Often I think that I should worry less and focus on the good things I have in my life, whether I deserve them (lots of great friends, significant other, assurance that I am an interesting person) or not (white guy born in Canada). But then, sometimes I hear a song like “Shiny Happy People” and I’m reminded that I should actually be a serial killer.
See, I’ve heard a few explanations for “Shiny Happy People.” Maybe it’s R.E.M. having a wind-up at their own expense. Maybe it’s a take-off on communism. Maybe it’s just a stupid melody they puked out because “Out Of Time” needed another song to fill out the tracklist. I don’t care and it doesn’t matter, because I can tell you what it sounds like: a completely straight-up, orchestrated, jangly, handclap filled R.E.M. take on a dumb kids’ song. In particular, one dedicated to getting kindergartners to cheer up and put down the magnets to come together on the Big Carpet. It’s inexcusably bad. Ain’t that some shit.
The B-sides are just a few live songs, which at the time were rare but now are nothing special. Plus, they’re three similar songs from “Green,” my least favourite R.E.M. album until they hit old age. Stipeyface introduces “I Remember California” all awkwardly by slowly intoning “Pacific…. Coast…. the further I get…. The closer I feel,” says nothing before “Pop Song ’89’,” and “this song is my favourite song” before “Get Up,” which is really weird, because “Get Up” is the least memorable song by the dudes until they hit old age.
The whole thing is quite unnecessary, and the selections appeal to all the “wong” parts of R.E.M.’s then-current oeuvre. These guys are from Georgia and gives a shit?