Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse #5: REM Produce a Non-Sucky Song

It's 1989, maybe 1990. I'm dating a girl named Marcy, and we're driving around in her psychedelic-spray-painted Mustang with a busted radiator that sprays steam out of it every five or six miles, blasting music from a shitty boom-box in the back seat and singing along loudly -- well, *I'm* singing, anyway, and most likely annoying the crap out of her, but the music's so good I don't even care, and it's summer and all's well with the world. The soundtrack? R.E.M., a band who, if you'd asked me at the time, I would have sworn eternal fealty to, because they literally could do no wrong -- every album up 'till that point (Green had just come out, right? Or was just about to?) had been a work of sheer marvelous pop genius. Pete Buck's sinewy 12-string jangle was fucking manna, and I was pretty convinced that whatever Michael Stipe was singing through that mush-mouth of his was something close to poetry.

That was then, and this, of course, is now.

R.E.M. have done plenty of wrong at this point -- everything after Monster has something not quite right about it, maybe several somethings, and in the case of Behind The Sun a whole fucking garbage dump full of somethings. Unlike U2 who -- I'm sorry, detractors -- still manage to put out amazing, totally unexpected music every go-round, R.E.M. have fallen into the morass of pure predictability -- strings here, totally unneccessary Brian Wilson references there, soppy melodies and shitty lyrics everywhere. They lost any aspect of danger or unpredictability they ever had -- you could just about bet your bottom dollar what the next record would sound like, and bet equally hard that it'd suck.

Except -- well, today Pitchfork posted a new song called "Supernatural Superserious" (dumb title, but who cares?) that's apparently gonna be on their new album, and holy fucking shit, its awesome. And hey, Julian Schnabel, I'm using that word properly, too -- it inspires awe, plain and simple. Pete Buck sounds like he forgot what an electric guitar sounded like and just woke up one day and remembered and slashed out a gigantic fucking riff, and Stipe went -- wo, hang on a tic, what the fuck is that? and suddenly started singing like he actually meant it for the first time in years, and Mike Mills did that vocal thing he used to do years ago where he'd soar above Stipe's vocals like a fucking bird and suddenly THE WHOLE THING WORKED AND SOUNDED LIKE FUCKING R.E.M. AGAIN even though Bill Berry was probably sipping on a mint julep somewhere, y'know?

I mean, seriously, it's like really, really good.

I suppose its too good to say that the entire new album is gonna kick this much fucking ass (though the live set they did in Dublin or wherever a few months ago was pretty damn hopeful) but I'm gonna cross my fingers both now and in 1989. Y'all do the same. In the meantime, I'm gonna play it like 2000 times in a row, okay?


Teslagrl said...

I like it, but it's no Orange Crush.


Ashley! said...

In 1989, I was learning how to go pee pee.

Jon Hunt said...

Yeah, yeah, I'M OLD. I KNOW! I can't help it!!!

LAP said...

Yay, I like it too! It sounds just like hope when Mills does the soaring harmony, doesn't it?

Febrifuge said...

This reminds me of when we listened to the then-upcoming U2 "Vertigo" on car speakers in the parking lot. Unexpected ass-kicking from an "old" band.

And I went a little farther with my irrational REM-love; "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" was the unofficial soundtrack of the re-write of my Faust play. But yeah, I'd sort of filed them away.

belsum said...

My brain is still swimming at the Marcy mention. Dang. Have you talked to her lately?

mirthfully said...

Hot golly, I can't wait to hear it now. I confess I was kinda scared to check it out lest I be disappointed AGAIN.

Ashley! said...

Yes, you CAN help it! I've got this anti-aging cream you can use.

kingseyeland said...

I mostly agree with you. Aside from the occasional bright spot, pretty much everything after Monster leaves me feeling meh. I like Around the Sun well enough, but like everything after Monster, I never put it on.

However, when I heard the remixed version of Reveal through the band's site, I felt a little better.

The new album should be kickass. I hope.