Saturday, April 4, 2009

Reliving A Classic - R.E.M - Eponymous

About this time of year a couple of things break out of my arsenal of movies and music for spring. One is Major League, you know, just in time for baseball which my wife watches at the beginning of spring training but I hold out until the start of the season and a little gem from R.E.M, Eponymous. Before I begin to break this nugget down.....

My Thoughts Of R.E.M Now

Ever since Green I've pretty much stopped listening to them. While Automatic For The People had a couple of decent songs it was nowhere (is nowhere one word?) near the creamy goodness of the old days. At least that's my own drunken opinion. And we all know what happens when you become popular and people are kissing your ass non-stop, loss of objectivity and reality AND sanity. Ask Sean Penn, Keith Olbermann, Rush Limbaugh. Total disconnect with normal society. Anyways to a certain degree this what happened to R.E.M. and their music started suffering as a result. Once bands start doing the ol' I want to inform people of important issues I start tuning out. I long for the days of Led Zeppelin, total cock rock with nothing on their minds except drinking and blowing people out of the stadiums, in a non-sexual way. Once Michael Stipe started wearing shirts reading "Wear A Condom" I pretty much left them behind and started listening to Rush. Oh wait, I was doing that anyways. But I still love their old stuff, they WERE college radio. They were the best mix of pop and punk, they were the beginning of alternative. And Eponymous was the best example of this time.


I first got hold of this album in mid 1989. I was a shitty baseball player on my J.V. baseball team in Mathews in the middle of nowhere Virginia. BEAUTIFUL country but it was really in the middle of nowhere. I had one neighbor a mile away. The town of Mathews was 15 miles away. My bro lent me album when he came home from the Merchant Marine Academy in Long Island, NY. He was pretty much my connection to the music world beyond popular radio. When he came home in the spring of '89 he lent me this little gem. I used to listen to this album on bus trips when we traveled to games (we always had to travel at least an two hours both ways to any game.) I would listen to this and to Signals (Rush, duh.) and I loved them both. The best thing about R.E.M. was the fact that they were a little band from the country, I was from the country, they were intellectuals, I thought I was an intellectual, I had a great connection with this band, and this album was my little intellectual fuck you to the rest of the "hicks" at school. I read Ray Bradbury, I played Vivaldi, I was smart dammit. Anyways, this album is still my favorite and I still play this thing this time every year when spring comes callin' again.

Now, I didn't realize until a little later that this album was pretty much a best of (again, I thought I as an intellectual.). R.E.M. being the different blokes that they are didn't name it "best far" so I was thinking this as a regular album. I just thought Peter Buck was nuts or drunk, or both.

1) Radio Free Europe - My favorite song of the album, remixed version from my second favorite album Murmur.
2) Gardening At Night - About taking a leak in the forest. " night". Get it? Again, when you live in the country you pee any goddamn where you please.
3) Talk About The Passion - About hunger. A great tune, very soulful and moving.
4) So. Central Rain - Another emotional song and moving song.
5) (Don't Go Back To) Rockville - While the meaning of this song is totally different from my interpretation, it was was a great little tune. To me it meant don't go back to your little town, which to me was Mathews. At the time I hated Mathews and wanted to escape. Since living in the "city" I actually want to go back there. Hey, sometimes I hate people.
6) Cant Get There From Here - No apostrophe in the title, weirdos.
7) Driver 8 - Now this was the shit. I love this song. This seriously reminded me of country living, especially when I saw the video. Refers to the Southern Crescent. It runs through West Virginia. If it's anything like me, it never stops in West Virginia.
8) Romance - A quirky little song that was the closest thing to a toe tapper in the group.
9) Fall On Me - The video of this song always sticks out to me. The funny thing about R.E.M. When they were young, they never showed themselves much in their videos, now that they are old, fat and/or ugly, they do nothing but show themselves.
10) The One I Love - A great tune, one that I thought the backing vocals were top notch.
11) Finest Worksong - Another remix that I thought was better than the original.
12) It's The End Of The World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine) - At one point in my life I actually knew the entire lyrics to this song, which prompted my dad to say, "you know the words to this song but you can't remember any mathematical equation you just studied!" Yep, I thought I was an intellectual.

I got ahold of Murmur a little later which I thought was the bomb, but it was nowhere near the album this was. Through and through a great album, not one song that sucks.

Michael Stipe - Vocals - not a pretty boy by any means. Not exactly a great vocalist but it works for this band.
Peter Buck - Guitars - Not flashy but decent.
Mike Mills - Solid Bass, very good backing vocals.
Bill Berry - Drums - Left the band in 1997, not exactly Neil Peart but he was was able enough.


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