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R.E.M. - Blue

Dear Blue Lou,
Now of course we have a song like ‘Blue’, with its oh so meaningful words (not). Word is that he wrote this after going to a Mets game when David Wright went 0-5 and made an error in the field.
I read somewhere, not sure now, that someone said that this song is better than E-Bow the Letter being its “Wiser Cousin”. Oh please, give me a break regarding how much corporate dick these reviewers are sucking. Does R.E.M. hand out lipstick in their Press Kits?

I think R.E.M. has become the Eagles.
This is a combination of Country Feedback and E-Bow gone horribly wrong and the ending with Discoverer just solidifies this as a mess.  It works as a B-Side minus the Discoverer ending but I do not give them kudus for basically doing the same thing over again 15 years after you mastered it the first time. Who gives a fuck if it didn’t become the #1 hit single you expected? It was a beautiful song, and still the best thing off of Hi-Fi no doubt.
And this bastard cousin had to come around and urinate all over it. Patti is reprising her role on this for whatever reason why, doing her interpretive thing to add some “Art” where necessary my only question would be Where is KRS-1 for their Rap Song about Stipe’s internet Radio station on Last FM and how he is getting sick of it always playing Coldplay and Dashboard Confessional Songs?

So there we have it. An opportunity to go through every song on Collapse into Now. Next will be the long awaited official review however, as you can tell already I doubt you are going to see any 4 star rating from me.

R.E.M. - Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I and Chicago Style Pizza

Finishing up the last couple of these. . . .

Dear Matthew

But before that since you wanted to ask my opinion of Chicago Style Pizza, I will offer my thoughts about that pretty quickly. The overriding opinion that I hear more often than not is that Giordano’s is the preferred deep dish pizza. However, if it was my choice, I would put my money on Bacino’s. The reason why I like Bacino’s is pretty simple. Out of any pizza that I have they have the best cheese.

There are others out there like Pizzeria Uno and Gino’s East but these other pizza joints as well as Giordano’s also have been given a bit of celebrity status and can be a little bit more touristy. Gino’s can be fun because you can write on the seats, the table, pretty much everywhere.
Outside of a weird event happening Bacino’s is more your typical “Pizza Place” and a good place to get a pitcher of beer with your Pops and relish in a Yankee win after defeating the Cubs.
This is the Hairshirt of this album with the exception of the line “run a carbon black test on my jaw”. That pretty much is as succinct as I can get with this song. With the exception of comparing the two songs you notice there is a substantial difference between Stipe’s voice circa 1988 and 2010 (when this was recorded).
However, the more that I listen to this song and compare it to ‘Hairshirt’ makes me realize just how brilliant ‘Hairshirt’ was and how I never really gave it the time of day.
I mean at least compared to Marlon Brando, you realize just how good an afterthought of a song like Hairshirt would be today. Could you imagine that it would be the highlight of Collapse into Now? Is anything on CiN better than Hairshirt?

R.E.M. - That Someone is You

Mr. Marrone finally responded with quite a bit of bologna and no substance.
For the record, I do think that videos will become more predominant in our Facebook/YouTube/Twitter universe then they were during more recent past as we like to post videos of songs on our Facebook profiles. My commentary on why people did not seem to like the video was only based on my own observations. Of course, for many of them I seem to find them on Dashboard Confessional Websites.
Dear Shredder,
That Someone Is You
One of the shorter songs to make it onto an official album not counting instrumentals and this is not including the brief “I’m Not Over You” that is included on Up.
The sound harkens back to the early days with a definite punk-indie feel to it and on the surface it’s one of the more fun straightforward songs on the album.
Now, if we actually went back to the old shows of the early 80s with songs like ‘Hey Hey Nadine’, ‘Dangerous Times’ and ‘Lisa Said’, if I didn’t know any better someone could make the claim that this song has been lying dormant for 30 years, a song that just never made it to tape or a concert recording and eventually got scrapped.
The question of course would then be has R.E.M. come full circle? Do songs such as this suggest that the band should try to rerecord some of those old early songs for posterity sake or should they remain embedded on the early tapes as a reminder that this band grew into something different?
Still the track has some spirit and doesn’t feel like something Matchbox 20 came out with so that is good.
I bet it’s Carlos Beltran’s favorite track.


