Hey Now Little Sleepyhead

I haven’t deliberately listened to any R.E.M. for ages. I hear them in passing but don’t often make the effort to play their records. Recently I had an overwhelming urge to hear Find The River. The album it finished off, Automatic For The People, came out a quarter of a century ago and for an album that is right up there in their back catalogue, Find The River is quite the ending, heartstrings tugged at for sure, but also optimistic and wide eyed (at the end of a record that was surrounded by rumours of death and illness). Lovely beyond belief.

Stipe’s lyrics were much clearer by this point-

‘The river to the ocean flows
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way’

But he could still chuck in words for their own sake, for the sound of them-

‘Of ginger, lemon, indigo
Coriander stem and rose of hay’

And finish with couplets that seem to mean something-

‘Strength and courage overides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up her and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is going your way’


She’s A Sad Tomato

Watching an R.E.M. documentary the other night reminded me a) what a good band R.E.M. were in the 80s but also b) how they kept that going into the mainstream- such an unlikely band to be stadium size, multi-million selling albums big. After Automatic For The People I always think they tail off very quickly but the fade was delayed longer than that. I didn’t think too much of Monster when it came out but Crush With Eyeliner is really good- it shimmers and throbs and has groove. New Adventures In Hi Fi has several 90s peaks on it too. Being massive and mainstream and still being interesting is a difficult trick to pull off. In retrospect they should have called it a day when Bill Berry left- that would have left everything intact.

Which then led me to this 90s Sonic Youth masterpiece. Sonic Youth crossing over with New York fashion shows and Cara Delevingne in tow. Sonic Youth crossed back pretty quickly.

You Never Called, I Waited For You, But These Rivers Of Suggestion Keep Dragging Me Away

It’s something like that. One of the joys of early R.E.M. is that everyone hears what they think they can hear.

Michael Stipe has just announced that he’s releasing his first post- R.E.M. music, a soundtrack to a friend’s film. Most of the world will probably do little more than shrug. They carried on far too long, almost nothing after New Adventures In Hi-Fi sticks in the memory and they began to have an air of pomposity which became offputting. So it’s funny to watch a clip like this one, live on the David Letterman show in 1983 playing Radio Free Europe and So Central Rain, when they were a frenetic, Wire-y, mumbling, American post-punk band dressed in second hand clothes. And then to shed a little tear.

Michael, Mike, Peter and Bill

It’s been announced tonight that R.E.M. have split up. Not earth shattering news maybe but still… Their music meant a massive amount to me for a long time, particularly the IRS albums and the first few on Warners, not so much in recent years but still…

This is Pretty Persuasion from the semi-legendary bootleg ‘Live at Tyrones’ in 1981, when as Peter Buck says on their website they were ‘four nineteen year olds trying to change the world’.

>I Could Live A Million


I’ve been listening to a fair bit of early R.E.M. recently, in the car mainly. Their records on IRS and when Stipe had hair struck me deeply at an impressionable age. It’s easy to break the constituent parts down- Michael Stipe’s incoherent vocals and delivery, Peter Buck’s Rickenbackers, Bill Berry’s insistent drumming, Mike Mills’ melodic bass playing and his backing vocals- but it doesn’t explain the magic. A commenter on Youtube reckons it’s their ability to do both melancholy and extreme joy and hope at the same time, which sounds about right. I had a cassette of Chronic Town, never shelling out for the vinyl second hand and all these years later it’s still upwards of twentyfive quid for the five song e.p. but what a great set of songs- Stumble, Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars), Wolves Lower, Gardening At Night and the song here- 1,000,000, which is a stunner. It’s an m4a file I’ve just noticed, which I hope doesn’t cause anyone any problems.

04 1,000,000.m4a

>When You Tire Of One Side The Other Suits You Best


As far as I’m concerned R.E.M. couldn’t put a foot wrong throughout the five albums they released on I.R.S. in the 1980s, and they more or less kept that strike rate up until Bill Berry left in 1997. Their first three albums- Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction- are chock full of mystery, drama, murk, guitars, tunes and wonder, even if you haven’t got a clue what Michael Stipe is on about. In fact his vagueness and slurred, mumbled vocals add massively. This is Life And How To Live It, one of the highlights of Fables. This version was recorded live at a gig in Utrecht, Belgium in 1987. The guitars fizz and chime, the rhythm section’s tight, and the whole band sparkle. As a bonus Stipe gives an introduction to the song for a minute or so, where he explains what it’s about- a man who divided his apartment into two and lived in each half depending on how he was feeling. When he leaves they find a cupboard full of self-published books, all entitled ‘Life and how to live it’.

06 Life and How to Live It [#][-][Live].wma