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A Great Collection Of (old) Dance Songs... and I feel fine
on 15 November 2011
After reviewing R.E.M's final original album of new music "Collapse Into Now" back in March of 2011 (4 stars, by the way), I put the album away and didn't think much about it. After all, the indie rockers who put the tiny town of Athens, Georgia on the map have been rocking for over thirty years, so I figured they were just going through a lull with this odd misstep.
It was their sudden and quiet announcement of their disbanding on their band's website only five months later simply blew me away, and I was suddenly reminded me that they were one of the last bands from that era to have still been playing continuously and virtually intact all that time despite the drag of time, surviving many of their pioneers and many of their peers, from Television to the Talking Heads to the Velvet Underground. - even the record label they first signed up with, I.R.S Records, even folded some fifteen years ago!
My impressions of the band vary from the great (1988's "Green" will forever be my indie "Gone with The Wind," as I played it to death when I first got it and made me re-think a great many things in my life) to the just plain blah (and let's face it, 2004's "Around The Sun" even choked them out, they admitted that much), but they have always been one thing to even the most nominal of listeners: they were a band of musicians who provoked you to think thoughts bigger than the average band and made the travelogue of life worth taking just one more step, even though it has been (for me sometimes) through some pretty dangerous waters.
This album is their last letter of remembrances, a plea for you to remember memories lost, and to leave some things that are best left there, behind you.
R.E.M. may never have been the screaming angst of Nirvana or the entirely swallowed bottle of sleeping pills at end of the party of the Violent Femmes, but they were an original, and they sang their songs out of the inspiration to invite you into their odd slice of the world, from observances ranging from wanting to pee during a long drive to the fantasy world of Andy Kaufman's mind, and from wanting you to look at the world as not just yours but as we are all together, part of a much bigger collective that we can all share together if we are responsible enough to vote, to think green before it was ever ever ever popular, and to care for the animals and most of all, to sing and dance really fast and really crazy as the end of the world approached.
The band personally selected the songs from 15 albums over 30 years of music, and instead of just putting up the hits that you can quickly hear on their wonderful "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003" compilation album, they really went all out to give you some really enjoyable moments from their history that they liked, not just because they were popular. Three new songs are included: "Hallelujah," "A Month of Saturdays" and "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" was recorded entirely after that album.
And where did they get the title from, you may ask? It came from a quote by Peter Buck in 1988, "R.E.M is part lies, part heart, part truth and part garbage."
There are 40 really great selections of songs on the general release (and if you buy it at the iTunes Store, you get a third disc of 11 bonus music videos). Here's the track list and which album they came from:
01 "Gardening at Night" - 3:29 (from Chronic Town, 1982)
02 "Radio Free Europe" - 4:06 (from Murmur, 1983)
03 "Talk About the Passion" - 3:23 (from Murmur)
04 "Sitting Still" - 3:17 (from Murmur)
05 "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" - 3:15 (from Reckoning, 1984)
06 "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" (Edit) - 3:55 (from Reckoning)
07 "Driver 8" - 3:23 (from Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985)
08 "Life and How to Live It" - 4:06 (from Fables of the Reconstruction)
09 "Begin the Begin" - 3:28 (from Life's Rich Pageant, 1986)
10 "Fall on Me" - 2:50 (from Life's Rich Pageant)
11 "Finest Worksong" - 3:48 (from Document, 1987)
12 "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - 4:05 (from Document)
13 "The One I Love" - 3:17 (from Document)
14 "Stand" - 3:10 (from Green, 1988)
15 "Pop Song 89" - 3:04 (from Green)
16 "Get Up" - 2:39 (from Green)
17 "Orange Crush" - 3:51 (from Green)
18 "Losing My Religion" - 4:26 (from Out of Time, 1991)
19 "Country Feedback" - 4:07 (from Out of Time)
20 "Shiny Happy People" - 3:44 (from Out of Time)
21 "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" - 4:06 (from Automatic for the People, 1992)
01 "Everybody Hurts" - 5:17 (from Automatic for the People)
02 "Man on the Moon" - 5:13 (from Automatic for the People)
03 "Nightswimming" - 4:16 (from Automatic for the People)
04 "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" - 4:00 (from Monster, 1994)
05 "New Test Leper" - 5:26 (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)
06 "Electrolite" - 4:05 (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
07 "At My Most Beautiful" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:35 (from Up, 1998)
08 "The Great Beyond" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 5:06 (from Man on the Moon, 1999)
09 "Imitation of Life" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:57 (from Reveal, 2001)
10 "Bad Day" - 4:05 (from In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, 2003)
11 "Leaving New York" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 4:49 (from Around the Sun, 2004)
12 "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:11 (from Accelerate, 2008)
13 "Supernatural Superserious" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:23 (from Accelerate)
14 "Überlin" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 4:15 (from Collapse into Now, 2011)
15 "Oh My Heart" (Buck, Mills, Stipe, Scott McCaughey) - 3:21 (from Collapse into Now)
16 "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 2:45 (from Collapse into Now)
17 "A Month of Saturdays" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 1:40
18 "We All Go Back to Where We Belong" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:35
19 "Hallelujah" (Buck, Mills, Stipe) - 3:42
So with that in mind, considering that this might just be the last time we hear from the band who influenced a great many things in pop culture for over three decades, I have to give this final release by them five amazing stars.
After their long-time contractual obligations to Warner Bros. ended, they closed the door and never looked back, as they secretly knew this was it, and what we have here is the last remnant of what they consider some of their finest moments in their entire history. Oddly enough, "A Month Of Saturdays" talks about the work week being done, as Michael Stipe's forever droning vocals ask, "I want a month of Saturdays, gimme a weekend, weekend, weekend..."
After thirty years and a catalog of music 10 indie bands would be jealous of if they could score just one hit, they deserve to find their quiet moments and peace. This is a wonderful compilation that finally brings together their total handpicked favorites from their entire output, and it shines like diamonds. I'm not sure how they felt about whether they succeeded in getting their message out to the world, but here's one fan who appreciated what they did, and I'll admit they influenced me in a small, subtle way that made me - possibly - the better person for listening to their message so many years ago.
I'm sorry if this sounds like a bit of a love letter instead of a review, but you know what? It might just be as we know it, and I feel just fine about that.
(Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment - or a vote - whether you liked it or not!)