Matt Marrone's Response:
As much as you might want me to, I can't convince you that the new songs are good and I can't force you to like them. I'm a pretty stingy, stubborn critic myself. But in my initial disgust over Around the Sun, I realized in horror that my worst fears had come true -- R.E.M. was no longer truly relevant. At first I was angry, bitter, resentful -- and all around a pretty miserable son of a bitch on certain message boards. But, as the weeks and months passed, I came to terms with it -- and, like many things in life, the worrying was far worse than the reality. I've since found new artists to take R.E.M.'s place on the pedestal, and ever since, I've been perfectly fine winning small battles with the band, without worrying about the greater war.
I think this paragraph sums it up for me. Yes, my heart says that I want R.E.M. to make that last great album and then ride into the sunset just like "The Masked Man" did with Tonto and the Horse. My brain, however, says that the writing is on the wall and that this is not possible so when my heart and brain meet for a summit it's been determined that they just be relevant. And I guess from the songs that have been provided so far is that relevance is not an option, either.
And lastly, between the bullshit 3 month marketing blitz that makes me want to vomit and comments from the bandmembers themselves, which promote the same crap, that by the time this album is going to come out I am going to be so exhausted I will not want to listen to it anyhow.
Ah the joys of blogging!
Further correspondence between your's truly and Mr. Matthew Marrone.
I know you are sitting there chomping at the bit waiting to have a go at me regarding ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’, the latest song to be added to the long list of singles that R.E.M. has released in their careers. I doubt that they are going to get a big write-up in Village Voice.
And let’s be honest, this does not Smell Like Teen Spirit.
As I have read the words and praises of many sites so far that have heard the album, I am still waiting for that moment to arise where I shout to the heavens and announce that R.E.M. has once again returned to dominate rock and roll. We are 1/3 through this album right now and so far I have been wholly underwhelmed. It’s an album that appears it will dominate a healthy amount of dust on my CD shelf or lack of plays on my iTunes.
Whether that is a symptom of the band, myself or a little bit of both, I feel as if I am being lied to. When you feel like you are being lied to there is quite a bit of soul-searching involved which you begin to question why you are doing what you are doing in the first place. I guess you can say that the site’s mission was always a flawed one at that. . . one based on live recordings with a healthy dose of perspective of a Gen X’er who was ruined by the great music R.E.M. released in the 80’s and 90’s. But making comments about this song is like kicking around the Handicapped.
My wife brought up a tune by the band Arcade Fire, ('Suburban War' if you are curious) which for all accounts is very R.E.M.-ish in it’s structure with the jangly guitar chords and one of my favorite songs from this album. The album, ‘The Suburbs’ is exactly what I would want out of a Pop Album, with lyrics and music both meaningful and catchy. ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’ reminds her of a song that should be on the show ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and to be honest I cannot agree with her more. There is nothing all that complicated about the song, very simple and straightforward. Win Butler's singing on it is not over the top, and the jangly guitar just bleeds something that Peter Buck dreams in his sleep. But if you place this song and 'Mine Smell Like Honey' in front of me, I pick 'Suburban War' every time. At the same time you can take any four songs you want off Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs' and put them up against the 4 songs on this album and I take Arcade Fire every time. There is no comparison. Arcade Fire is at a completely different league than R.E.M. is right now. And the question is, is why am I wasting my time worrying about a band putting out second-rate music when there are lots of bands like Arcade Fire out there?
R.E.M. circa 2010 has no soul, which is why in the 80’s the million or so jangly bands could not just replicate their sound because for what it’s worth, there was that uniqueness about them. Even in the 90’s each of the albums was slightly off so they never sounded “Mainstream”.
For you at home players and Mr. Matty, try this: give me 3 singles from the 80s and 90s which are worse than this one? I cannot find one. We are not even talking same ballpark.
We are being sold the line that this is R.E.M.’s classic sound with the Millsy background vocals, hooks, and whatnot but I really am trying to find it. This is not classic but boring. I sat around for days trying to actually come up with words to describe “Nothing”. I guess that is the first question about whether a song moves you is that you should feel something regarding it. Anything!?!
What I find even more impressive is that someone decided America was the perfect place to release this disposable song to the masses. I am not sure how I feel about this, if it’s not a slight insult to American Rock Fans everywhere.
I have questioned whether I still wanted to write about “Nothing” as if this was some Seinfeld routine and I am tired of listening to apologists whine about their supposed brilliance and that they deserve a 17th chance or that it’s all Stipe’s fault for smoking (aka to you young kids out there starting a band, don’t smoke cause your 14th record is gonna suck cause you won’t be able to sing on it).