R.E.M. - Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter

Another in a long line of pen pal messages sent to Matty.
Dear Matt,
I imagine that your absence is due to the fact that you have been jamming out to this album the past couple days on your iPad. You have to make good use of it because I would imagine from your post on iPad version Dos, it will become a relic, almost like R.E.M. is.
An alligator climbing up an elevator.  What will Stipe think of next? Pushing an elephant up the stairs?  Here we see that Michael Stipe has once again ventured into Wild Kingdom to give us another rocking song.
Do you ever visit one of Mario Batali’s restaurants hoping to meet up with him?
We also hear Peaches on this track and in my honest opinion she offers the best “Guest Vocals” of the three stars brought in on this album. I think her tone gives this song a bit more insurgence and comparing it to the other rocking “All the Best” it seems to not feel as vague as that one is.
Although I have to admit that I am having problems trying to figure out the different characters in this song and how they relate to each other.  I guess the way that I would see it is the Alligator being portrayed here is being chided by technology and their message is seemingly a hypocritical one considering the Alligator would symbolically stand for survival or adaptability.
So telling an Alligator that they have a lot to learn is like telling Steve Jobs he doesn’t know anything about Macs.
Or, conversely, the message suggests that technology and innovation has been ignorant to nature and the environment.
Of course I can just turn all the lyrics off and just jam and walk around the neighborhood like the guy in the Uberlin video, but alas, I am not that guy.
At the end of the day it’s a pretty good song. I like the part where they put the underline symbol between the words in the song title.

R.E.M. - Uberlin Video Commentary

Much of what I have read about the video to Uberlin seems to be of utter disgust from many fans.  Before I saw the video, and just listened to the song, I was always having a problem getting around the lyrics to the song which in my opinion felt very self-absorbed.
Coming again from my own opinion, if you see me walking around the city of Chicago there are typically two earbuds (not Apple mind you) and a selection of tracks being listened to. I have to say that there is some excitement to listen to music and let go and see what is going on around me. For me it’s always the amazement of walking down the city streets late at night and listening to Yo La Tengo or the lakefront on a Summer evening listening to Up.
But while there has been a great deal of admiration for the song, for me I have not been able to get my head around it because it felt in many cases self-absorbed in itself. While I can stare from time to time and daydream it was not a song that initially “Hit” me but rather accepted it for what it was, give it a satisfactory grade and move on.
The video, ‘however’ seems to convey the same feeling that I did, an individual dancing along the city streets without any clue as to what was on around him and somehow I find that a bit sad. Because if the intent or arc of this song is to comment about the sad nature of living within our own selfish thoughts then it would be something that is difficult to find putting this on repeat.
I compare this with another song, The Beatles, ‘A Day in the Life’ which is much more complex in its orchestration showing differing viewpoints, with the McCartney section being a blueprint for this song. Outside of the pieces of this song compiled together it creates a unique complexity of a person being heavily influenced by a news story and one totally absorbed in their daily routine not to see anything or anyone.
If Stipe’s meaning of this song is to make a social commentary about being lost in our brains I guess I find some people out there questioning the video’s intent. If people do not like what they are seeing and the song is being ruined for them, did they listen to what Stipe was saying?
Coming from my own point of view, it is something that I mentioned about what this album’s audience seems to be and that is about those that are ignorant to the world around them.
This song is Stipe’s moment ironic moment for those that love the song and hate the video for Stipe to plaintively state to them: “Well, that person in the video is you”.

