Sit the fuck down and listen, this is important: for this album, REM decided to make a rock ‘n’ roll album! Why, they’ve never before or after sounded more like The Tragically Hip, sonically. Not in terms of talent, of course, for which they’re generally superior. But golly, this is rockin’ good stuff! Clean guitars, clear vocals, happy drums – it’s far more normie than Life’s Rich Pajunt, and a different band entirely from albums like Wreckin’ing.
But! In a wacky twist, for their first understandable album they’ve gone overtly political. In fact, nearly everything “hear” is about the chaos in the world and in America, and calls for some sort of action. It’s also a surprisingly light album, mostly over without any sad emotions generated, unless you’re the type to find “this one goes out to the one I love / This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind / A simple prop to occupy my time” upsetting. That line, by the dub, comes from the closing thing to a love song REM had written to that point, which is something for a band on its fifth album. What a bunch of shits that become popular, eh.
The albums kicks it with four fairly breezy rock songs (musically, not lyrically), then really hits its stride with an honest-to-jewGod party song cover, the frenetic, inescapable “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” which, if you haven’t heard it, let me pause for a period. Is a song you should hear and thus check yourself, before wrecking yourself. Over a staunchly upbeat drum thing, Stipey rapid-fires verses of stream of consciousness “rapping” about political turmoil, often only tangentially, before the chorus goes like the title of the song, and its good. And fuck check out Mike Mills’ insanely great high pitched backup vocals, they’re so glorious my penis gets fucked raw just thinking about them. Then there’s “The One I Love”, which I quoted above, just three nearly-identical scornful verses and a one-word chorus equalling one of the best anti-love songs ever. If you send this song to an ex you’re an awful, hilarious person.
So that’s all pretty great. The last third of the album…eh. “Fireplace” is boring enough without the gay trumpet ruining everything, “Lightnin’ Hopkins” I GET TO USE THE APOSTROPHE DON’T MAKE ME GET THE LITODES isn’t bad SEE I DID IT though it fails at having a little industrial loop thing foundation the song, but more great Mills high-pitched vocals for a feel that would predict the future of the band. The last two songs are the two longest and sadly the most forgettable, though they’re not actively annoying, and “Oddfellows Local 151” is worth committing to memory in spirit.
So a sorid risten, though a breezy one. The dudes have never sounded so rambunctious and that’s nice to hear, and the politics are pretty direct – “enemy sighted, enemy met / I’m addressing the realpolitik” as the most blatant statement, but it’s throughout. Not perfect, but holla.