What do you think R.E.M. fan retirement is like? Do you just post old YouTube videos on Facebook and listen to your Facebook friends throw random quotes like “Amber Waves of Gain” in their status updates and pine for a more simple time in your life when your favorite rock and roll band’s drummer had a unibrow and your favorite band’s lead singer had hair? Do you pull out Murmur and blast it out of the car while you are on you way to get your prostate checked up on?
Of course there is rumor that Uberlin is the hit song on the record, and a second rumor that it will be released next week so I am writing this in hopes that Uberlin throws a life preserver to this below average album. However, I am not sure what happens if Uberlin turns out to be more hype than hope. Do I write the eulogy? Do I start writing letters to you about how the new songs are without listening to them? Do I start writing about other bands here, ignoring the Rapid Eye Movement’s?
So that is about the size of it. Outside of handcuffing me and putting this song on repeat is the only way that you would make me listen to this song. I will be a sport, however, and allow you to demonstrate your best Ricky Gervais impression and tear me to shreds.
When we escape the massive R.E.M. marketing juggernaut, sometimes there are elements in the sideprojects which are worth discussing. The Steve Wynn - Scott McCaughey Baseball-writing machine is set to release a second album of songs about America's favorite sport, baseball.
I have always appreciated McCaughey and Wynn's dictionary knowledge of the sport and some of it's more colorful figures like Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych (1976) or Carl Mays, whose tragically struck and killed Ray Chapman on a pitch. Of course what is a band created to write songs about baseball and not write one about Billy Buck? Yes, Bill Buckner will have his own personally autographed song for everyone's listening pleasure.
However, getting a glimpse of some of the subjects being covered here, they involve some of the more calamitous characters of the game which, for baseball fans, should suggest another great record.
The album is out on March 1st and oddly enough will be making all sorts of Spring Training Appearances in Arizona which would mean hardly any type of promtional stuff for 'Collapse Into Now'.
Volume 2: High and Inside tracklist:
2. Panda and The Freak
3. Fair Weather Fans
4. Don't Call Them Twinkies
5. Chin Music
6. Buckner's Bolero
7. Tony (Boston's Chosen Son)
8. Ichiro Goes to the Moon
9. The Straw that Stirs the Drink
10. Look Out Mom
11. Pete Rose Way
12. Twilight of My Career
13. Here Lies Carl Mays
Matthew Bologne's decided to respond to my comments which you may read here:
In choosing to comment on some of his thoughts Matthew stated:
As for the lyrical reference to Houston, well, I would agree with you wholeheartedly if it weren't for the simple fact that the lyrical reference actually works here. It revisits a character and a time, updating a memorable phrase with its aftermath. That's very different from simply adding "part two!" to the lyrics
I have no problem with the idea of a song being used showing the aftermath of a previous song or being a follow-up if we are talking about an album where we have a linear progression from start to finish, i.e. your typical rock opera for example.
But now we are jumping from album to album bringing Fred and Wilma back from Accelerate into this new album with the previous album's context in mind. What will the next album speak about? The BP Oil Spill?
Of course I am writing this with not a full context of 'Claps Into Now" which of course the pinheads will shun me for even expressing my opinion.
And lets not forget, the R.E.M. conspiracy theorists out there will claim that all the albums are interconnected, so who knows.
Below is the continuing correspondence between Matthew Marrone and myself regarding ‘Collapse Into Now’. You will be able to read Matthew’s correspondence at Records I Download Illegally @ Blogspot Dot Com.
When I heard the first line of the song 'Oh My Heart': ‘The kids have a new take, a new take on faith’ I have to be honest, Mr. ESPN-New York-Snuggie-Loving-Man that I thought of Breesus, the savior of the New Orleans Saints football team. My first question of course was whether Michael Stipe is following ESPN New York and watches Sportscenter on a daily basis and my second question was whether John Michael Stipe was aware of his birthmark. I guess it would be something of a new thing for Michael Stipe to delve into the sports arena from time to time and write a song about the "Football Team". I would hope that the line is about Breesus as I get the feeling that the New Orleans Saints literally played a bigger role into the faith of the city than some might give credit for.
The good news of course is that R.E.M. chose not to release another song about New Orleans AND the Sun. Of course, I am referencing, ‘In the Sun’, the Michael Stipe-covering-Joseph Arthur track which of course was for charity so we will keep the complaining down to a minimum.
I will also play the role of the cock-gobbler this time and admit that I somewhat liked the song. First impressions to be sure, I thought that the music was solid, more reminiscent of some of their 'Out of Time-era' work but also a bit of 'Sing for the Submarine/Worst Joke Ever' thing going on. It sounds a little less over-produced, a bit more authentic musically than the lackluster 'Discoverer' and more complete than 'It Happened Today'.
