R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant

The packaging itself it features a lot of fuckery, what with the tracklisting out of order and omitting two songs entirely, but the actual product is goshdarned straightforward happy shitfucking indie rock music, with decipherable vocals and verses and choruses! At least, it sure was indie rock in an 80s sense – all about weird things not at all resembling post-apocalyptic futures and featuring few (if any) subtle references to getting high and just….being. Nope, none of that bizness. I’m not sure what they’re about instead, but there are lots of lines that at least sound like they’re sure about something and they’re at least superficially superthoughtful. Isn’t that just lovely?

And the melodies are just beautiful, and the rock songs actually rock, and they’re all memorable – yep, a good nine of the twelve songs on here are keepers, and the other three aren’t even that bad. Dig the deep bassline and pioneer spirit (or pioneer spirit mocking) of “Cuyahoga,” the soft flower-landscape of “The Flowers of Guatemala” and the twangy banjo that leads into the jangle-rocker of faitheism “I Believe.” It’s some good stuff, even if a few of the songs aren’t quite my cup of cheese.

More than anything, this album is great to me because I can feel the fandom around it. Before this, they were opaque and mumbly, and after they took a drastic veer to the commercial. Here they’re smart, focused, and clear, perfect for appealing to 20-somethings, and the whole thing just has this “true aim” feel to it. In the midst of all that 80s American Psycho bullshit, this album was probably highly anticipated by thousands of people like me but now older. They couldn’t afford any internets back in those days, but I can feel standing in concert, seeing my favourite underground band, turning to my friends and yelling “holy shit!’ over the applause after the first time I hear “Fall On Me” and holding hands with my (no doubt disgustingly eightiesed-up with her leather boots and inexplicable red beehive) girlfriend and smiling to myself, knowing that this is good, and that music isn’t dead (except “Superman,” which sounds really dated). I can’t go on because my apartment smells like spraypaint and it’s giving me a headache (ROOMMATES), but this is great historically and only slightly less great at being timeless. It deserves a

But wait! My version is the cash-in “IRS Vintage Years” version with six extra tracks!!!!!?!?! In case you don’t have this one-of-a-kind (ed: not true) bullshit edition, here’s what you’re missing:

1. A one-minute vocal warm-up vocals-and-bass blues song called “Tired of Singing Trouble” that’s kinda neat.

2. Two-minute jazz instrumental “Rotary Ten.” It’s also on “Eponymous.” Meh.

3. A kinda fun cover of Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic,” also available elsewhere. It’s not bad.

4. A “live in studio” version of “Just A Touch,” my least favourite “rocker” on the record, with Michael Stipe sounding really exhausted. Just listen to him try and go “ooh ooh ooh,” it’s pathetic! Really, who in the world is interested in this?

5. A cover of “Dream (All I Have To Do), that’s cute, but not that cute. It’s nice enouh if you don’t have the original, but it’s nothing too revelatory.

6. An “acoustic version” of “Swan Swan H” that sounds like the normal version, only with the most interesting guitar part, and poorly produced. Oh boy!

Forget the bonus tracks. I used to lust after all bonus tracks, but now not so much, now that I have thousands and thousands of songs to listen to – including most of this album! Plus, inside there’s weird poetry made from some of the lyrics. Teehee, weird weird poetry!

9/10

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