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Customer Review

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REM's best political record., 13 Oct. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Document (Audio CD)
This record has their most focused political songs taking up the first half of the album.
Finest Work Song starts the record with the clarion call "the time to rise has been engaged / you're better best to rearrange".
Welcome To The Occupation is a Chomsky style look at the United States economic occupation of South America "offering the educated, primitive and loyal / welcome to the occupation" . When Stipe sings of "Sugar cane and coffee cup, copper steel and cattle / an annotated history, the forest for the fire" it reminds me of school lessons looking at maps of the world where the western countries are labeled with their name and developing countries marked only by the product they provide to the western world.
Exhuming McCarthy pinpoints the trick pulled off by Reaganomics; "vested interests, united ties, landed gentry rationalise / look who bought the myth, buy jingo (=) buy America". I can't think of any other song that so clearly and succinctly articulates how patriotism and nationalism are tools of the wealthy and powerful elite to maintain their wealth and security.
Disturbance at the Heron House targets the "gathering of grunts and greens / cogs and grunts and hirelings" who fed on the 1980s obsession with deregualted capitalism, inspired by Reagan's favourite economic guru, Milton Friedman. But "when feeding time has come and gone / they'll lose their heart and head for home / try to tell us something we don't know". Which is of course what happened. In the late 80s and early 90s the economic bubble did burst and Bush was chucked out.
The politics is rounded off by a cover of Wire's Strange. In this context, following 4 of REM's most explicitly political songs, it can be taken to express the nervous alienation from the right-wing culture of the time; "There's something strange going on tonite / there's something going on that's not quite right". It shouldn't be forgotten after all this politics that the other thing that makes these songs so great is that they completely rock!
Then a little light relief for MTV with It's The End of the World as we Know it before one of REM's greatest songs, The One I Love. I cannot think of antother song of theirs that is so perfect, simple and elegant. Yet at the same time is is completely cruel and callous.
The rest of the album returns to Fables of the Reconstruction era REM. They are all great songs with beatiful melodies and singing by Stipe. There is not so much to say about them however as it is back to the old days of not having a clue what Stipe is on about; "Oddfellows local 151 behind the firehouse / where Pewee sits to prove a sage to teach / Pewee gathered up his proof reached up and scratched his head / fell down and hit the ground again". What!? Pewee? What are you on about Stipe?
Love it all the same. I wish he'd get back to writing something more political instead of people going to Reno and wanting to be a star. Who cares? I want politics and stories about weird old men in Southern backwater towns.
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