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September 13, 2008


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To somebody who came of age during the Murmur-Reckoning-Fables era (all three being huge albums in my personal musical development--and the only R.E.M. albums having that kind of effect), it's fascinating to read your perspective because it sounds exactly like mine, but in reverse. (I'm refering only to the Murmur to Automatic portion).

I remember being trouble by the clarity of the vocals on Life's Rich Pageant. Where was the wilful obstruction that I had come to love? And while the lyrics certainly did not tell a coherent story, the words evoked a novel and compelling Southern gothic atmosphere. For me, the appeal diminished with each successive record, though the starting point was very high.

Our respective travels through the R.E.M. catalog (in opposite direction) supports a conclusion that fans of a band will define the "standard" by which the band is to be judged based on the first album they come to love (which is usually the first album purchased).

Where you were hearing and judging R.E.M. according to the Green standard I was doing the same according to the Reckoning standard. In a way, they are a different band to each group of their fans.

Also, thanks for pointing me to me to Stipes participation at Pop Songs. That's very cool. Rare to see a musician so willing to discuss the music/lyrics in such an open way. Reminds me of Pete Townshend (another hero).

Great stuff as usual Scott. (I hope my last comment made sense despite the typos.)

I was your complete inverse too. I was NUTS about them early on. I spent hours submerged in my headphones, trying to piece together the fuzzy lyrics, and I actually wrote them all down in a notebook. Yeah, adolescence. "Sing along and make it up." Now he tells us. Thanks Mike.

>> In a way, they are a different band to each group of their fans.

Paul, that's exactly right, and they're really one of the few bands to have ever existed that have gotten to that place. Most bands, it's pretty easy to find a consensus on the best and worst eras, minus a few quibbles here and there. But R.E.M. has staunch supporters of every single one of their records from Murmur to Automatic, maybe even all the way up to New Adventures. That alone is quite an achievement.

Automatic, for me, is definitely a proverbial desert island disc. It's one of those perfect albums that I never tire of.

Good point. Besides R.E.M., The Beatles and Bob Dylan are the only other bands/artists that come to mind as having long enough, quality enough, and varied enough careers to have generated so many distinct sub-groups of fans.

Except for Monster, which never clicked for me, I really enjoy every R.E.M. album up through New Adventures. After that I moved on (for whatever reason).

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