R.E.M. - Walk It Back

Another love letter to my pen pal from NYC. This review is quite short as I just have to say that bad is bad.
Dear Matt,
‘Walk It Back’ is a pretty awful song. In fact, the discussion that I would rather have is whether it’s one of the worst songs in the R.E.M. canon.
“Whaaaaaaat, What would you have had me say, instead of what said?”
Of course the song should be loved by men that stick their foot in their mouth. A constant complaint, I would imagine that women have with their significant others is the fact they stick their foot in their mouth and well have to “Walk It Back” or backtrack on their comments. But a piano ballad is not going to inspire me when I am listening to this while walking down Clark Street to buy some Fresh Guacamole at the Fruit and Vegetable Market. It will not inspire me when riding the 147 home at night either.
The uber-corny piano ballad feels like it should be featured on one of those Teen Drama’s inspired by a LiveJournal where the writer will confess everyday about their sad lives such as the lint that builds up in their dryer as some metaphor for the waste building up in their lives.  It solidifies itself as the B-Side to ‘Make It All Okay’, an equally deflating work.
I guess I question where someone actually thought that this was worthy of being released as I find it almost reprehensible to listen to more than once.
It’s really hard to delve any more into my true distaste for this song other than to give it the famous Pitchfork rating of 0.0.

Every Day Is Yours To Win

As of my posting this, Matt Malone has not responded to my comments about ‘All the Best’ which leads me to believe that there is a great biopic about the New York Mets on or is working on the perfect mix CD to give to the woman of his dreams. Actually that would be a good follow-up question to ask Mr. Malone to create your perfect first date mix cd because lets be honest, we have all been in that situation where our significant other does not like the racket that we are playing or vice versa and maybe the female is not really into the Innocence Missionary Position.
Presently, I am sitting here writing this while enjoying PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’, a concept album in that it focuses on the events of World War 1 but I figure the events speak as much about the past as well as the future. Art is a concept of interpret culture and history and Harvey is exquisite in offering her anthems such ‘This Glorious Land’ with the final chorus: “What is the glorious fruit of our land?  Its fruit is deformed children. What is the glorious fruit of our land? Its fruit is orphaned children.” Presenting this in a powerful response to empire building.
Writing an album about World War I is not the singular reason to like this album, but by taking a subject such as this, her focus, lyrics and meanings can be much clearer to the listener rather than a pile of angst.
And there of course are songs like ‘The Words that Maketh Murder’ that reminded me of Joe Strummer and I would be walking down the street and swear that Mr. Strummer was singing this song. Maybe I am just going crazy. Some on this site might think so.
In the end, I have to say that it’s been the highlight of the year.
Dear Matt Malone,
While for much of our discussion you have berated me for showing no loyalty to a band that has been in the business over 30 years, I have to say that for the first time ever I can speak of a song that I truly love.
I think at this moment that ‘Everyday is Yours To Win’ is the best song on the album. In terms of post 9/11 tragedy albums (We should stop thinking about R.E.M. in terms of Pre and Post Bill Berry and get with the schedule that the rest of the culture is accustomed with, and yes, you might bring up the technical issue that Reveal was released in May of 2001 but is Reveal good enough to even be considered an ‘Album’?). Wikipedia, sure but my HATEREMring dictionary says no.
Fact is, that even with Reveal included, this song would probably make my Top 10 list.  Write this down because 2 years from now, you will have to use it against me. J
I read one statement about a fans opinion of this song as if Michael was a father figure and well from that impression there is a just enough Oedipus Complex in the tone of the song to allow you to draw your own conclusion.
My initial and continuing thoughts about the song was that it instantly reminded me of the band Beach House and wished that Victoria Legrand from the band cover this in her sultry sexy voice. In which case if I take the opinion of the reader there would be something Oedipal about that.
I read one statement about a fans opinion of this song as if Michael was a father figure and well from that impression there is a just enough Oedipus Complex in the tone of the song to allow you to draw your own conclusion.
And while there is an obvious boost of confidence in the song there is just enough mango sweetness in the air to get that all over your hands and lips feel a bit sticky afterwards.  It has one of those lazy hot and humid summer feeling songs.
The only big problem with the song is the first line or two. I still cannot get beyond Stipe’s obsession with Tick Tock. They are great when you need to rhyme with words like Cock, Rock, and Fock but there needs to be a desire to open up the rhyming dictionary and find better words.
Those issues aside it still sits atop the songs of the album which might be an unfortunate precurser to some.
I know that you getting excited there and thinking that I am finally the fan that I claim to be but lets not get too hasty. You have not read my review on ‘Walk It Back’ yet…
So Mr. Malone surprise me and lets share a moment together not as enemies but as friends and put the song on repeat drinking something strong and watching an old reel of baseball blooper reels from the 80s.
Eric the Tick Tock Clock

