Friday, June 30, 2006

"Sometimes I Feel Like I Can't Even Sing..."

Election Day (Nov 8), 1988 - R.E.M. releases GREEN, their 6th full-length album, and their first on a major label, Warner Bros. [Sidebar on the term "sell-out": I think it's wielded way too frequently, and does not apply here. Disagree if you like, but ask yourself what you would do in a similar scenario.]

I've been digging this album profusely this week. Emily loves it, too. Now, after 10+ years since my last listen, this has been a real trip down memory lane: freshman year in college ('88-'89).

Track listing [All songs written by Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe]:

1. Pop Song 89 – 3:03
2. Get Up – 2:35
3. You Are The Everything – 3:45
R. Stand – 3:10
5. World Leader Pretend – 4:15
6. The Wrong Child – 3:35
7. Orange Crush – 3:50
8. Turn You Inside-Out – 4:15
9. Hairshirt – 3:55
10. I Remember California – 5:05

11. [Untitled] – 3:15

"Pop Song 89" is an upbeat kick-off. Someone once told me it's a reinterpretation of "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors. "Hello, I saw you, I know you, I knew you/I think I can remember your I'm sorry, I lost myself/I think I thought you were someone else" - sounds like a theory with some merit to me. "Get Up" is another rocker. An Emily favorite, I'm finding out. "Dreams, they complicate my life." Ain't that the truth?!!

If one had listened to each REM album as they were released, and in running order (song-wise), I'm pretty sure "You Are The Everything" represented the first chance to hear Peter Buck on mandolin. Normally, I might not mention "mandolin" with such glee. It just sounds so damned sweet here. Of course, there's also Stipe's vivid lyrical imagery, and powerful vocal delivery of that lyrical!

"Stand" was the first big hit single (reaching #6 on the Billboard "Hot 100") from Green, very catchy and radio friendly. Yet, it also was notable for its environmentalist lyrics, vague though some might've found them. "Think about the place where you live/Wonder why you haven’t before"...makes sense to me, especially after 8 years of Reagan. Buck plays a ridiculous wah-wah guitar solo that couldn't fit more perfectly. OK, call it overindulgent if you must. It's a fine line, I suppose.

"World Leader Pretend" represented another first for the band: printed lyrics! Moody and brooding, this song might bear the most resemblance to earlier REM tunes of the slower variety. In "The Wrong Child", the mandolin is back. I love this song, and its story of a childhood filled with dread over being an outcast ("Those kids are looking at me/They're laughing and they're running over here"). And, my goodness, Stipe's voice has reached new heights of pure emotional resonance through good, old-fashioned belting it out: "I'm not supposed to be like this/But it's okay...okay".

From the ending vocals of the previous song, comes the stinging intro to "Orange Crush", another single from Green. This one is an anti-war ditty, whether you translate "orange crush" to mean agent orange or napalm. Either one works. This leads directly into what was probably the band's heaviest tune to date, "Turn You Inside-Out". It's a great song, in my humble opinion. Beth over at "A Cup of Coffey" refers to it as "sexy". That works.

The 3rd and final mandolin appearance is "Hairshirt". WOW!!! I love this song. These are some of Stipe's best stream-of-consciousness lyrics, this side of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". Vocally, this might be the pinnacle, in my opinion. Too much angst and self-pity, JM? Maybe. But, everyone has their down days. And when my high school sweetheart turned long-distance relationship in college decided "we" needed to see other people, there was "Hairshirt"...'nuff said. (See here for more on the meaning of the term "hairshirt").

"I Remember California" is another heavy one. This one might be heavier than TYI-O, even. And, it's got these great, darkly humorous lyrics about life after California has fallen into the Pacific Ocean. Then, there's a really cool untitled track to end the album. It's basically a straightforward going-away-and-I'll-miss-everyone kind of song, but a good one at that.

This one's got something for everyone, I think. Call it eclectic, dyslexic, schizophrenic, or whatever you wish. I might be the only one who actually thinks it flows in order. I like the changes in pace. However, it's also cool to listen to the 3 mandolin tunes back-to-back-to-back. Or, to listen to PS89, "Get Up", OC, and TYI-O in a row. Shit, pull a Forrest "you never know what you'll get" Gump, and put this f*cker on random play. Haahnster likes it any old way you cut it!


Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

The "sell out" thing is so wrong here. It's simple evolution - nothing evil about it.

But those of us who loved REM in their prior incarnation noticed a shift in Green. I personally loved it.

It seemed that Stipe, strange as he is, started to come out of several closets and was able to somehow pain pictures in my mind with his words.

Orange Crush is amazing. Turn You Inside/Out is still one of my favorite songs. They changed gears with this album and they left some fans behind - but picked up millions more who had been missing out because they only take their pop culture cues from Top Forty Radio. Poor bastards.

Anyway, I remember the release of this album as I was one that was waiting for them to take it out of the box at the Camelot Music store.

Good reveiw.

9:04 AM, July 01, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

[I left a comment early this morning, but it apparently didn't make it. Damn Blogger.]

Excellent column on Green! There's not much more than I can add. (The story of the music boxes in "Get Up"? Know that one?)

I was lucky enough to catch the last show of the Green tour. It was a benefit (I believe for the Georgia Conservacy). R.E.M. came out, started "Radio Free Europe," performed Murmur through "West of the Fields" ... took a break ... came back and performed Green, from beginning to end. Amazing show.

And I'm liking Emily more and more. What a lucky kid to have a dad who introduces her to Green at a young, impressionable age.

You done good, Haahnster.

3:54 PM, July 01, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

BTW: I plugged this post on my blog.

7:15 AM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Scrivener said...

Beth, when you say the last show of the Green tour, you mean the one at the Fox Theater, would've been spring of 1990 (or maybe late fall of 89)? I was at that show! I can't remember if it was officially the last show of the tour or an extra show added onto the end of the tour. It was a benefit, all of the ticket sales went to a global organization, and all the concessions went to local groups, if I remember correctly.

I loved that show so much. That was the highlight of my freshman year at Tech.

6:05 PM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Scrivener said...

Oh, yeah, and I should say that this post pretty well sums up the album. I don't listen to it tons any more, but it has a very special place in my heart.

6:06 PM, July 02, 2006  
Blogger Dale said...

Found my way over here by reading on Beth's blog and I loved this album too. There was a weight to it that was perfect and perfectly timed. Nice post.

9:28 AM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Welcome, Dale! Beth's blog is great.

REM's Green really caught a moment in my life. It seems to have done the same for many others, as well.

Stop by Haanster's Hallucinations any time.

10:06 AM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Welcome, Scrivener, also!!! (Sorry, I just realized I hadn't responded to your comments.)

10:07 AM, July 09, 2006  

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