But there is something that is starting to bug me. The idea of using R.E.M. lyrics from previous songs ala - ‘Sing for the Submarine’ was a good idea that Michael Stipe is starting to get carried away with. It would be as if songs are all of a sudden getting put into some historical narrative. Michael Stipe has never so linear about events to the point that you could pretty much guess that the song was going to be about New Orleans or Katrina or just read the description of the song on NPR before you have a chance to hear it. Now we are to the point where Stipe will start updating the entire R.E.M. catalog so that all songs are brought properly into the 21st Century.
Madloop, ‘Will we get Country Feedback Part Two? ‘This DVD is on, on a maddening skip?’
Radio Song, part 33 1/3? ‘It’s that same viral video on youtube, makes me sad’
What I am referring to is: ‘The storm didn’t kill me, the government changed’ which is of course a very close resemblance to the lyric in Houston ‘If the storm didn’t kill me, the government will’. Yes, the new line, by itself is pretty clever and works but with being a total reference to ‘Houston’ all of a sudden loses it’s luster. Yes, the government changed but some might argue that the current government has still forgotten about New Orleans. This point is up for debate.
Does Houston all of a sudden lose any chance it has to be timeless? (Some might answer this question that it was not a timeless song to begin with, of course begs the question whether 'Accelerate' was a 'Return To Form'. Even NPR short-changed Accelerate by saying that this album is the best since Up. When liberal media organizations, the same liberal media organization that got rid of Juan Williams, now a multi-million dollar Fox News Correspondent also starts ripping into R.E.M., and yes that is a rip, that sorta makes the shit you read on my site pretty tame. )
I like this song, do not get me wrong. The music is very reminiscent from Out of Time, and from someone like myself who has given Stipe a bit of grief over lyrics I would think that we should mention a song like Country Feedback from that album.
Arguably the greatest R.E.M. song ever, at least if you are talking to Neil Young. When I compare ‘Oh My Heart’ against a song like 'Country Feedback' or 'Half A World Away' might be a better comparison, I am listening to a lead singer that is speaking the lyrics rather than putting any soul in them. I would guess that a song about New Orleans needs a little soul to feel truly authenti and the 'Out of Time' tracks feel much more authentic based more on the delivery of Stipe than on the lyrics. 'Country Feedback' repeats the same lyric over and over again. 'Half A World Away' is much the same, a very simple lyric repeated over and over again but given a different delivery than the delivery on 'Oh My Heart'.
And maybe that was what made some of the folksy stuff from the 90s so appealing was that R.E.M. was never playing the role of a folk band when they had a true crooner like Michael Stipe.
There are certain songs where a delivery like this would work well and I am just not sure that the delivery is correct for this song. Of course this is the dilemma of the first time listener trying to write a love letter to my favorite Cheating Yankee Fan.
The crux of the issue is that these slight modifications would turn a good song into a great song. Musically, it is very strong, as Mills and Buck are solid and based on the other two songs that have been released so far this is the strongest of the three.
Although as some that might read this, the shallow nature of my positive review might make some people cringe a bit. I would expect from you a totally positive fuck-Derek Jeter-up-the-ass type of review that we would expect from you. Because of course that is the role you are supposed to play, you know the likeable R.E.M. fan that loves everything and be the real fan.
So go put on your foofy Bunny Suit cause the fans are getting excited to read your enthusiastic response to this song and we can finally agree that there is an R.E.M. song on this album that we both like.
P.S. - BTW, to you girls out there who keep on asking me about whether Matthew is single, as far as I know he is but you can ask him yourself. Send him naked photos of yourself here. http://twitter.com/thebigm
Before I start pontificating about the new song(s) that were discovered on the world wide web today I thought I would offer them here for all my web viewing friends the links to those songs.
First, it's NPR's All Songs Considered which provided a nice stream of 'Oh My Heart' the latest song to make it into public viewing from 'Collapse Into Now'.
Second, it would be a nice 30 second sample of the first single from the album, Mine Smell Like Honey, which can be found on Amazon.
Third, it would be the first b-sides from Mine Smell Like Honey that can be found on Noi Tanmer (REM Nation backwards) which happen to be 'A Town Called Armadillo' and 'Zullu'. (Hat Tip to Chris Sikich).
UPDATE: The B-Sides claimed in this post turned out to be a hoax. My apologizes for this unacceptable error.
That would be me.
Unfortunately, the live concert recording stuff has taken a backseat to other activities and failed to notice the number of great concerts that are being shared right now on Dime. It would appear that the folks at JEMS have opened their vaults and provided a plethora of great shows.
JEMS for those that do not know, stands for High Quality in the R.E.M. live recording scene, and thus anything that comes from them can be accurately listed as "Gold Standard".
I would imagine that several of you have already been downloading these shows, however, I would suggest for those of you that haven't to check these out.