For The Record

For the record regarding those on both sides of the aisle regarding the new R.E.M. album is that the commentary will continue.
I would argue after listening to this album a couple times is that it would probably not be as much a "Return to Form" or their "Classic Sound" but a band that is breaking with it's fans and moving onto a younger generation or a different generation.
Listening to the band well over 20 years, I am probably coming from this from a different point of view all my own that some of you might understand and appreciate and others will want to spit at the computer screen with.
Truth be known, if I was 16 years old, I might find this new album to be pretty amazing stuff and I say might because being 16 in 1988 was much different than being 16 in 2011.
I had questioned whether to continue this site, these reviews or this commentary with that New York Mets fan commonly known as Matt Marrone. What I am finding with the listening experience has been a clearer understanding of what R.E.M. meant to me, what it means to grow up in this 21st Century world of ours and well, to provide a different voice.
There is no doubt that I have accepted the direction that R.E.M. has chosen to take. They are in a predicament all their own, with their own pressures of having to sell albums, touring, doing promo work.
I was reading a story by one Jim Derogatis about a fake Twitter account @MayorEmanuel. The author of said account outed himself and ended up being one Dan Sinker, a colleage of Jim's at Columbia College here in Chicago. Outside of the fact that I think that Dero got it all wrong, I was bothered by a linked story in the Chicago Tribune that quoted a student of Sinkers who was surprised that her professor ended up being Fake Emanuel.
"I squealed when I found out," said Mirretti, who had Sinker for an introduction to journalism class last semester. "It's so crazy, I can't believe it."

Mirretti said she didn't even know who Emanuel was until she discovered the fake Emanuel posts. She signed up for the feed immediately.

"I would have voted for him just because of that fake Twitter account," she said.
What really bugged me more about this story was how a journalism student in the City of Chicago does not know who Rahm Emanuel is. For those of you that do not know, Rahm Emanuel was just elected the next Mayor of the City of Chicago and if someone studying for a degree in a profession that reports on the news I wonder how she is going to report if she does not know what the news is.
How this relates back to R.E.M. is whether complex subjects are worthwhile to even discuss in a song or have we become so self-absorbed in our little lives not to really realize what is going around us. We are tweeting and Facebooking about Charlie Sheen and working on our Farmville rather than knowing what countries have had revolutions within the past month or two.
And what I see from many fans that have commented to me is that I have not heard 1 single word why this album is good and what it provides to them.  It just feels like we are being sold the same line that a certain song sounds like (Insert Album Title Here), but its not the sound that sells me on a particular song.
If Coca Cola changes it's formula do you still buy it because of the brand? Does the "R.E.M." brand currently exhibit excellence? I don't think so.
I have thought that maybe it's also time after this is over to go back and review some of their older material for some proof to this why those songs will be included in the soundtrack of my life.

R.E.M. - All The Best

To continue upon the tradition of song reviews with the Italian Stallion, Matalian Marrone, we have decided to look at the rest of the songs on 'Collapse Into Now' that have not been covered as of yet. As most of you should know by now, the album is streaming right now on that liberal website NPR.

I figured the best way to attack these songs would be to go in sequential order, thus the second song on CIN is 'All the Best'.

