rock band that these REM are. When I saw them in 1978 with J.Geils band and George Thorogood, all three bands impressed me, and I was prepared (anxious?) to dismiss them all.

2. As a singer and songwriter who, even as a teen, prided himself on writing well-crafted lyrics, I suspected that Stipe's trademark mumble masked a total lack of substance, that it reflected, if not total-full-of-shitness, then at least a kind of cryptic vapidity.

This is a common ploy, and one I abhor. Though I rather like the lyrical content of "Man in the Moon."

But other than that, crap.
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Postby tmidgett on Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:52 pm

Bradley R. Weissenberger wrote:
Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:Lou Gramm's "Midnight Blue" [is] one of the finest singles of the 1980's [and] a grossly underappreciated song.

Brett Ralph, you and I agree on this thing!


i threegree
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Postby cal on Sun Feb 13, 2005 3:51 am

Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:
1. The critical stink made over their "jangly" guitars. As someone who was already way into "power pop" bands like Shoes, the Flamin' Groovies, and Cheap Trick, not to mention The Byrds, I saw nothing innovative about this technique. There was no evidence that I could hear to support REM's being any more "innovative" at rehashing tried and true Rickenbaker strategies than Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, another outfit who early on strove for "street cred" while obviously harboring major corporate ambitions.



I'm not sure R.E.M. ever denied the influence of any of these groups, much less put forth the idea that they were trying to innovate. They've even performed with Roger McGuinn onstage. I think it's okay to appreciate a band that doesn't go down in history as completely breaking new ground in the style of whatever it is they do. I also don't think, in the beginning at least, that R.E.M. had any "corporate ambitions". I think it was that they worked really hard and it just ended up paying off. They just attracted alot of attention at a time when people already were looking to Athens as a place where interesting things were happening. The "critical stink" made over the jangly guitars was just that; a critical stink. If the band had manipulated this element into something for critics to grab onto, that would be one thing, but they didn't and it gets in the way of making an assesment of the sound of the band on it's own merits.

Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:
2. As a singer and songwriter who, even as a teen, prided himself on writing well-crafted lyrics, I suspected that Stipe's trademark mumble masked a total lack of substance, that it reflected, if not total-full-of-shitness, then at least a kind of cryptic vapidity.



Early interviews with the band indicate that the intended effect of Stipe's vocal was to act as more or less another instrument in the band, and that the lyrics would be improvised each performance to a certain degree to fulfill the rhythmic and melodic space of another instrument rather than just being "the lead vocal". Besides, the guy was what, 19 or 20 at the time? I mean, what a perfect age to be writing meaningless lyrics that you would never think to be held accountable for.

Brett Eugene Ralph wrote:
3. I read an interview in Spin in which Stipe indeed came off as one of the most pompous, pretentious simps I've ever seen quoted in print, the kind of adolescent imagination that equates obscurity with profundity, evasion with mystery, obfuscation with real ambiguity.




In the early days of the band Stipe was known to be painfully shy outside the context of the group. For me, part of the appeal of the group in the early days was the mystery and ambiguity that came with not knowing every detail about everything to do with the band. Historically, other bands have contrived and manipulated this element, but I really don't think R.E.M. were guilty of that. I think to be coming out of Athens at that time would contribute to them being as honest as you would be led to believe. I really think that, at that time, it probably didn't occur to them that they could fake profundity, mystery, and ambiguity. I stick to my belief that they were the real deal.
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Postby mattw on Sun Feb 13, 2005 6:04 pm

I've been listening to Around the Sun quite a bit lately. Probably more than I need to. But it is good- it grows on you.
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Postby placeholder on Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:52 pm

Soooo....the singles compilation from two years ago is being reissued with a bunch of extra stuff as part of this new reissue campaign. This is irritating collector-bait, as it contains further "bonus" material that was not on the original "limited edition" 2 disc pressing. WTF? I know it doesn't really have anything to do with the music itself, but this strikes me as underhanded and annoying. I guess that's Warner Brothers (or any major) for you...
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