1989-03-16 San Diego, CA
1989-03-15 Inglewood, CA
1985-10-29 London AUD - JEMS master recording excellent sound
1983-09-30 Athens, GA SBD - Master cassette transfer from JEMS archives
1989-03-14 Oakland, CA AUD - JEMS master recording
1989-03-13 Sacramento, CA AUD - JEMS master recording
1986-10-03 Portland, OR AUD - JEMS master recording
1986-10-01 Oakland, CA AUD - JEMS master recording
1986-09-27 Santa Barbara, CA AUD - JEMS master recording Rock
1985-10-28 London AUD - JEMS master recording, excellent sound
1986-01-20 Athens, GA SBD - Master cassette transfer from the JEMS
1984-10-08 Ann Arbor, MI AUD - JEMS master recording
1985-08-10 Detroit, MI AUD - JEMS master recording
A couple months ago, the song Radio Free Europe was chosen by the National Recording Preservation Board to be put into a vat of vinegar and preserved so that generations and generations after our own can still enjoy this awesome song. From the amount that I have followed the National Preservation Board, they try to capture various elements of our culture that have made an impact, which is not always by the number of units that were sold but the changes they invoked.
Studio 360 put up a small podcast regarding the song and to be honest their fact-checking left much to be desired. One, Mike Henry, who stated he was a station manager at a radio station in Athens that helped make Radio Free Europe popular discussed a meetup between himself and Jefferson at one of R.E.M.'s first club gigs ever. Of course there are a couple inaccuracies with this story. First off, Jefferson did not meet R.E.M. until three months after their formation and was not their manager until almost a year after they had formed. Secondly, the song that was played on the website was not from one of the initial gigs of the band but rather from April 10, 1981 and by this time they had played Tyrones on a host of evenings.
10 April 1981 - Tyrone's O.C., Athens, GA
set 1: Rave On / Burning Down / A Girl Like You / Get On Their Way / There She Goes Again / Pretty Persuasion / Body Count / Different Girl / Action / Narrator / Hey Hey Nadine / Baby I / Permanent Vacation
set 2: Radio Free Europe / Sitting Still / Dangerous Times / All The Right Friends / Shaking Through / Little Girl / (Don't Go Back To) Rockville / Windout / Gardening At Night / Wait (w/Lynda & Cyndi Stipe) / Schéhérazade / Lisa Says / Mystery To Me
encore: White Tornado
I have had the opportunity to read your comments regarding this site. And by your definition I am probably going to be disrespecting the band some more and most likely at some point you might question whether I am a real fan in the first place.
I really do not give a crap what you call me other than the fact that your response is a failure on my part. My failure is not on the aspect that you do not agree with me but the mere fact that you are not thinking about what I am writing about and responding back.
If there is something that I like and someone writes a criticism about it, it's much easier to criticize the author than actually try to figure out why you like it in the first place. I am just a lost R.E.M. fan in a forest of big trees hoping to hear the siren calls of Mr. Stipe to lead me out of danger.
But you will not see any circle jerks appearing here. I am not a secret wing of the Warner Bros. machine, just a jackass that wished he had a snuggie typing on his computer screen.
Mr. Marrone released his response.
If you are still expecting R.E.M. to release flawless A-1 quality work, essential not only within their own catalogue but, by extension, within the rock music canon, you are, my friend, delusional.
No, Discoverer and It Happened Today are not mind-blowing works of pure genious. But they're halfway decent, which gives them a slight edge on George Harrison's highly acclaimed Cloud Nine album, despite the classic first single, I've Got My Mind Set On You, which admittedly, set the world on fire. And that gem of a record came out a mere 25 years after the Beatles first unleashed Please, Please Me unto the world.
And Leonard Cohen released ‘I’m Your Man’ 21 years and The Future, almost 25 years after his first album was released. Bob Dylan’s ‘Love and Theft’ came out almost 40 years after his first album. What is your point?
At what point do you say goodbye and not buy tickets for the tour, the collecting of the singles, the countdown of the album, .etc, a thing of the past, and respect the older work of R.E.M. and move on?
I’ve done the tour thing several times. I have watched Stipe shimmy up onstage but at what point do I have to hang it up? If they tour this time around do I go? At this point, probably not.
You are incorrect if you think that I am expecting a perfect album but at the same time the band itself set some pretty high standards and I am biased, I am not objective. I can take either one of those songs released in the last couple days and immediately compare it to the entire back catalog, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses on display. Most of all I am trying to gain something from it, gain something that makes me want to listen to the song over and over and over again and not just give the band a polite “Golf Clap”.
I question whether this blog will still be relevant in three months; if I shut the entire thing down in respect to the band that I remembered if the album’s not up to snuff.
Although I do promise you that if that day were to happen the title of the last story should be “That’s It’s I’m Shutting Down Remring”.