Dear Matthew,
‘Let’s show the kids how to do it fine . . fine .. fine’
This would be a great addition to Guitar Hero if only it was still being made. Fact is, this sounds like a B-Side from New Adventures in Hi-Fi which is not necessarily a bad thing. I look at one of these songs actually in positive light as that “Dumb Rock Song” ala “Star 69” that allows for a quick dose of adrenaline.  However, a song like ‘Star 69’ is not the feature track on Monster. The problem of course is that in the context of the entire album I do not like it when the dumb rock songs become the strong suits of the entire album. It’s also possible my appreciation for the ‘Dumb Rock Song’ genre is pretty low.
Yes, you might sit there at your wits end to stop comparing it to previous R.E.M. tracks but even the albums that I would give half a glance to typically do not feature songs of this sort.  
A song, I think, needs something to hold onto. There is no mystery, and it is the second song in a row where it feels fairly emotionless. My only solace in this song was that the band is in some sorta midlife crisis and I do hope that they exit that soon.
I do not know if this song is R.E.M. by numbers but rather just American Idol by numbers. All that is missing is regular airplay on that “Alternative” Station that plays all those crappy songs by Green Day and Foo Fighters.
Can I see myself listening to this song on repeat? No. There is no secret combination, there is no mystery. The lyrics are pedestrian and would have done better if Stipe just stole the lyrics right from a teenager’s journal.
It’s missing the emotion to become a great song.

Having Something Intelligent to Say . . .Cont.

I have received a couple comments so far regarding my challenge. Andrea Musso wrote this before my commentary and has stated very eloquently, in fact, an opinion of being a fan of R.E.M. but also a fan of being a fan of music in general. Unlike some of my barbs directed at R.E.M. I think she is very fair regarding her commentary. I also want to compliment her use of the English language as she is from Argentina so be kind in that respect.
Andrea Writes:

I've been questioning for quite a while my 'fandom' for REM. I don't like to say I'm a fan, because to me that implies a blind praise to an artist’s work, so I rather consider myself an admirer with the ability to discern between good stuff and utter crap.
I can't blame Collapse into now for my 'losing my faith' in the band. I guess it's something that has been gestating in my mind for some years (at least from around the sun on) but when the track list for CiN came out, with names as 'me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I', 'every day is yours to win' -out of a self help book, I immediately thought- and the other crappy ones, it just didn’t feel right to me, despite knowing I was prejudging them. Then Discoverer came out, I downloaded it and I think I must have heard it no more than 10 times. Chatting to other murmusians I sort of felt bad at the moment because they implicitly questioned my lack of interest. Truth is I couldn't spot any of the other released tracks if my life depended on it because I haven't listened to them more than ten times.
So I started wondering why wasn't I interested in them as I had before. I've been listening to their music since 1998 and for most of my late teenage years and early adulthood they were the ones that, with their music, kept me sane in my hardest moments. At that time, I admired their artistic integrity, and their choice to put music over business in a world that in general terms put money over music. Very naive of me, I know.
I think I can define my relationship with music in three stages. The first one took place during my childhood, with my approach to local artists, which to this day are one of my favorites (namely the greatest Argentinean songwriter of all times, Charly García). The second one was my REM era, where I would only listen to all of their CDs most of the time and nothing else. The third, and definitive one, came when I was in college and met a guy who was into a wide range of music, while simultaneously getting Internet access at home. That really opened my mind and I began exploring a lot of different artists and genres, up to today.
Back in September I came across with a Vampire Weekend song (cape cod kwassa kwassa) while I was listening to some 'indie' radio. Something struck me right away about their music, and I think it was the African beat. I’ve always had a thing for that kind of music and really enjoy the Eastern vibes, so I was kind of curious about them. I got their albums and discovered a richness, both in lyrics and music I couldn't get my hands off. I'm no music expert and I only guide myself with what I like, despite the hypes and critical acclaim, but to me it was one of the greatest discoveries I made this year.
I've been wondering ever since what made this band so appealing to me. At first I guess it was the ‘music of the world’ beats mixed with string arrangements, that sort of east meet west kind of mash up, but then (and specially in the second album) I discovered the complexity of their music, the multiple layers of instruments and samples, all and the (machinery like) mechanisms that makes it work so perfectly, going from a flawless rhythmic base to the baroque works of the keyboard, guitars and voices. I am aware that it’s not like they invented TNT, I can acknowledge their influences and I know they’re not the greatest band in the world either, but mesmerized as I was, I began searching on these guys and found out that they had a self produced album (the keyboardist is the band's producer) and had toured the US for quite a while by themselves. At the same time, they were sending their demos to blogs and such. Pretty much, it was four smart guys hanging out who ended up making decent music, recording it/mixing it with a laptop and consequently hopping on a van to tour somewhere and making themselves a reputation via the interwebz and the way of word. I guess it’s rather simple to do that today, without depending on a label to launch your work to the world (despite being successful or not) and I was curious enough as to try, and ending figuring out that that was the way (again, at an initial level, not taking into account all the hype that was created among them) to do things right. I also discovered that VW not only does interesting music, but they’re also very down to earth in regards of their own popularity, (something that I can speak of) and most important of all, they seem to have fun while they’re at it.
My VW ode is in no way made to make an out of context comparison between them and REM because they both emerged in different times and I’m sure without the internet and computer aid, VW wouldn’t have the level of popularity and recognition they have today. But I think that at the end of the day, you have to make all variables work to end up with a decent work. These kids do, while REM seem to have lost interest in making something that apparently has to be both meaningful to them in an ‘artsy’ way, up to their standards and also that they can enjoy. To me, they have been working only because after NAIHF they had to make another six albums and couldn’t get rid of the deal. Should they have quit when Bill left and go making movies and tin foil sculptures because that was what truly made them happy? As far as I’m concerned, they could’ve done that, they don’t owe me or any other fans anything. Personally, I’d prefer to listen to the albums they made when they were satisfied with what they were doing, rather than having to ‘like’ something that is way below their standards. It should be a matter of dignity on their behalf, as I’m sure it would be to me if I ever find myself doing something I don’t enjoy anymore.
Does the ‘collapse’ of my admiration for REM mean I’m losing my coolness in regards to liking a band that most of 16-year-old girls seem to love unconditionally? I don’t know. Maybe I have and now I’m into a band that is liked by schoolgirls who won’t even pay attention to the complexity of the issues the lyrics talk about -mainly in Contra-, and even by the most elemental Argentinean hipster who loves ‘mansard roof’ because it mentions the Argies, despite it being a clear reference to the failures of my home country. Maybe I’m just prejudging the girls and the hipsters with my ‘I know better than you’ attitude. Maybe now I’m into a band that sells its music to Tommy H and Honda (and the girls are right), when ten years ago I would’ve fight to death the dignity of REM for not being ad ‘sellouts’, which is also quite arguable, I think. Or that I have become a cynic, as I grew older. In the end, I have to admit they’re all in it for the money; although for VW at least we should consider whether or not they’re whoring their tunes out.
I think Radiohead to be a very odd, out of the box example. Why have they done such little promotion? Because evidently, they don’t seem to need it. These are the guys who released In Rainbows for free and even gave you a copy of their album at their live shows. Can you even think of a more inappropriate financial suicide than giving away your stuff for nothing? Who works for nothing these days? (besides me, but that’s another story). As you clearly stated, there is more than one way to promote, even if it implies not promoting anything at all ‘the old fashioned way’. In these times of illegal music downloading if you can’t fight it, join it and take
your money out of touring, which in my opinion is where the real profits are. If you like the band, it doesn’t matter if you buy the album but I’m sure you’ll spend all your money for a ticket.
So yeah, times have changed and REM clearly needs to go with the new trends and figure out clever ways of promotion. Or just leave the boat while they can, with their amazing history and contribution to the music world intact. It’s not up to me, or you or Warner, it is up to them. I guess I’d feel more proud of them if they did that than having to put up with their boring stuff because otherwise I’d feel like I’m betraying them.
I am disappointed about REM and I’m not sure there’s a way back for me, as long as they keep releasing songs named autopilot, antimatter, antiwhatever but at least I guess I can relay to their older stuff while I go to concerts with eighteen year old girls who have a crush on a guy straight out of a Tommy H ad.

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